The Stories Behind The Brains

The medical field does a fascinating job of taking the very essence of life out of the bodies they study.  Many people absentmindedly check that little box on their license giving the medical field access to their organs should anything happen to their lives.  But what happens to these organs once they’re studied?  

The Cushing Center at Yale University is taking previously studied forgotten about brains, tumors, and other medical specimens and trying to reconnect them with the stories of the doctors and patients who preceded them.  The brains that had once been a valuable addition to medical research at Yale ended up neglected in a basement beneath a dormitory building after the doctors had studied what they could from them – a sad fate for the lives they once represented.  The Cushing Center rescued the brains from their dark and lonely future and brought them back into the light by creating a visitor center that exhibits all of the specimens in Cushing’s tumor registry.  It’s haunting, to say the least, to be able to “view the detached organs of what once held a human’s thoughts, pain, and personality”.

In the Cushing Center visitors can gaze upon glass cases of rows upon rows of jars containing the brains of once infected patients.  If that’s not enough there are drawers beneath the cases that visitors can feel free to open and explore the medical histories that lay inside.  In addition to providing a hands-on approach to a medical museum, the Cushing Center keeps the patient’s alive by placing a picture of each person next to the corresponding brain.  This is an eerie reminder that all of Cushing’s work was to help those patients and future patients as people rather than just furthering the field of medicine.  Seeing photos of those who suffered provides a context and a sense of relatability 

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