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What could be done with your brain once you no longer needed it?

A subject, taboo for some, comes to mind this week having visited the Lieber Institute for Brain Development in Baltimore, Maryland on the edge of the Johns Hopkins Medical Campus.

Scientists at the Lieber Institute have amassed a remarkable resource in a collection of over 1,000 brains from humans with a range of brain diseases: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression – even anorexia nervosa.

Using high-tech sequencing methods, huge datasets of genetic sequence information (DNA and RNA) from focused regions of the brain are compared in order to better understand normal brain function, changes that occur in development and importantly, the potential causes of brain disease.

An established Brain Tissue Resource Center at Harvard's McLean Hospital has provided a similar 'bank' of tissue to researchers around the US and globe.  This resource has been used to resolve many important findings from post-mortem brain that serve as the basis for developing the next critical questions in neuroscience and psychiatric disease.

This is quite different from the techniques we explore at the Martinos Center, devoted to imaging the brain IN VIVO.  Both methods serve a critical role in advancing medical science for the benefit of human health, but only one requires the donation of part of your body once you have died.

Tissue donation, including brain donation is a personal choice, but its importance cannot be understated towards understanding how the brain works and how, for future generations, brain dysfunction can be better addressed through medicine.

Links below are to a news article on the Lieber Institute's brain collection, the Harvard Brain Bank, and the National Institute on Aging which continues to build a collection of Alzheimer's disease patient brains.

Think it over,
Lieber Institute Brain Collection

Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, McLean Hospital

Nationial Institute on Aging Alzheimer's Brain Bank

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