How to ship your brain

i-75fa6f7cebb4145668724f37f5a52b36-steve_icon_medium.jpgDo you have an extra brain sitting around you want to donate? Do you want to trade brains with someone else but they are too far away to do it in person? Is your brain malfunctioning and you need to ship it back to the factory for some repairs or in the worst case - a replacement? If your answer was yes to any of these questions then this is the tutorial for you.

This is what you'll need:

Two clean, dry ziploc plastic bags
(about 22.0 x 30.0 cm)

Plastic bucket with tightly fitting lid
(about 4.0 liters)

Large plastic bag
(about 40.0 x 50.0 cm)

Envelope for documents

Thermosafe polyfoam container
(38.0 x 33.0 x 31.0 cm)

Two refrigerant packs
(17.0 x 10.0 cm)

Wet ice (about 1.0 kg)

Once you have these items just follow these eight straight forward steps and you'll brain will be ready to drop off at your local courier store.

i-fc1bda1deb53df32fd3385f40639f42b-brain1.jpgPut the fresh brain (A)
in the first ziploc bag.

i-1e77ce72e19ab905bf3ae5fd38636a0d-brain2.jpgZiploc first bag (B).

i-b130ea71b3be93fc00b17239bc6071e9-brain3.jpgPlace bag (B) in second bag and ziploc it (C).

Place 0.5 kg of wet ice into the bucket and transfer the double-bagged brain onto the ice (D).

Cover double-bagged brain with wet ice (E) and tightly fit the lid on the bucket.

Put big plastic bag into the polyfoam container and place wet ice (about 0.3 kg) into the bag (F).

i-6d83112eb99e0c122a9e3e55e7c82661-brain5.jpgTransfer sealed bucket into plastic bag of the container, onto the ice and add refrigerant packs (G).

Close plastic bag (H), put polyfoam lid in place, add documents and close cardboard box.

Surprisingly, this post is actually no joke at all. The New York Brain Bank at Columbia University needs brains to do important research on Alzheimer's and many other diseases of the brain. For more information visit their page (including more pictures of brains). Here's their official line:

The New York Brain Bank (NYBB) at Columbia University was established to collect postmortem human brains to meet the needs of neuroscientists investigating specific psychiatric and neurological disorders.

The tasks of the NYBB include:

* Collection and processing of human postmortem brain samples for research.
* Neuropathological evaluation and diagnosis.
* Storage and computerized inventory of brain samples.
* Distribution of brain samples to investigating clinicians and scientists.

The study of human postmortem brain tissue has unveiled structural and biochemical changes that are contributing to the development of drugs. For example, studies using postmortem human brains have led to the development of genetic tests, identification of neurotransmitters essential to Parkinson disease treatment and cytoskeletal abnormalities in Alzheimer disease.

To study the brains of patients with disorders of the central nervous system, brains from individuals without neurological or psychiatric disorders are necessary for comparison. All individuals are encouraged to donate their brains to science with authorization to remove it as soon as possible after death. The identity of each donor will remain strictly confidential.

NYBB will disburse tissue samples to investigating clinicians or scientists, whose research has been approved by their Institutional Review Board (IRB).

HT: Chris

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My grandfather donated his brain to Duke U for an Alzheimer's study a few years back. He had 9 siblings and I think 7 of the 9 had Alzheimer's (he did not). For the last 10 or so years of his life he would travel from Chapel Hill to Duke for various tests and when he died I remember being there as they packed his head in ice and took him from the hospital at the community he lived in to head over to Duke.

He was a scientist (Entomologist for NCSU for a long time) so besides the obvious emotionality of the situation it was pretty cool being able to see him continue to do good after his death.

I do think it would be tough for most of us to ship our brains because we are still using them. I can think of a few however that might be able to pull it off.

I'd suggest sending Ben Stein's brain to Sam Harris to study. Perhaps he could figure out how it's possible that a valedictorian from Yale can believe in something for which there is no evidence.

By Andy Tripp (not verified) on 15 Apr 2008 #permalink

That's what I love about this blog. Where else are you gonna fine an easy-to-follow pictorial description of how to safely package and ship your brain? Or preferably someone else's.


This remember me a freak story I heard when I was a biology undergrad student, here in Brazil. A professor had put a human brain in his home refrigerator (you know, research in developing countries...) without telling his maid about it. Well, guess what they had for supper? "Miolos", a traditional dish made with cow brains...

By Igor Zolnerkevic (not verified) on 17 Apr 2008 #permalink

Hi Steve H. Funny blog. You picked the right category,"weird". I have only one observation.
Use your brain to use less plastic.

ps:to A.Trip, I wonder if Mr.Stein actually believes the movie script drivel,(went straight to dvd) or he's just in it for the cash?

By IronHorse (not verified) on 17 Apr 2008 #permalink

As far as Ben Stein proving that you don't have to actually be an idiot to believe in stuff for which there is no evidence, that's a excellent point. Ideology has a way of doing that...and there is a long list of equally fatuous beliefs held by smart people even unto the present: Ulcers caused by stress, aluminum pans cause Alzheimers, vaccines cause autism, lactose causes sore muscles, and while I hate to sound like a "denier" I would be surprised if something as complex and multivariable as climate change isn't going to throw us quite a few curve balls before we finally figure out how that is supposed to work...or not. Pointing a finger at Ben Stein should function as a cogent reminder of just how over rated intelligence can be when it is connected to a reluctance to buck the accepted wisdom.