agyria

This may be the strangest human brain known to science

Remarkably, this is a photograph of what was once an actual adult human brain — but without the characteristic ridges and folds. But because the patient’s medical records were lost, we may never know what life was like for this person.

Here’s what we do know. The person to whom this extraordinary brain belonged to was a resident of what is now North Texas State Hospital, a mental health facility. He or she died there in 1970. As New Scientist reports, the jar containing the brain is labelled with a reference number, but the microfilm containing the patient’s medical records have been lost.

Scientists have seen this sort of thing before — but not to such an extreme degree. It’s a condition known as agyria, or sometimeslissencephaly, in which the brain lacks the gyri and sulci, the normal ridges and folds that make up the cerebral cortex.

Typically, this condition leads to death by the age of 10 and can cause muscle spasms, seizures, and learning difficulties (on account of reduced surface area). But what makes this sample even more bizarre is that it came from an adult, leading scientists to speculate that the patient likely suffered from severe psychological defects.

More at New Scientist.

Extraordinary human brain – once you know what it is, this apparently innocuous picture of a blob assumes a terrible gravity. It is an adult human brain that is entirely smooth – free of the ridges and folds so characteristic of our species’ most complex organ.

We can only imagine what life was like for this person. He or she was a resident of what is now North Texas State Hospital, a mental health facility, and died there in 1970, but that’s all we know. While the jar containing the brain is labelled with a reference number, the microfilm containing the patient’s medical records has been lost.

Photographer Adam Voorhes spent a year trying to track down more information about this and nearly 100 other human brains held in a collection at the University of Texas, Austin, to no avail. The label on the jar states that the patient had agyria – a lack of gyri and sulci, the ridges and folds formed by the normally wrinkled cerebral cortex. 

This rare condition, also known as lissencephaly, often leads to death before the age of 10. It can cause muscle spasms, seizures and, as it vastly reduces the surface area of this key part of the brain, a range of learning difficulties.

David Dexter, who runs the Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank at Imperial College London, says he has never seen anything like this before: “We do get the odd individual where certain sulci are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain.” Dexter says he is not surprised the person survived to adulthood since the brain is so adaptive, though he guesses there would be deleterious effects.

While this might teach us more about the brain itself, the identity of the person who had this extraordinary brain – and details of his or her life – seem to be lost forever.

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Il fatto che non io non posti più con la frequenza iniziale non vuol dire che mi sia fermata, eh. Semplicemente ne ho un po’ tante in corso. #captainfredwalters #blueman #agyria #freaks #freakshow #illustrationsandartworksofdanib #illustration #drawing #artwork #sideshow #performers #oddities #odditorium #pencils #pencilsketch #sketch #gabbagabbahey #portrait