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Information for Donors

Your donation of brain tissue makes a world of difference!

The Maryland Brain Collection (MBC), a resource of the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center (MPRC), is dedicated to promoting research with brain tissue obtained post-mortem from individuals with schizophrenia or related disorders.

The primary goal of the MBC is to provide high-quality tissue, along with comprehensive clinical information, for hypothesis-driven research. The MBC is not conceptualized as a Brain Bank with open access but is maintained and funded through collaborative research.

Q: What is mental illness?  

A: Mental illnesses arise from brain diseases that cause a disturbance in thinking, mood, or behavior. Mental illness is not a personal weakness any more than diabetes or cancer. The study of brain tissue from deceased mentally ill persons is one way to discover biological bases for mental illnesses. 

Q: Do the brains of people with mental illness look different to the naked eye than the brains of "normal" people? 

A: No. Currently, gross anatomical differences are detectable only with a brain scan known as functional MRI.

Q: How long after death does tissue have to be recovered?
A: Donated tissue is precious and should be recovered within 24 hours. We understand that this is a very difficult and stressful time for families when we ask for verbal consent.

Q: Tell me more about organ donation.  


A: Organ Donation in the State of Maryland is regulated under the guidelines of the Anatomical Gift Act. The Anatomical Gift Act governs both live organ donations for medical transplantation and for making gifts of tissue to be used in medical research.

Q: Can I still have a viewing and a funeral if I donate tissue?  

A: Yes. The autopsy is performed in such a way that a viewing and open-casket funeral can be done. There is no indication that a tissue donation has occurred.

Q: Is the brain tissue we have donated going to be used by commercial pharmaceutical companies?  

A: This can only be done with special permission granted by the family.

Q: Can studies be done individually on my loved one's brain? 

A: The answer to this question is generally no. When we study the brains of people with mental illness, we do not "test" for mental illness per se, but we assign a code to each brain and test parts from each coded sample. The researchers who work with the brain tissue do not know the names of the deceased, and all identified records are kept strictly confidential.

Q: How is the brain tissue preserved?  

A: Tissue is dissected and assigned a code usually within 24 hours of the time of death. It is then either frozen or chemically preserved for further study.

Q: Is there any cost to my family if I donate tissue?  

A: No. The MBC covers all of the costs involved for tissue recovery.

Q: Why was I asked to participate in a phone interview?
A: Researchers merely want to know more about the medical and psychiatric conditions your loved one may have had, and about any medications they may have taken. The data collected during the interview are strictly confidential, and are used to diagnose the tissue for research purposes.

Q: My loved one did not have a mental illness, why would you want to collect their brain? 

A: We use brain tissue from individuals will no history of mental illness as "controls" to compare with tissue from individuals diagnosed with a mental illness. This makes it possible to identify brain structures or functions that are different in the disease condition. It is just as important to analyze control tissue as it is to analyze tissue from patients when studying the biological basis of mental illness.

Q: If I change my mind, will my loved one's tissue be used anymore for research?

A: You may change your mind about the donation and or the interview at any time. If you do change your mind, you may contact the Director of the MBC or one of the Coordinators.

Q: I have more questions. Whom do I contact? 

A: See our contact us page.