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More Brains Needed 232

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-not-unreasonable-I-mean-no-one's-gonna-eat-your-eyes dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that more people need to donate their brains to medical research if cures for diseases like dementia are to be found and are urging healthy people as well as those with brain disorders to become donors. 'For autism, we only have maybe 15 or 20 brains that have been donated that we can do our research on. That is drastically awful,' said Dr Payam Rezaie of the Neuropathology Research Laboratory at the Open University. 'We would need at least 100 cases to get meaningful data. A lot of research is being hindered by this restriction.' Part of the problem, according to Professor Margaret Esiri at the University of Oxford, may be that people are reluctant to donate their brains because they see the organ as the basis of their identity. 'It used to be other parts of the body that we thought were important,' says Esin. 'But now people realize that their brain is the crucial thing that gives them their mind and their self.' Dr Kieran Breen, of the Parkinson's Disease Society, said over 90% of the brains in their bank at Imperial College London were from patients, with the remaining 10% of 'healthy' brains donated by friends or relatives of patients. 'Some people are under the impression that if they sign up for a donor card that will include donating their brain for research. But it won't,' says Breen. 'Donor cards are about donating organs for transplant, not for medical science.'"

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More Brains Needed

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  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:12PM (#26378181) Homepage

    You can have my brain when you pry it from my cold, dead...

    Oh wait.

  • ...I know I do. I've heard horror stories over and over again about how donating your body to science means racking up large bills for your family.

    Offer me a 'cheaper than being buried' option, and I'd consider it.

    • I've not heard those horror stories. I sort of expected it would be free.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by eln (21727)

      The only cost I've ever heard of is if you want to donate it to some far away medical school, you have to pay to transport it there. Other than that, it should be free.

      Of course, I don't want to donate my body to medical science because I am uncomfortable with the idea of all those medical students laughing^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hstaring in awe at my junk.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by philspear (1142299)

      Are you sure it was "donating your body" and not "paying the mafia to take a dead body away?"

    • Really? I've heard it means an advance of knowledge and a free cremation.
    • Here in Canada, at least, you can give your body to science (I have a will that says it's what I want for myself). They use it for whatever needs, keep organs they can use, and return the rest incinerated. No cost anywhere there.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I signed up (in the USA) with "Anatomy Gifts Registry". They donate any usable organs, then any usable tissues, then the rest is "for research". Whether this ends up being med students, or specific studies, I'll never know. According to their paperwork, the only cost is a $10 shipping fee is you want your ashes sent to your family, after the research is over.
  • welcome our future zombie overlords and have already donated my brain to them.. (Sorry science!)
  • by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:21PM (#26378361)

    ie, I bet they have all the adult brains they need. how about some child brains?

    "think of the children"

    come on, kids. some of you are not using yours. can't you help the good cause out?

  • by StikyPad (445176) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:22PM (#26378367) Homepage

    It's not that I don't want to donate my brain, it's just that I've already promised other people that I would have my brain cryogenically frozen so that I can be resurrected at some point in the future, and I'd hate to let those people down.

  • by thhamm (764787)
    More Brains Needed! yah here too. desperately.
  • Grow up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alarindris (1253418) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:24PM (#26378409)
    When you're dead, you're dead. It's not like your brain wont be rotting in the ground anyway.

    Get over the fact that the universe doesn't care about you and help science!
    • Re:Grow up (Score:4, Funny)

      by philspear (1142299) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:33PM (#26379405)

      Get over the fact that the universe doesn't care about you and help science!

      When you put it that way... fuck the universe, I'm keeping it!

    • Re:Grow up (Score:4, Funny)

      by PPH (736903) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @08:06PM (#26379795)

      It's not like your brain wont be rotting in the ground anyway.

      Some people's brains are getting a head start on rotting.

    • by synaptic (4599)

      Except the atoms that I'm borrowing to live will be reconstituted in other life. In effect, I will be reincarnated as many different lifeforms.

      Given a choice between continuing that cycle and either having my brain sit in a jar of formaldahyde (or sliced up into slides), I'll take the former.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hatta (162192)

        You have a strange definition of "I". You are not merely the atoms of which you are composed. In fact 98% [npr.org] of the atoms in your body are replaced yearly. It's not the atoms that matter, it's the pattern they're arranged in. Allowing scientists to study that pattern, and preserve even just a little bit of that information reincarnates you in a much more real way than reuse of the atoms in your corpse.

    • Get over the fact that the universe doesn't care about you and help science!

      But the universe doesn't care about science either.

    • by roman_mir (125474)

      Honestly, once I am dead, why the fuck would I care about science or whatever? I won't, so they can go fuck themselves.

