‘Cutting brains is like peeling potatoes’

Thousands of human brains float in jars of formaldehyde at a unique museum that gives visitors to Lima an up-close view of brain diseases, from trichinosis to stroke.

More than 2 500 brains are on display in a modest museum in Lima sponsored by the National Institute of Neurological Sciences (INCN).

Visitors can see brains of persons felled by HIV/Aids, Alzheimers, clots, haemorrhages, heart attacks and myriad tumors.

The museum is the proud owner of a brain that died of Creutzfeld-Jacob disease, the human variant of “mad cow,” which results in progressive dementia and loss of muscle control.

Also on exhibit: the brains of people who died of trichinosis, the most common brain disease in Peru, caused by eating undercooked meat, usually pork.


One brain, donated by United States physicians, is sliced in half and the right hemisphere dissected to show the skin, bone, arteries and veins.

The brains, collected since 1942, are crammed onto shelves covering the walls from floor level to the four-metre ceiling.

A nearby autopsy room holds only a concrete table, a hose, and a 30cm-long knife for slicing open skulls.

Museum director Diana Rivas, a slight neuropathologist, supervises 100 autopsies each year. That allows her to consider each brain for inclusion in the collection.

“For me, cutting brains is like peeling potatoes,” Rivas said as she toyed with the giant knife.

The museum also has deformed foetuses. One foetus has one eye, another a hole instead of a nose, and a third a brain but no skull.

Animal brains in the collection, of chickens, monkeys, cats and dogs, are distinguished by their cream colour, distinct from the gray of the human brains.

A healthy human brain weighs 1,2kg and is like hard jelly at death, Rivas said. “One month later it dries up and becomes as tough as a eraser,” she said.

The museum is inside the Santo Toribio de Mogrovejo hospital, a single-floor clinic in Lima built in the early 20th century and modeled after a 19th century French hospital. – AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Advertising

Reinstated Ingonyama Trust managers hit with retrenchment notices

The effect of Covid-19 and the land reform department’s freeze of R23-million because the ITB didn’t comply with budget submissions are cited as some of the reasons for the staff cuts

Battle over R6bn workers’ retirement fund

Allegations from both sides tumble out in court papers

Nigeria’s anti-corruption boss arrested for corruption

Ibrahim Magu’s arrest by the secret police was a surprise — but also not surprising

Eskom refers employees suspected of contracts graft for criminal investigations

The struggling power utility has updated Parliament on investigations into contracts where more than R4-billion was lost in overpayments
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday