Brain Donation for Dementia Research
I have decided to donate my brain for research into dementia. It is something I have been thinking about for some time. I like the idea that I can be of use to others even after my death. Who knows, it might be my brain tissues that help scientists make the big break through into Alzheimer's!
So many of us are living longer and increasing numbers are facing a future with the threat of dementia and other types of diseases associated with aging. Scientists need the brain and spinal cord tissue of people who have these diseases as well as normal brain tissue. It's really the only way we have to try and find out how things like Parkinson’s disease, stroke and rarer disorders such as vascular dementia and mitochondrial diseases, develop and progress. By comparing normal and abnormal brain and cord tissue they will be able to prevent, diagnose and improve treatments of neurological diseases and disorders.
I have talked to a number of people about my decision. Their first reactions have been mixed but many have initially said “I’m not sure I like that idea”. Some reactions have been quite strongly against the idea. I suppose it is because our brains are who we are. Many people have a similar emotional reaction to other forms of organ donation but the donation of our brain does seem to elicit more concerns. But a heart or a kidney is no use for Alzheimer's research. It is human brain and neurological tissue that is so very important.
So, if like me you are thinking of brain tissue donation, you need to prepare your family. It is very important you discuss your wishes with your family well in advance of your death. Ultimately it is your family who make the decision as your body becomes their responsibility.
In my case, following my death, my body will either be taken to the university I have made the donation to, or my brain will be removed by a coroner (medical examiner). An incision will be made at the back of my head to remove the brain and in my case my spinal cord is removed with my spine to protect the cord tissue. My face and body will not show any signs of its removal so my family can still chose an open casket should they want that form of service. A coroner’s inquiry in the case of my unexpected or unexplained death should not prevent my brain being donated except in exceptional circumstances. My family will be given information about any disease diagnosis.
Brain Banks for your Donation
If you decide you would like to donate your brain speak to your neurologist or contact a University medical center who may also suggest the most appropriate facility. There are a number of programs in the U.S. and your physician may be aware of which facility might be the most appropriate. Here is the The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke resource list.
Harvard University has a Brain Tissue Resource Center
I contacted Brain Tissue resource Center Newcastle University in the UK