Friday, September 25, 2009
Mayfield, a researcher at the Waggoner Center for Addiction and Alcoholism Research, uses the brain tissue to study the genetic impact of alcohol on the brain.
READ MORE about ADDICTION research at www.utexas.edu on Oct. 5, 2009
The more he knows about the donors, the better the information obtained from the donors’ tissue.
The plan-ahead donors fill out a questionnaire detailing their background and relationship with alcohol.
“You have family history, you have the drinking histories,” he says. “We know how much they’ve drunk.”
And there’s more.
“We know age, sex, co-morbid conditions, period of drinking time,” he says. “Some people quit drinking so we have the abstinence period.”
That information allows the researchers to make correlations between what they find in the tissue and the history of the patient.
That kind of information is rarely available from donors who die unexpectedly.
Another advantage of the think-ahead donors is that their drinking data have been standardized.
“When we get the drinking histories rather than beers consumed or wine consumed we get standard drinks,” he says. “Everyone is normalized to the same standard.”
The brain tissue comes from the Tissue Resource Center (TRC) in Sydney, Australia. It is funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Here’s the answer from the TRC’s Web site: Australia has a large number of alcoholics who do not co-abuse other drugs. This makes the alcoholic population of Australia a unique resource for researchers studying alcohol’s long-term effects on the brain.
Too many drinkers in the United States abuse other drugs as well as alcohol, Mayfield says. That makes it more difficult to study alcohol.
Find more information about the TRC, go to http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/ResearchInformation/ExtramuralResearch/SharedResources/BrainBank.htm
And find information on donating your brain at http://www.braindonors.org/.