The Brain Observatory was founded by Dr. Jacopo Annese at the University of California, San Diego in 2005. After receiving the postmortem brain of H.M. for examination the Brain Observatory came to house the Digital Brain Project Library. 

H.M.’s actual name is Henry G. Molaison who suffered from epileptic seizures. Following an intensive surgery where many of his brain regions became resectioned, H.M.’s epilepsy was controlled but he was left with anterograde amnesia, meaning he could not commit new events to his memory, and moderate retrograde amnesia, meaning some memories prior to his surgery were also removed. H.M.’s brain fascinated researchers interested in the functioning of the human brain. Specifically, H.M.’s brain has been used in questions about amnesia, motor skill development, spatial memory, and memory consolidation. In 2009, the Brain Observatory dissected and digitized H.M.’s brain.

The Digital Brain Library Project now seeks to collect the brains and medical profiles of up to 1,000 brain donors. The benefits of this research would be comparing and contrasting individual diseases, and lead to better understanding of diseases that affect the brain. The Digital Brain Library preserves the brain as a single piece, “transforming it into an unabridged collection of sequential images that can be visualized at different levels of resolution, reassembled into three-dimensional models, or inspected with virtual dissection tools – all without compromising the integrity of the original dataset. Moreover, these images are corroborated by additional medical, neuropsychological, and even biographical data.” 

The brain is sliced about the thickness of a human hair, stained, and mounted onto glass slides, which are digitized for use worldwide. 

The end goal of the Digital Brain Library Project is to understand the how the human brain works and how disease and aging can act upon it. This information will be of benefit to patients whose medical treatments can benefit from this knowledge. 

Brains must be donated, either from those with no documented conditions or from families that have been affected by diseases and seek answers for the future. Healthy brains provide a control to compare other brains against. 

Learn more about the Brain Observatory at their website, Facebook, and Twitter. 

Learn more about the Digital Brain Library at their website.