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Case of Missing Brains Takes Another Twist

Now school says they were destroyed
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2014 12:28 PM CST
Updated Dec 4, 2014 9:38 AM CST
Texas Finds Its Missing Brains
In this July 29, 2013 photo, a researcher holds a human brain in a laboratory at Northwestern University's cognitive neurology and Alzheimer's disease center.   (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)

First came yesterday's reports that about 100 human brains had gone missing from the University of Texas at Austin. Then followed the news that they had been located, with psych professor Tim Schallert telling the LA Times that UT San Antonio called him to say, "We got those brains!" But the Times then heard from that school, which said it had no such thing in its possession. What could be the final answer came shortly thereafter, via a statement put out by UT Austin: "A preliminary university investigation has revealed that UT environmental health and safety officials disposed of multiple brain specimens in approximately 2002 in accordance with protocols concerning biological waste."

The statement goes on to say that those specimens disposed of were "in poor condition when the university received them in the 1980s and were not suitable for research or teaching." It estimates that 40 to 60 jars were disposed of, and that some of the jars contained more than one brain. But the author of Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital tells the New York Times he's skeptical. "Those jars were designed to hold one brain, and I find it hard to believe that if 40 jars were disposed of, that accounted for all the brains." What's still a mystery: whether the brain of tower sniper Charles Whitman was one of the brains given to the school. The school has "no evidence" of that, "though we will continue to investigate those reports." (More brain stories.)

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