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Strange Human Brain Found In U of Texas Storage Leaves Scientists Scratching Their Heads

Scientists are baffled by a bizarre human brain stored at the University of Texas at Austin, but the medical records of whoever once owned the strange-looking brain have been lost.

The brain (pictured) is an extreme example of a rare condition called lissencephaly which literally means “smooth brain.” This is when the brain lacks the numerous folds and creases that characterize a normal human brain.

The folded-up nature of human brains allows all of the advanced functions that set humans apart from other species to be carried out by a brain that can fit inside a human skull, much like one folds clothes to fit more inside a suitcase.

But the mysterious Texan brain has almost no folds.

Brain researchers are astonished by the mysterious brain.

"We do get the odd individual where certain sulci (folds) are missing but nothing to the extent of this brain,” David Dexter, of the Brain Bank at Imperial College in London told New Scientist.

All that is known about the owner of the brain -- or former owner, to be precise -- is that he or she was a patient in a mental institution now known as North Texas State Hospital and that this person died in 1970.

“Smooth brain” sufferers also generally have abnormally small heads. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, the condition can be the cause of “unusual facial appearance, difficulty swallowing, failure to thrive, muscle spasms, seizures, and severe psychomotor retardation.”

Victims often fail to survive past age 10. Among those who do survive, according to NIND, many do not show mental development past the stage of a three-to-five month old child. However, others can exhibit intellectual development that is almost normal.

The condition of the owner of the Texas brain, which may be the most extreme case of lissencephaly yet seen, is likely lost forever to history.

SOURCES: New Scientist, National Institute of Neurological Disorders


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