Even though you use your brain to do a lot of thinking, you probably don’t think about your brain that often. It’s an incredibly complex, incredibly precious organ. It’s also incredibly squishy, as you can see in an amazing teaching video that demonstrates a freshly removed brain straight from autopsy.
As the neuroanatomist handles the vulnerable blob with the utmost care, it’s awe-inspiring to realise that each one of us has a squishy brain just like it – and it contains all our memories and thoughts.
As neuroanatomist Suzanne Strensaas says in the video, most of us tend to think that the brain is like a rubber ball. However, if you’re a trauma surgeon or a neurosurgeon, you realize that the brain is really very, very soft and much more vulnerable than the impression you get from textbooks.
As she’s holding the 1.4 kg (3 lbs) brain in both palms, it’s absolutely crazy to realise that right there is the entire set of life experiences of what was once a living, feeling human being.
“We are fortunate enough to show you what a normal, unfixed, recently deceased patient’s brain would look like,” says Stensaas.
As she explains, the cancer patient whose autopsy this brain is from, died from cell transplant complications. And seeing how Stensaas handles the specimen, we feel honoured to be able to learn so much thanks to the patient who donated their body to science.
Even though she continues to rotate it, presumably to avoid holding it in one place for too long, she manages to leave a slight indentation of her finger on top of one of the hemispheres.
And it turns out that even when a brain is preserved in a fixation solution, it can’t be left sitting at the bottom of the tank as that will make it squat and out of shape – hence scientists loop a cord through one of the arteries to suspend the brain in the liquid (who knew!).