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The Corsellis Collection



Lore Loyens


Lore Loyens

The basement of the psychiatric hospital in Duffel, Belgium, houses one of the world's largest brain collections. "The Corsellis Collection" sheds light on both the history and contemporary value of this brain collection.

The Corsellis-Sinaps brain collection consists of over 3,000 brains, gathered in England between 1954 and 1997. When they ran out of space, they made the collection available for international research. Belgium acquired the psychiatric portion of the collection.

The collection mainly contains brains of people with psychiatric disorders such as psychosis and chronic depression. However, it also includes brains of people without psychiatric disorders, allowing for comparison. The collection is still used for research today.

The collection is divided into two parts. The part preserved in formaldehyde is mainly used for exploratory research that attempts to map as many proteins and biomolecules as possible to obtain a general idea of what happens in the brain. They also have a portion of brains preserved in paraffin, a type of pure candle wax. When brains are poured into it, they can be sliced into very small sections, allowing for specific molecules to be more accurately mapped. This can provide an accurate picture of certain aspects of a disease. Scientific research finds it fascinating that there are still brains in this collection from patients who received little or no medication, making the brains unaffected, so that the most pure form of a disease can be examined.

In addition to the brains of deceased patients, the psychiatric hospital in Duffel also has their medical records. This allows researchers to identify which diseases they did or did not have, what medication they used, and what they died from. This enables researchers to select the appropriate brains for a particular research question.

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