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article imageWhy researchers need donated brains for study

By Tim Sandle     Feb 22, 2017 in Health
Organ donation is well-established with many people willing to donate various body parts. Brains are a different matter, with many people unaware they can donate their brain. Yet researchers need brains; we look at why this is important.
Brain donation is different to other organ donations, given that no successful head transplant has ever been performed (although this doesn’t stop researchers from trying, as Digital Journal has reported previously). Brains are needed for research, to allow scientists to understand different diseases and to look at conditions like Alzheimer’s.
Examples of important brain research have been highlighted by Laboratory Roots. These include
Arvid Carlsson’s research on the loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells, a phenomenon that is linked to Parkinson's disease. A second example is with James Ironside's identification of a new strain of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), linked to mad cow disease and which led to a change of policy relating to animal feed. Other areas where brain donation is necessary to advance research includes Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and different forms of mental illness.
With more recent research, from Boston University, Dr. Kerry Ressler, relates to the study of concussion. Here there is a particular focus on sports related injuries. Dr. Ressler has a collection of over 3,000 brains. Many of the specimens are dispatched worldwide for other researchers to study. This is because many countries lack their own brain banks. Typically a single brain will be sent to five research bases.
In particular there is a shortage of brains from people with disorders that were once incorrectly seen as psychological in origin, whereas current medical opinion infers the conditions are neurological. These disorders include depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Further in relation to the importance of brain study, Professor Sabina Berretta, from the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center recently explained to BBC Science: "If people think that there are no changes in the brain of somebody that suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress disorder so then there is no reason for them to donate their brain for research because (they think that) there is nothing there to find. This conception is radically wrong from a biological point of view."
Read more about brain research
Digital Journal’s science pages have articles reviewing a series of different studies relating to brain research. These include the link between certain diets and brain volume and the latest neuroscience understanding of consciousness.
More about Brains, brain bank, Organs, Organ donation
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