Collection of 3,350 brains moved from London to Duffel


A unique collection of brains amassed in London is moving to Antwerp province, providing Flemish researchers with a wealth of research opportunities

A ‘gold mine’

A unique collection of 3,350 brains of psychiatric patients has been moved from London to the Psychiatric Hospital Duffel (PZ Duffel) in Antwerp province. PZ Duffel and Antwerp University (UAntwerp) will use the brains for research into psychiatric conditions.

According to PZ Duffel director Manuel Morrens, it is the largest psychiatric brain bank in Europe. It was created by British neuropathologist John Corsellis, who collected about 8,000 brains of patients who died at the Runwell Hospital in London between 1954 and 1997. This portion of the collection is very useful in the study of schizophrenia, depression and addiction.

The brains were being stored at the St Bernard’s Hospital in London’s Ealing district. A new destination was sought because of accommodation problems.

The collection is a “gold mine,” said Morrens. “Corsellis started to collect during the period in which the first psychiatric medication was being introduced to the market, so many of these patients never had medical treatment,” he explained. “Today, post-mortem brain tissue is always affected by long-term drug treatments.”

UAntwerp researcher Violette Coppens added that it is difficult to get permission to study brains of deceased patients today because of strict regulations and that the brain bank would give them the opportunity to examine inflammation in the brain as a possible cause of psychoses.

Photo courtesy: VTM Nieuws