  • Donor Cards (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:24PM (#26378411) Homepage

    'Some people are under the impression that if they sign up for a donor card that will include donating their brain for research. But it won't,' says Breen. 'Donor cards are about donating organs for transplant, not for medical science.'"

    Well to be honest, I have always kinda hoped that having my donor card would mean they might transplant my brain...

  • The main problem I have with donating body parts for scientific research is that I don't want silly medical students using bits of me to play pranks on each other!

    • by CaptainPatent (1087643) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:31PM (#26378553) Journal

      The main problem I have with donating body parts for scientific research is that I don't want silly medical students using bits of me to play pranks on each other!

      Are you kidding?! Biohazardous pranks are hilarious! How can you not donate to that cause?!

    • I dunno. I kinda like the idea of my dead body parts causing a few laughs, after I am dead.

      Toe in a taco? Butt in a burger?

      I just hope that this doesn't increase medical students appetite for human flesh.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:30PM (#26378531) Homepage

    They certainly are. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be the in the other direction. Especially among politicians.

  • The medical students are practicing with dead bodies all the time. Why can't those brains?

  • Who Knew??? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Archangel Michael (180766) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:37PM (#26378637) Journal

    Medical Researchers were zombies? ANYONE???

  • No way (Score:4, Interesting)

    by symes (835608) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:38PM (#26378667) Journal
    I'll only donote my brain if it's smashed up with a hammer first [bbc.co.uk] - or some L33t h4ck3r5 might steal my secrets and credit card numbers!
  • by jayrtfm (148260) <jslash.sophont@com> on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:41PM (#26378699) Homepage Journal
    If you are going to donate a brain, there are recommended packing instructions [columbia.edu].
    And don't risk using UPS, since Sterling Courier Systems is the pathologist's preferred shipper.
  • by Linux_ho (205887) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:41PM (#26378715) Homepage

    'It used to be other parts of the body that we thought were important,' says Esin. 'But now people realize that their brain is the crucial thing that gives them their mind and their self.'

    That's not necessarily true. For example, I do a lot of thinking with another part of my anatomy. Ask anyone.

    • That's not necessarily true. For example, I do a lot of thinking with another part of my anatomy. Ask anyone.

      It's true, folks!
      I asked Linux_ho's former roommate, and he said that Linux_ho has most definitely used his uvula to handle some sticky situations.

      Quite expertly, I might add.

  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:42PM (#26378719)
    What if I'm not quite certain which category I belong in?
  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:52PM (#26378885) Homepage

    Replace the removed brain with an electronic brain. A simple one would suffice. All it would have to do is say "What?" and "Where's the tea?"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MichaelSmith (789609)

      Replace the removed brain with an electronic brain. A simple one would suffice

      A 6502 would be ideal.

      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Replace the removed brain with an electronic brain. A simple one would suffice

        A 6502 would be ideal.

        It worked for Ahnold.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 08, 2009 @06:53PM (#26378909)

    My mom had completed the paperwork to donate her body to the local medical school before she found out she had a rare degenerative (untreatable and invariably fatal) neuromuscular disorder. in her consultations with the neurology team at the local school, they determined that the leading research team was at another major university, so they just added that school to the paperwork to receive her brain and spinal cord. other than completing the paperwork, signing it and advising her next of kin, the process was seamless. the funeral home guys picked her up after she died and we gave them the paperwork. the university guys took it from there.
    easy. and very satisfying.

  • To be fair.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Klootzak (824076) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:00PM (#26379003)

    Trying to cure Autism is like trying to cure innate stupiditity, I have serious doubts you'll be able to change the neurological wiring with any efficacy.

    Certain learning techniques can be used to improve synaptic formation in those with a lower amount of total neurons, thus increasing their mental capacity somewhat, which works for some of those individuals born with below-average intelligence. But how do you fix someone with "too many"?

    Of course, currently, most Psychologists/Psychiatrists work on the concept of treatment with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and/or drug treatment:
    "Now Jimmy, if people are WRONG, just go along with it and pretend they aren't, and here, have some SSRIs, we dont' know if these will fuck you up for life, but it's easier on everyone else if we give you pills".

    How about we just lobotomize [wikipedia.org] them all instead? Sound good?!
    The sentance above is an example of hostile sarcasm.

    Anyway, I'm more than happy to donate any bits of me that Medical Research can use!
    Disclaimer: I'm not a Neurologist/Neurosurgeon/Neuropsychiatrist - happy for anyone else to correct me if I'm incorrect somewhere and they've got the knowledge.

