The Brain Collection held at the University of Southern Denmark is one of the largest collections of its kind in the world. It is a unique collection of brain material collected over a period of 37 years, from 1945 to 1982, from more than 9,000 psychiatric patients who were autopsied at the Danish state mental hospitals. It has huge scientific potential for national and international studies on psychiatric and neurological disorders as well as the related socioeconomic and historical aspects.
The Brain Collection has significant scientific value due to its huge size and varied pathology - including some rare diseases. Furthermore, most of the brains come from people who have not received any modern medical treatment, and thereby enables researchers to investigate the effect of modern treatment. The materials can be used to examine the effect of various diseases on brain anatomy, to investigate diagnostic approaches for brain diseases, and to analyse genetic mutations and epigenetic DNA/RNA alterations in the brain tissue of individuals with different conditions.
To understand how a disease affects the brain, we need to be able to physically examine the brain tissue. However, it is usually impossible to take a sample of tissue from the brain of a person who is alive and in addition to that few people with psychiatric disorders or dementia are autopsied when they die. Studies of animal brains are also less helpful as the human brain has functions, we believe are unique to humans. This means that the large number of brains in the collection is a remarkable source of information, to bridge the gab between clinical and experimental studies on animals and tissue cultures.
The collection is already well-documented in the form of protocol books and patient records, and one of the goals with the Brain Collection is to digitize the collection and make this substantial resource available as a central online biobank for national and international scientists and health researchers. Users will access the Brain Collection through OPEN at the University of Southern Denmark and after logging in will be able to review, search and download patient records, histological slides, images, pathology reports and publications. Scientific findings, data, and material resulting from studies using the Brain Collection will be added back into the brain bank infrastructure, thus ensuring continuous enrichment of the Brain Collection and its scientific value.