Excavated by YAT in 2008 during an archaeological dig commissioned by the University of York on the site of its new campus, the brain was found in a skull. The area was found to have been the site of well-developed permanent habitation between 2,000–3,000 years before the present day.
Dr Sonia O’Connor, from Archaeological Sciences, University of Bradford, has been researching the brain since its discovery along with a multidisciplinary team. Her latest research states some of the substances that hold a human brain together, notably proteins, can fold themselves tightly into very stable structures, called aggregates.
This new research showed that aggregates were still present in the ancient Heslington Brain. Once unfolded, a process which took one year, the aggregates regained many of the the features typically encountered in a normal, living brain. The published findings have implications for paleoproteomics, biomarker research and diseases related to protein finding and aggregate formation. Dr O’Connor’s team has now endeavoured to investigate the questions arising from their research on a broader national and international basis.
Surviving parts of the brain continue to be held at YAT’s Conservation laboratory where it has been preserved for future research.