What is Brain Donation

Brain donation is when a person and their family decide to donate their brain for medical research following their death. Brain donation is fundamental to advancing the understanding of diseases that affect the brain, and also require people without brain diseases to participate for comparison purposes.

Brain donation is donation of the whole brain. The brain is a very complex structure and it is necessary to look at all the different parts of the brain. In some neurological conditions the spinal cord is also essential for the confirmation of diagnosis and research.

Why is Brain Donation Important?

Although over the past decades many advances have been made in our understanding of diseases that affect the brain, there are still no cures for these conditions. Modern brain imaging techniques, blood tests and genetic markers are helping to improve the characterisation of brain diseases, but without understanding the changes that occur in the brain, the impact of these advances will be limited.

In order to develop more effective treatments for diseases that affect the brain, studies are needed to identify the specific cellular changes occurring in the brain of people with those diseases compared with healthy subjects.

What Happens to the Donated Brain?

Once the brain has been obtained at a limited autopsy, it is collected, stored and characterised by the NSW Brain Tissue Resource Centre (NSW BTRC). In some cases permission is also sought to remove the spinal cord during the autopsy. The brain undergoes a thorough examination to determine a final diagnosis so that the tissue can be used most effectively in ethically approved research studies.

Tissue requests received by the NSW BTRC from both national and international researchers are evaluated and approved by a Scientific Advisory Committee. Over the past decade the NSW BTRC has collected over 500 cases and tissues have been provided to over 270 different projects. The NSW BTRC has sent tissues to a number of research groups world-wide and they have used various pathological, neuro-chemical and molecular techniques, including proteomics and genomic studies with excellent results.

How Can I Participate in Brain Donation?

The NSW Brain Banks work with a number of different clinical research programs that enrol appropriate people into their studies. Each of these programs specialises in particular types of brain disorders, or look at particular populations of people. Using Our Brains is a part of the NSW Brain Banks.

Please visit NSW Brain Banks for more information on brain donor programs in NSW.

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