May 30, 2023

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Science: Why Denmark Has Stored Nearly 10,000 Brains

photo credit, Good pictures

image caption,

Martin Wiernfeld Nielsen is head of the brain collection at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

  • author, Guillaume Marquez
  • stock, BBC News

In an isolated basement at the University of Southern Denmark, the largest in the country, there are rows of shelves with thousands of white buckets. Each of them, preserved in formaldehyde, contains a human brain. There are a total of 9,479.

For four decades until the 1980s, brains were collected during autopsies from patients who had died in psychiatric institutions across the country. It is believed to be the largest collection in the world.

However, brains were stored without the prior consent of patients or their relatives, sparking a long national debate about what to do with such large quantities of human organs.

In the 1990s, the Danish Ethics Council determined that the tissue could be used for scientific research, and that is where the Odense City University Brain Bank operates.

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