Historical background

In 1944, the Directorate for the State Mental Hospitals in Denmark initiated the establishment of an institute for brain pathology at the Psychiatric State Mental Hospital in Risskov just outside Aarhus.

The institute was to be in charge of the post-mortem examination of brains from patients who died in the State Mental Hospitals. The Insitute of Brain Pathology opened April 1, 1945.

Institute of Brain Pathology

  • The Institue of Brain Pathology was a centralized facility for the psychiatric hospitals in Denmark.
  • Furthermore, the institute was a general pathology unit for the State Mental Hospital in Risskov (at present Aarhus University Hospital, Risskov).
  • Upon request, brains from patients who died in one of the psychiatric hospitals were examined by the neuropathologists for expert diagnostics.
  • The examined tissue was stored for scientific studies.
  • The institute carried out both light and electron microscopial examinations. Furthermore, the institute had facilities for experimental animal studies.

The masterminds of the Institute of Brain Pathology

The architects behind the Institute of Brain Pathology were the founders of the Institute of Anatomy and Institute of Psychiatry at Aarhus University, Lárus Einarson and Erik Strömgren.

During the majority of its lifetime, the Institute of Brain Pathology was headed by Knud Aage Lorentzen, DMSc, who trained a generation of doctors in anatomy.

Lárus Einarson
(1902 - 1969)
Professor of anatomy
(1936 - 1969)
The Masterminds of the Institute of Brain Pahology
Erik R. V. Strömgren
(1909 - 1993)
Professor of psychiatry
(1945 - 1980)
Knud Aage Lorentzen
(1912 - 1983)
Head of the Institute of Brain Pathology
(1950 - 1982)
Knud Aage Lorentzen's and Erik Andreasen's textbook of neuroanatomy, 1961
(Munksgaards Forlag)

Collecting brains

Many brains were examined

During 37 years, the Institute of Brain Pathology examined brains from 9479 patients.

The Danish state mental hospitals

The brains came from patients autopsied at the Danish state mental hospitals. The largest psychiatric hospital in Denmark, Sct. Hans Hospital, was not a state mental hospital and hence did not send brains to Risskov for examination.

Number of brains

The majority of the brains came from the large and old state mental hospitals, whereas only few brains from the more recently established psychiatric hospitals were examined.

Distribution of diagnoses

Based on preliminary numbers. An exact registration of the 9479 brains is currently ongoing.

Age distribution for the examined patients

The majority of the examined patients died old—some after living a long life at a psychiatric hospital.

This plot was calculated to give an impression of the age of potential next of kin alive today.