Go Inside the Harvard Brain Bank

Anna Green

The Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center is the largest human brain bank in the United States. Home to 5000 specimens, the center provides scientists around the country with invaluable research materials. Because donated brains can arrive at all hours of the day, the brain bank is open 24/7.

In the short video “Brain Freeze: Welcome to the Country’s Largest Brain Collection,” Great Big Story goes behind the scenes at the brain bank, showing how employees slice and dice donated specimens in preparation for research. The center accepts the brains of people who were diagnosed with a psychiatric, neurological, or neurodevelopmental disorder. It also takes "normal" brains, which play an important role as controls. In the video, scientific director Sabina Berretta explains how these donated brains help researchers learn more about everything from schizophrenia to Parkinson’s disease.  

“We are not even close to understanding a lot of what we take for granted: our thoughts, our instincts, our feelings, our emotions,” Berretta explains in the video above. “A brain donation is, in a very concrete way, a gift of knowledge.”

Banner image credit: Great Big Story, YouTube