Brains trust

Artist Ania Dabrowska’s upcoming photography exhibition aims to demystify the process of brain donation and highlight the vital role it plays in research into dementia.

The Mind Over Matter show, supported by the Wellcome Trust, features portraits of 12 people between the ages of 84 and 100, all of whom have agreed to donate their brains after death to medical research.

Albert and Frozen Brains
Albert and Frozen Brains

The donated brain tissue will be used for research into dementia. Understanding the condition requires research on human brain tissue taken from both people with dementia and those without – all this brain tissue needs to come from donors.

Working with Dr Bronwyn Parry from Queen Mary, University of London, Dabrowska met, interviewed and photographed 12 prospective brain donors.

Eddie Holden
Eddie Holden

From this work she has created a show which celebrates the lives of the donors – through archive photography and audio interviews – as well as the ‘lives’ their brains will take on after their death – through scientific artefacts and medical photography.

Ellie Whiltshire
Ella Whiltshire

Dabrowska says, ‘Mind Over Matter is primarily a celebration of the donors involved and the practice of organ donation in general. But we also wanted to explore some of the ethical, psychological, religious and social implications behind the process, for both donors and their families, to get a better understanding of how people reach the decision to donate.’

She adds, ‘As some of the donors who participated in Mind Over Matter have now passed away, the project provides a unique record of their philosophies on life, the relationship between memory and identity, death, donation and the ephemerality of the body.’


Mind Over Matter is at Shoreditch Town Hall, London EC1, from 12-23 October.

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  • Sue Forsdyke November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    I saw this on the ‘culture show’, and, was so
    facinated by it. What a beautiful concept it is.
    Well done to it’s creators. I will certainly try to
    get up to see it.

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