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The Center for Neuroscience
and Regenerative Medicine
Brain Tissue Repository

Brain Tissue Donation

At the Center for Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine, a team of skilled and dedicated researchers is working to unravel the mysteries of traumatic brain injury. Examining brain tissue is one of the most important methods to help better understand what happens after this type of injury.

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Dr. Perl at microscope examining image on computer screen.

What is brain tissue donation?

Brain tissue donation makes it possible for researchers to study the disease process caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI). Brain tissue donation from service members and other eligible donors without a history of TBI are also necessary to determine differences between the normal brain and those affected by injury.

Who is conducting this research?

This research is sponsored by the Department of Defense. The department also works with other TBI researchers throughout the country with particular expertise, such as brain imaging and medical treatment development.

Why is brain tissue donation important?

Brain tissue donation is a valuable contribution to medical research, especially dealing with traumatic brain injury (TBI). Approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of service members returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom reported having had at least one TBI during their tours of duty, and data suggest that a higher percentage of service members deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan have suffered TBIs.

Unfortunately, little is known about how the brain is damaged following a TBI. In response, the U.S. Department of Defense has established a brain tissue repository to which the families of deceased service members and other eligible donors may contribute. The repository will enable scientists to conduct research on many aspects of TBI.

Who can give consent for brain tissue donation?

For the purpose of this donation, the legally authorized representative (usually, the next-of-kin) may give consent to donate brain tissue following the death of a loved one.

What happens to the body?

The autopsy procedure does not interfere with the events associated with a funeral. An incision in the back of the head is made. After the brain tissue has been removed, the incision is closed. No facial disfigurement occurs as a result of this procedure. The family can plan an open casket or other traditional funeral arrangements and the donation process will be undetectable.

Will there be a delay for the funeral?

No. Brain tissue donation will not delay, limit or complicate the family’s plans for a funeral.

Will my religion permit this?

Most religions accept and support brain tissue donation in the hope that this knowledge will improve the lives of others. If you are concerned about this, we encourage you to discuss it with your spiritual leader.

Who will have access to the information about the brain, medical and service records, and postmortem examination?

At the time the brain is received, it is assigned a unique identifying number. Only designated, qualified staff has permission to access medical and service records and the autopsy diagnostic report. When researchers obtain brain tissue, only the unique code number identifies it. Family names or other specific identifying information are not included.

What if, after giving permission, I no longer want the brain specimen retained in the CNRM Brain Tissue Repository and used for research?

The legally authorized representative is free to withdraw consent at any time. To withdraw the donation, call the CNRM Brain Tissue Repository office at 855-366-8824. Once you have stated your wishes, you will be asked to complete a form asking to remove the donation from the repository.

Further questions?

Please call the Study Team at 855-366-8824. The telephone line is monitored daily, and all telephone calls are returned as soon as possible to help in making an informed decision.