The Unexamined Life

Can You Donate A Piece Of Your Brain For Science Even While You're Alive?

Donating your brain to science after your death has been popular for some time now, with some people even donating their entire body so it can be used for research purposes and studies. What about donating a piece of your brain even when you‘re still alive?

Turns out, that’s also possible and it’s never been easier.

Brain Donations For Science

It may seem like the strangest thing in the world but donating a piece of your brain while you’re still very much alive is now more than possible, and, thanks to new technology, it’s also easier now. However, that doesn’t mean that anyone can just walk up to a surgeon and have a piece of their brain removed for science, even though scientists might appreciate the sentiment.

This is because according to a research recently published by CNN, donors are usually patients undergoing brain surgery, all of whom can now contribute a piece of their brain that would otherwise be tossed away. Per neuroscientist Ed Lein at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, who led the new study, the process for the brain donations happen very quickly. In fact, he himself has done the procedure quite a few times and all of the samples he works with are from donors who are going under neurosurgery to treat epilepsy or to remove deep tumors, with Lein and his team getting about 50 brain samples a year.

“The brain is extremely cellularly complex, but at the same time, finite and indefinable,” Lein said, stating that if each cell type in the brain can be identified and studied, we would have a bigger understanding of how every neuron plays in it as well as the varieties of roles that it plays.

Furthermore, living brain tissue can also be used to study diseases and potentially develop cures and therapies for them.

As useful as it is, however, Lein and other experts said that patients have to truly “volunteer” first to be able to donate.

“This is what prevents humans from being reduced to a reserve of tissue, organs and body parts.”

Brain Brain. Aban Nesta / Flickr

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