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Human Brain Collection Core

Donation Process

Our research is focused on understanding brain disorders, including schizophrenia, anxiety, depression and autism. To be able to conduct this research, we need postmortem brain tissues from people with and without neurological and psychiatric disorders. This research may result in improved understanding of the causes of mental illness and possibly new treatments for these disorders.

We obtain brain donations through the Medical Examiner’s Offices (MEO’s) of Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia. The HBCC personnel is notified of potential donations by MEO’s and contacts the next-of-kin of the decedent to obtain consent for donation of the entire brain, blood samples, a small sample of scalp and hair of the decedent. There is no cost or benefit to the next-of-kin or the decedent’s family for allowing the donation. The donation is strictly voluntary.

The HBCC protects confidentiality of the decedent by removing his/her name and all identifying information from any materials we receive, and labeling all samples and the information derived from them only with a number. The HBCC personnel audiotape the next-of-kin’s consent as an official record of the donation and make arrangements with the MEO’s to collect the tissues. The HBCC will try to obtain further information about the decedent’s medical and psychiatric history through interviews with the family and released medical records, after obtaining written authorization from the next-of-kin. The donation can be accepted even if the next-of-kin does not wish to answer follow-up questions.

The HBCC does not provide any individual research results to the next-of-kin or the families or comments about the cause of death. The families may contact the MEO’s directly if they have further questions about the decedent.