BBC Future

Future Thinking

How building a library of brains could save lives

California’s Brain Observatory is building a digital archive of human brains it hopes will help doctors cure life-threatening illnesses.

A library is being assembled in San Diego with the help of some 300 brain donors; people from all walks of life, some of whom are healthy and some of whom have life-threatening brain disorders.

The patients undertake a series of tests during the course of their lives – and then donate their brains when they die. Slices of their brain are scanned and the images are digitally preserved, allowing doctors to search for clues to both neurological diseases and the secrets behind human longevity.

The Brain Observatory’s founder, Dr Jacopo Annese, says the library’s wealth of information could also help doctors discover the telltale signs of serious brain illnesses long before they actually appear.

If you would like to comment on this video or anything else you have seen on Future, head over to our Facebook or Google+ page, or message us on Twitter.