Brain Tissue Donation Title

Brain tissue donation is a valuable contribution to mental health research. It enables scientists to investigate how the normal brain works, and how the brain is disturbed when it is affected by schizophrenia, depression, bipolar (manic depressive) disease or other related disorders.

The Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh has established a brain tissue bank to which brain tissue can be donated at no expense. The gift of brain tissue enables scientists to conduct research designed to understand causes, to develop new treatments, and ultimately to find cures for diseases that affect the brain.

WHAT IS BRAIN TISSUE DONATON?   Brain tissue donation is a gift that makes it possible for researchers to study various types of mental disorders. Donations of brain tissue from individuals without these disorders are also needed to establish comparisons with brain samples from individuals who have these disorders.
     
WHO MAY DONATE?   Any legally competent adult or guardian may indicate during life their interest in donating brain tissue after death. Next-of-kin either of healthy individuals or of those with psychiatric disorders may give consent to donate brain tissue following the death of a loved one.
     
WHEN MAY BRAIN TISSUE BE DONATED?   Brain tissue is most suitable for research purposes within 24 hours of death. Most research studies require tissue within this time span, since deterioration begins immediately after death.
     
WHERE IS BRAIN TISSUE DONATED?   Brain tissue is removed during autopsy at a morgue or hospital and is transported to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for examination and study.
     
WHY DONATE?   Advances in technology and scientific methods make it possible to answer important questions about the causes of various psychiatric disorders, and brain tissue is necessary for such research. Unfortunately, there is not enough tissue for essential studies of the brain at present. More samples of both healthy and diseased brain tissue are needed to help researchers better understand disorders of the brain and behavior.
     
HOW IS BRAIN TISSUE DONATED?   There are at least three avenues for brain donation:
1. You can make explicit prior arrangements for brain donation through a "living will."
2. You can inform your primary care physician or your funeral director that you wish to make this donation.
3. Family members can also donate on your behalf by signing the appropriate form after death.
Several weeks following the donation, interested family members will be contacted to obtain relevant medical history information.
     
IS THERE ANY COST?   No. The procedure is done without cost to you or your family. Costs are paid by research funds provided by grants and contributions to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the family.
     
WHAT HAPPENS TO THE BODY?   A simple incision in the back of the head is made as the first step. After the brain has been removed; the incision is closed and the body is released to the funeral director. No disfigurement occurs as a result of this procedure. An open casket or other traditional funeral arrangements can be carried out without hindrance.
     
WILL THERE BE A DELAY OF FUNERAL PLANS?   No. Brain tissue donation will not delay or in any way limit or complicate the family's plans for a funeral.
     
WILL MY RELIGION PERMIT THIS?   Most religions accept and support brain and other organ donation. The call to compassion is fundamental to all religions. You may wish to consult the clergy of your faith.
     
ARE THERE ANY RESTRICTIONS?   There are two major reasons why a brain may be unsuitable for donation:
1) extended period on a respirator prior to death, or
2) death from certain infectious diseases.
     
For additional information call the Brain Tissue Donation Program at 412-624-7802, 412-383-8548 or send an email to Carol Sue Johnston, PhD.

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David A. Lewis, M.D. | Department of Psychiatry | University of Pittsburgh
3811 O'Hara Street, Biomedical Science Tower W1654
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213-2593
Phone: (412) 383-8548 - Fax: (412) 624-9910