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Famous brain falls to slices

annese.jpgOne of the most important brains in the history of neuroscience is being sliced up on live streaming video, as Nature reported last week.

Jacopo Annese of the University of California, San Diego, was the lucky anatomist who scored the precious brain of Henry Molaison, known as H.M., who died on 2 December 2008. Molaison lost his ability to form new memories after a hunk of his hippocampus was removed during a surgical procedure in 1953; the hundreds of cognitive studies that followed have revealed the role of the hippocampus in memory formation and the relationship between brain structure and function.

Annese decided to commemorate the anniversary of Molaison’s death by cutting up his brain into about 2,500 70-micrometre slices on a live webcast. Other scientists can use the slices to follow up on previous studies on H.M. The streaming video is pretty mesmerizing — even for someone with a bitter relationship with microtomes.


The live performance, featuring knife-wielder Annese in a vest, tie and no lab coat or gloves, is meant to help his efforts to raise money for a larger brain library project; he lists an address for sending checks beneath the video.

As of this morning, Annese had cut through all of the good stuff — the entire surgical lesion. Now the pressure’s off a bit as he goes through the occipital lobe and the cerebellum, which other neuroscientists will probably be less eager to get their hands on.

Image: Annese Lab/University of California, San Diego

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    Anurag chaurasia said:

    Researcher should freely share their expertise in studying H.M brain at the same time we should keep our eyes open for more such experimental specimens available in nature.

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