All I Want for Christmas Is My Brain on My Christmas Tree: Doctor 3D prints ornaments of his brain

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braintree2I remember as a kid, going over to my aunt’s house every winter to help her decorate her Christmas tree. Each and every year she would have new little ornaments that she had added to her collection, and I would hang them from her tree. I’m not exactly sure why I would get so excited over the simple addition of new ornaments to a Christmas tree, but it was something I looked forward to every year. Over the years people have become quite creative in decorating their trees. There are now ornaments targeted toward people with all sorts of interests, hobbies, and religions. There are ornaments for football fans, ornaments for dog lovers, and even ornaments which can be engraved with the names of your family members.

Many people just elect to use the traditional snowman, snowflake, Santa, and ball ornaments. But for others, they like to be as unique as they can.

For one pediatrician at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, named Christopher Kelly, his tree this Christmas will feature ornaments as unique as individual brain wrinkles in each one of our heads. This is because what his tree will be decorated with this holiday season is just that: 3D printed replicas of his own brain. Kelly, who recently started a PhD at the Evelina Children’s Hospital in London, is currently studying brain development of children with congenital heart problems.

To create the unique Christmas ornament, Kelly used an MRI brain scan that was taken while he was a volunteer for a research project, using a 3 Tesla Scanner.  Once scanned, Kelly began the process of turning the date into a 3D printable model of his brain.

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“I used one of the ‘T1’ images that was taken,” Kelly tells 3DPrint.com. “This is one of the most commonly used sequences in an MRI scanner, used for medical diagnosis. To get from a 3D image to a 3D model, I used a free package called FreeSurfer to construct a 3D brain model from the T1 scan. This takes around half a day to run on a decent computer. Freesurfer can then export the model of the brain as a STL mesh. [It] inspected the mesh and simplified it a little. I used 3DPrintUK to print the model using their fantastic SLS (selective laser sintering) nylon printer.”

Once the prints were complete, Kelly spray painted them with a silver plastic spray. Now they are ready to be on display for all to see on his Christmas tree. When asked why he decided to create this incredibly unique holiday decoration, Kelly’s response was:

“It was just a slightly random fun thing to do while working in a brain research department, and my wife loves Christmas decorations! It’s had a bit of a mixed reaction – either ‘cool’ or ‘a bit spooky’!”

Kelly has also 3D printed a full size brain, which he says turned out amazing as well. Although it won’t be hanging on his tree, it makes for a great conversation piece and desk ornament.

Full size brain print

Full size brain print

What do you think about Kelly’s unqiue holiday ornaments? Would you consider hanging your brain from your Christmas tree? Discuss in the 3D printed brain ornament forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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