An Unusual Brain

A most unusual brain

Image: Adam Voorhes,

The brain is a truly remarkable product of evolution. This photograph was captured by Adam Voorhes as part of a larger collection of brain photography, each is fascinating in its own right, however what makes this image so unique is that it free of the ridges and folds associated with our species’ most complex organ. Adding to the mystery around this, no one knows who this brain belonged to.


We can only imagine what life must have been like for this person, he or she was a resident of North Texas State Hospital, and died in 1970. Unfortunately the medical records corresponding to the jar in which the brain is stored have been lost since then, so we may never know what their lives were like. What we do know is that this person managed to survive into adulthood with a complete lack of the sulci and gyri normally characteristic of our bodies most complex organ.


The person in question appears to suffer from a rare condition known as lissencephaly (or agyria). Lissencephaly usually results in death before the age of 10, and can cause learning difficulties, spasms and seizures. David Dexter of the Brain Bank at Imperial College in London, says that this brain is unusually smooth even for a Lissencephaly patient: “we do get the odd individual where certain sulci are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain”. However he goes on to say that he isn’t surprised that this person survived into adulthood as the brain is so adaptable.


Earlier this year the University of Texas took delivery of an MRI scanner to document the structure of the brains in the collection in detail. 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.



Written by John


I’m a recent Pharmacology Graduate from Glasgow, currently working toward a PhD in Cancer Research from the University of Cambridge. My main research aims are to understand the clonal dynamics in breast cancer, and how they are altered by therapy.

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