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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

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HBCC banner Human Brain Collection Core (HBCC)

Donation Process

The mission of Human Brain Collection Core (HBCC) is to gain insight into the causes and mechanisms of mental disorders. To be able to conduct this research, we obtain brain tissues from deceased individuals with and without psychiatric disorders. The results will help us better understand brain dysfunction in mental disorders and develop new therapies and preventive strategies.

We obtain brains through the Medical Examiner’s Offices (MEO’s) of Northern and Central Virginia and the District of Columbia. Our personnel are notified of potential donations by MEO’s and we contact 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. There is no cost to the next-of-kin or the decedent’s family. There is also no direct benefit to the family for allowing the donation. The donation is strictly voluntary.

We protect the confidentiality of the decedent by removing his/her name and all identifying information from any materials we receive, and label all samples and the information derived from them only with a number. Our 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. We 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. We will accept a donation even if the next-of-kin does not wish to answer follow-up questions.

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