    • I would hardly underestimate the difficulty of doing so(since we certainly haven't had resounding success thus far); but in principle there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to change neurological wiring. After all, you grew from scratch whatever neurological wiring you currently have, and are constantly adding and pruning.

      We are unlikely to be able to do much without substantially greater understanding of how the brain works; but brains are really, really plastic, so we have every reason to believe
    • Re:To be fair.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Diamonddavej (851495) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @10:07PM (#26381087)

      I have a PhD and autism, so that makes me autistic but not stupid. Simon Baron-Cohen, a autism researcher, has expressed his worry that "curing" autism could reduce the number people studying maths and other professions that require good systematizing ability, a strength possessed by people with autism. Here is his comment on the BBC website...

      http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7736196.stm [bbc.co.uk]

      I agree that the way to discourage curing autism, at least getting people to consider its wider implications that go beyond autism, is to connect the search into a cure with the search for genes that code for personality traits.

      It is known that people with Autism and Asperger's are far more likely to vote in certain political directions and express a different degree of religiosity, so we are looking at personalty traits - of all people not just autistic people - when we look for a cure. It is scary stuff, the general public does not understand the ethics or its wider implications.

      • by Klootzak (824076)

        Completely agree with you...

        It is scary stuff, the general public does not understand the ethics or its wider implications.

        Which is why I believe it needs to be talked about, so people understand what it is, as you'll know, Autism covers a spectrum of conditions (according to my current understanding of it).
        My annoyance is when people stereotype behaviours that aren't exhibited by every individual within the spectrum.

        • It's more than just the spectrum thing. Yes there are different classifications of it, (which mostly boil down to how impaired communication is) but aside from a few core symptoms of each spectrum, there are hundreds of things associated with autism which any individual has a sampling of.

          • there are hundreds of things associated with autism which any individual has a sampling of.

            Wait, you mean, I could randomly say... because someone is very interested in something "uncommon" and spends time doing it, and also mistypes the occasional letter, or uses uncommon language, that they have Autism/Aspergers [slashdot.org]???

            Oh, and that typically these tendancies are exhibited mostly in males? (and sometimes sound alot like savantism?)

            Do the Psychiatric community know this?!?!?! ;)

    • "Certain learning techniques can be used to improve synaptic formation in those with a lower amount of total neurons"

      The idea that autistics have a lower amount of total neurons is quite the opposite, people who are autistic have larger then average brains. Elephants have very large brains as well but I doubt anyone would consider elephants even as smart as many low IQ human beings.

      Currently not much is understood about autism at all.

      • by Klootzak (824076)

        The idea that autistics have a lower amount of total neurons is quite the opposite, people who are autistic have larger then average brains.

        That's not what I said, I was giving the opposite end of the spectrum as an example, my meaning is being misinterpreted, read my other posts before jumping to conclusions.

        Currently not much is understood about autism at all.

        This, in a sense, is the point I was trying to make regarding the prescription (by a number of the Psychiatric community) of SSRIs, I don't think this is a good thing, seeing as we don't know enough about the condition.

  • I have known several nurses, and many more in the helping professions, and their advice has been universally the same to me: Never get an organ donor card. Never. This is for two reasons. The first is that there is a huge shortage of tissue across the board. The second is that most of the hospital staff knows this and they aren't going to work as hard to save your life if you've got one of those organ donor cards. My friends have actually overheard doctors talking and saying to the effect of -- "Well, he ki

    • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:32PM (#26379389) Homepage
      Well I know lots of members of the medical profession, and I can say this is total rubbish, for 3 reasons: 1) Doctors appreciate organ doners. They know very little about you when you are rushed in, but if they know you are a doner they know something good about you. 2) There has been rumours of doctors getting in trouble for doing just what you say, and no-one wants to risk getting in trouble, so they err on the side of caution. 3) Why the heck would a doctor decide to not do an expensive operation? The hospital gets paid when they do expensive operations. I can honestly say YOU are scaremongering, and in the process possibly risking other people's lives. If you do die, getting the organs as quickly as possible is crucial, so your scaremongering could well kill people, and that makes you a shit. Sorry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      err..wait.

      Having been in the medical field for a while, from my complete experience, this is nonsense. I can't remember the last hospital I visited in the eastern side of the United States that had only one surgeon avialable on any given day. The truth is these guys do put in some serious hours but there is almost always more than one (...and for obvious reasons). So the story of the nurse or doctor mentioned wanting to relieve this surgeon is bogus.

      If anyone truly believes this, I encourage you to never

    • by Klootzak (824076) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @08:22PM (#26379989)

      Even more despicable than trying to create fear, uncertainty and doubt of Open-Source, are people who try to do the same thing against those who would save lives... I hope you sleep well girlintraining.

