Malformed: Forgotten Brains of the Texas State Mental Hospital
by Adam Voorhes and Alex Hannaford
powerHouse Books, 2014 ($39.95)
A collection of 100 human brains stored in jars of formaldehyde languished for decades in a closet at the University of Texas at Austin. Amassed between the 1950s and 1980s, the jars note the maladies of their brains' owners: Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, Down syndrome, and many others. Photographer Voorhes first encountered the brains in 2011 and began carefully documenting them. He and journalist Hannaford proceeded to learn all they could about the cache and the people it represents.
The co-authors did not always uncover a great deal about the individuals, but the resulting presentation of images and stories is riveting. Some brains appear typical, whereas others display strange textures, unusual shapes and unexpected colors. The book is only one product of their efforts; the brain collection has sparked new interest in using the specimens for research.