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Bodies, brains bombard Columbus with ‘Body Worlds & The Brain’ exhibit at COSI

Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer

Have you ever wondered why sleep deprivation is so bad for us? What Alzheimer’s disease actually does to your brain? Where the heck your prefrontal cortex is?

Look no further than downtown Columbus for these answers.

Gunther von Hagens’ “Body Worlds & The Brain” exhibit is scheduled to be on display Wednesday through Jan. 6 at COSI in Columbus as part of a partnership with OhioHealth.

This marks the first time for the “Body Worlds & The Brain” exhibition to make an appearance in Ohio and the first time for a “Body Worlds” exhibition to be held in Central Ohio, according to a COSI press release.

The exhibition is comprised of 200 human specimens – including entire bodies, individual organs and transparent body slices. The bodies are shown with muscles, bones and organs exposed and are posed to highlight certain anatomical features. The exhibition also includes human brains shown behind glass displays. Wall-sized posters help guide attendees through the rooms of the exhibit, giving details on the petrified bodies and body parts as well as supplemental information on topics such as brain disease, drug addiction and human consciousness.

The goal of the exhibition is to promote good health for the brain and the body through education, said Janet Bay, physician vice president for Neuroscience at OhioHealth.

Exhibition developer and promoter von Hagens invented the preservation process for the bodies and their parts in 1977 for scientific and medical purposes. In the process called plastination, the body is drained of all natural fluids and soluble fats, which are then replaced with resins and elastomers (essentially plastics and rubbers). The result is the lifelike and durable bodies that are the hallmarks of von Hagens’ exhibitions.

The bodies used in the exhibit come from people who chose to donate their bodies to science upon their death.

Josh Kessler, the project manager for COSI, said the exhibition at COSI took about a week to set up.

“The people at ‘Body Worlds’ have had a lot of practice with this kind of thing,” Kessler said.

There are different “Body World” exhibitions with a range of focuses, including human musculature, the human heart and animal bodies. But choosing to focus on the brain made sense for COSI, Kessler said.

“Given our strong relationship with OhioHealth’s (Neuroscience Institute), ‘Body Worlds & The Brain’ was an excellent fit,” Kessler said.

David Chesebrough, president and CEO of COSI, said he believes the exhibition’s appeal is universal.

“What gets any of us more focused than ourselves?” Chesebrough said to press, doctors, benefactors and media at an advance preview for the exhibition Tuesday.

Chesebrough shared that his mother-in-law recently died from a stroke, and that hosting this exhibition, which includes information on strokes and how they affect the brain, is “personal” for him.

“If (my mother-in-law) had seen this exhibit, she might still be here,” he said.

Cost of admission to “Body Worlds & The Brain” ranges from $16 to $32.95.

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