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Neuroscience Students Receive Real Brains Through the Mail

Neuroscience students at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania are dissecting sheeps’ brains in their own homes. The students, who are studying from home due to COVID-19, were mailed the brains by the college. Other schools, such as Stanford and the University of Arizona, are also mailing animal organs home to students.

In a Lafayette press release, which comes via Futurism, the college outlines how Luis Schettino, an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, is teaching his students to dissect the brains at home. The objective of the dissection, Lafayette says, is to “impress on students the importance of brain architecture on the control of behavior—in particular, how complex behavior is controlled during human interactions.”

More specifically, Schettino aims to teach his class about the role neurobiology plays in “the use of force by police officers when arresting minority individuals.” The professor notes that “By learning the role that brain architecture plays on how humans behave, we become aware of our weaknesses…”

Schettino and the students are using sheeps’ brains because they are architecturally similar to people’s. Lafayette notes that sheep-brain structures “are in roughly the same place as those of the human brain” making them relevant to our own in terms of neurophysiology.

Futurism notes that biology programs at other institutes for higher education are also mailing home organs for study; including everything from eyeballs to entire fetal pigs. Despite the successful transition to at-home dissections, however, at least Schettino seems to miss in-person learning.

Students at Lafayette College are dissecting sheeps' brains in their homes.

Pearson Scott Foresman

“To be honest, there is no substitute for having the students be all within the lab where we can communicate more directly…” Schettino told Futurism. “What I mean is that this is, of course, a second-best solution,” the professor added.

Moving forward, the second module of the course will involve studying rats—half of whom will undergo brain lesions of the hippocampus—as they navigate mazes. Schettino will upload video of both rat groups as they learn to solve the maze so the students can code the behavior from home.

What do you think about students performing dissections at home? Do you have any issues with colleges and universities sending organs through the mail? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Feature image: WB