I’ve got an article in The Observer about how, a little surprisingly, the dead are becoming an increasing focus for brain scanning studies.
I first discussed this curious corner of neuroscience back in 2007 but a recent Neuroskeptic post reminded me of the area and I decided to check in on how it’s progressing.
It turns out that brain scanning the dead is becoming increasingly common in research and medicine and the article looks at how the science is progressing. Crucially, it’s helping us better understand ourselves in both life and death.
For thousands of years, direct studies of the human brain required the dead. The main method of study was dissection, which needed, rather inconveniently for the owner, physical access to their brain. Despite occasional unfortunate cases where the living brain was exposed on the battlefield or the surgeon’s table, corpses and preserved brains were the source of most of our knowledge.
When brain scanning technologies were invented in the 20th century they allowed the structure and function of the brain to be shown in living humans for the first time. This was as important for neuroscientists as the invention of the telescope and the cadaver slowly faded into the background of brain research. But recently, scrutiny of the post-mortem brain has seen something of a revival, a resurrection you might say, as modern researchers have become increasingly interested in applying their new scanning technologies to the brains of the deceased.
It’s a fascinating area and you can read the full article at the link below.
UPDATE: I’ve just noticed two of the links to studies have gone AWOL from the online article. The study that looked for the source of a mysterious signal by scanning people, cadavers and dummies and found it was a scanner problem was this one and the study that used corpses to test in-scanner motion correction was this one.
Link to Observer article on brain scanning the dead.
One thought on “Brain scanning the deceased”
There is that theory that whatever the last thing the deceased think of or seen of is still imprinted in his eyes and brain. Scanning that memory will be useful especially those who died brutally without justice.