November 10, 2005

Donate Your Brain

Beaufort County resident Margaret Richardson has experienced the effects of mental illness in her family. Her sister, Beth, who lives in Kansas, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in her early 20s, right out of college. Beth is now 47. Since Beth's diagnosis, Richardson, wife of state Sen. Scott Richardson, R-Hilton Head Island, has worked to raise awareness about mental illnesses and find treatments for these diseases.

One way Richardson has chosen to help is to donate her brain after she dies to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. This institution, also called the Brain Bank, collects and distributes human brains and brain tissue for the purposes of scientific research. Their goal is to help increase our understanding of how the nervous system works. Since 1978, the Brain Bank has collected around 7,000 brains. Brain tissue is distributed to top research and medical fields around the country who are working to provide better ways of coping with neurological disorders and diseases of the brain, such as schizophrenia. Some of this research has already led to genetic tests for Huntington's and Parkinson's disease as well as development of the antipsychotic, Clozaril.

The idea of brain donation may seem strange to many people. The Brain Bank does not have an advertising budget to spread the word and the brain is excluded from the organ donation list. However, donating your brain is a simple process and the Brian Bank is always in need of any type of tissue. The brains of both healthy individuals and those diagnosed with brain diseases are necessary for scientific comparison. For more information on how to donate your brain to research that could help alleviate some of the suffering caused by brain disorders, check out the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center, (

Rigard, Amy. “Has Heart, Will Give Brain”. The Beaufort Gazette. Nov. 6, 2005.


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