    • by mugnyte (203225)

        What dramatic writing. However, donor cards still serve the common good over the individual.

        As for you credibility, you claim what you write is no rumor, so please post the folks who own up to this as your sources.

        The more people that have them, the less any "laziness effect" might appear on behalf of ER medicine.

    • No. I'm not lying. No this isn't an urban legend. No I didn't hear this from a friend of a friend, I heard this directly from the mouths of the people who can point out names and faces of the people who have said stuff like this--Just so we're clear.

      Yeah, that's what the urban legends always say.

      If somebody actually did say that to you, they're putting you on.

      Are you still going to believe them when they tell you about having sex with corpses?

    • by Hatta (162192)

      We could spend $40k in surgery on a 1 in 7 chance that he'll survive, or we can take his organs now and be 85% sure it was the right choice to make. And the surgeon's already put fifteen hours in today! I don't want to be the one to tell him he's got another four hours before he can go home for this bonehead..."

      That sounds bad, if you're the guy on the table. What if you're one of the 5 people those organs will save?

    • The first is that there is a huge shortage of tissue across the board. The second is that most of the hospital staff knows this and they aren't going to work as hard to save your life if you've got one of those organ donor cards.

      Sorry, but your comment is made of FAIL. ER docs don't harvest organs, and their jobs are some sort of test where they get partial credit for saving the organs but not their owners.

      Learn what you're talking about. Until then, keep your urban legends to yourself.

    • Re:Ethics, line 1... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by similar_name (1164087) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @11:28PM (#26381783)
      I think there is a simple solution. If you don't have an organ donor card then you don't get any organs either if you need them.
  • by unlametheweak (1102159) on Thursday January 08, 2009 @07:41PM (#26379513)

    ' Part of the problem, according to Professor Margaret Esiri at the University of Oxford, may be that people are reluctant to donate their brains because they see the organ as the basis of their identity.

    I would have thought that they only accepted brain donations from families of people who have already died. Certainly donating your brain while you are still alive would have an effect on your identity. I would hope this practice stops.

  • I need more people with brains at my job too.

  • I have donated my brain in Australia
    http://www.braindonors.org/ [braindonors.org]

    I'm not gonna be needing it after the Aus Gov filter my internet... so why keep it ? :-P

  • for a desktop item picture, it'll make a great folder icon for say, Documents. But masked properly please, a black box border looks awful.

  • If I remember correctly here in Canada, first it asks if you would like to donate all organs or just specifics, then there is another question asking if they cannot be used for transplant can they be used for medical research.
  • You are all making jokes, but I'd be happy to donate my brain if it would provide even a little data. I'm not planning on dying soon, but if I do I'm really not going to need the brain anymore. So why let it go to waste?

    I'd imagine it's important to set these things up before hand. To get any meaningful data, they're going to need to know a lot about my medical history, drug use, and who knows what else. They'll also want to be notified quickly after death, there are a lot of changes that take place in

  • ... and I'm not just referring to the incoming students. If you want to donate and live in the northeast, try the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center [mclean.org] at McLean Hospital. They have forms you can fill out on the site, but only if you don't plan to use your brain permanently. (Disclaimer: I used to fix their computers.)
  • While I am all for organ donation and digging into defective brains.

    I am completely against medical therapies which prematurely terminate the life of an individual
    While I am completely aware that there is a medical case for declaring an individual as "dead".

    So long as the individual's brain is intact and can be preserved, using technologies known to Alcor and/or other preservation organizations -- one is not "dead" -- i.e. the physicians pronouncement in the ER is WRONG.
    I realize that I am promising potenti

  • by belmolis (702863) <billposerNO@SPAMalum.mit.edu> on Friday January 09, 2009 @01:30AM (#26382725) Homepage

    For those of us willing to have our former bodies used for any good purpose, the existing system is frustrating because there is no coordination among multiple uses. Your body can be put to three different uses after death: (a) organ donation; (b) medical research; (c) medical training. Organ donation and medical research are in principle compatible - whatever organs aren't need for transplantation are available for research. However, neither of these uses is compatible with medical training: medical schools want the whole body for use in anatomy classes, not whatever is left after bits have been removed for transplantation or research. Furthermore, at least here in British Columbia, and as far as I know, everywhere else, there are three separate systems for the three uses. What I would prefer is to be able to sign up in one place to donate my body for whatever is the best use at the time. If an organ is critically needed, give it to someone, and use the remainder for research. If no organs are needed for transplantation, use it for research or anatomy class, wherever the need is greater.

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