Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, discusses why brain donation truly is the gift of hope.
>> Taylor : With brain donation, it began because I was a scientist in a lab studying the brain disorder schizophrenia . I have a brother diagnosed with schizophrenia. As a sister and as a scientist, I wanted to understand what is the difference between my brother's brain, which results in hallucination and delusion, and my brain. Personally, I understand the value of brain donation because I understand that the only way for us to truly understand at a cellular level what's going on with these disorders is to look at the tissue. It's extremely valuable on all fronts. Unfortunately, there's a long-term shortage of some types of tissue donated. If we want more research into certain types of illnesses, then it's really important that we can provide the scientists with the tissue they need in order to do the work. I always encourage any family member or any individual who has any type of neurological or neuropsychiatric illness inside of their family to really consider brain donation first. If you don't have a neurological or neuropsychiatric illness, there's also a shortage of normal control tissue donated. When you stop to think about it, the only way that scientists in a microscope looking at the tissue can really understand what is altered that is resulting in some type of symptom for any of the disorders, they have to compare that tissue to normal control. There is normal control and, technically, if you don't a neuropsychiatric or a neurological disorder in your family, then you would be counted as normal control. It's really important that as soon as an individual dies or death is impending, the family calls one of the brain banks. Timing is everything when it comes to the cell tissue. A brain can generally be donated within the first 24 to 48 hours. It's also very important that the next of kin sign a form that releases the entire life history of medical records for that individual so that scientists then can go through that and we can have a better understanding about what was the normal progression of a disorder, if there was one, and which medications was this individual on so they can take that into account. When a person dies, their body becomes the property of their family. If there's a spouse, the body becomes the property of the spouse. If no spouse, then adult children. If not adult children, then parents. Ultimately then, after death, regardless of what has been put in writing, unless it's used as a formal contract, the family will make those decisions. It's really important that families get together and talk about brain donation. These mental illnesses, these major neurological disorders, they're genetically based. When you give that gift, you're really giving the gift of hope that your children, your grandchildren, your nieces and your nephews, if they do have these types of problems, we'll have a better understanding about what to do to help these people get better.