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Destinations & Day Trips

How Cerebral: The Brain Collection at Cushing Center

The Brain Collection at Cushing Center
Written by Nikki Pretter

If you think you’ve seen it all, think again. Visit the Cushing Center to see one of the largest collections of human brains in the United States.

The anatomy of human is very complex—and as such, is full of mystery. It is of little surprise that a museum dedicated to the mysteries of the brain would exists somewhere in the United States, but who would expect it to exist right here in Connecticut?

If you are constantly looking for something new and exciting to do or learn about because you’re one of those people who have “seen it all,” head to the Cushing Center for a fun, cerebral look at the human brain. There’s nothing else like it in CT.

About The Center

Harvey Cushing was a pioneer and is often credited as “the father of neurosurgery.” As such, he amassed a large collection of brains over the course of his career (an odd thing to collect, for sure).

Though Cushing decided to continue his research at Yale University after studying medicine at Harvard, he had expected that his collection would stay in Boston. However, in 1934 Cushing chose to move specimens of his work to Yale, where they can still be viewed today.

The Cushing Brain Tumor Registry, which is what the collection at the Cushing Center is known for,  contains a collection of over 2,200 case studies that include research on  human whole brain specimens, tumor specimens, microscopic slides, notes, journal excerpts, and more than 15,000 photographs that date from the late 1800’s all the way to 1936. The registry documents the history of neurological medicine from its beginning. You are free to walk through the collections on your own, gazing at the wonders of the human mind and intellect at leisure.

Not only are there specimens on display for you to check out, but you can also take a look at videos, books, drawers underneath cases in the exhibit, and manuscripts by Dr. Cushing.

Want To Check It Out?

Located at Yale University in New Haven, the Center is found in the Cushing/Whitney Medical Library, and anyone who is interested in seeing this remarkable collection is welcomed to do so. In order to access the Center there are two options: You must either have an active Yale Proximity ID Card, or if you are just visiting and don’t have said ID Card, you will have to go to the Medical Library’s Circulation Desk, where library staff will  give you a Cushing Center Proxy Card that will grant you access to the area. If you are coming in large groups, the center can be reserved for special tours and teleconferences. The Center is open Monday through Friday from 8am until 8pm, Saturday from 10am to 7pm, and Sunday from 9am to 8pm.

The Cushing Center offers three tours throughout the week on Thursdays at 2PM and Fridays at 11AM and 2PM. You do not need to sign up to join the tours; all you need to do is show up and meet at the library entrance. A tour  lasts about 40 minutes. General admittance to the collections, and for the regularly-scheduled tours, is free of charge.

Things to do Nearby

However interesting a museum of brains may be, you can only be there so long before you’ve seen it all. But there’s plenty of other things you can do in the area. Check out the Peabody Museum of Natural History or the Yale Center for British Art if you are still in an intellectual mood, stop by the Crypt at the New Haven Green to continue the macabre feel of a day spent looking at brains, or head to Frank Pepe Pizzeria for a quick bite if you get hungry.

About the author

Nikki Pretter

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