Real brain: our human brain exhibit

At-Bristol's real brain exhibit

What is Real Brain?

Real Brain is At-Bristol's very special exhibit that displays a real human brain. It forms part of All About Us - our exhibition all about the human body, based around seven themes cardiovascular, senses, reproduction, locomotion, digestion, DNA and brains.

The exhibit itself is a large see-through tank, engraved with the outline of a person sitting down on one side, and their skeleton and central nervous system on the other.  In the position of the brain will be the real human brain, showing both the right and left hemispheres. The exhibit includes seating on either side.

The exhibit also includes a touch screen with videos of people that have a direct interest in medical science research and donor activity. These include two surgeons, a future donor, the Bequests Co-ordinator from the Centre for Clinical and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Bristol and an anatomy teacher.

Why does At-Bristol have a human brain exhibit?

We have this exhibit to allow our visitors the opportunity to engage in the wonder of the human body, to see ‘real science’ in action through the screen presentation and to gain an appreciation of medical science research.

We have given great consideration to how to display the brain so that we provide a safe environment for all our visitors to experience it in terms of viewing it and providing an opportunity for contemplation and reflection.

What is the process in producing an exhibit like this?

We have worked in close partnership with the Centre for Clinical and Comparative Anatomy at the University of Bristol in the development of this exhibit.

We have also consulted with other science centres and visitor attractions (both nationally and internationally) on dealing with difficult science dialogue and contemporary biomedical issues.

The process has included assessments by the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) and we hold the necessary Human Tissue Licence. Part of the requirements of the HTA licence are to treat the donor material with the respect and dignity and this has been an important part of our development process.

In line with the HTA licence requirements, the donor of the brain gave their full and personal consent to it being presented in At-Bristol as part of the All About Us exhibition with the understanding it will be for the sake of science and learning. At-Bristol holds no personal details of the person who has donated their brain. The brain has come from an anonymous donor.

Goery Delacote, Chief Executive Officer of At-Bristol says “There is nothing more interesting than to see something for real. As a science centre, it’s our role to bring the real world, and especially that not easy to see, to the attention of our visitors”

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What our visitors say

"The planetarium was amazing"

Christopher, aged 10