Donated brains have become an integral part of research into both chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, the vast majority of brains donated to brain banks have come from male athletes and soldiers.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working to correct this discrepancy with a collaboration between its National Center for PTSD and the non-profit organization PINK Concussions, The groups are banding together to encourage more women to donate their brains for future research into traumatic brain injury (TBI) and PTSD.
“In the past, the focus of TBI and PTSD brain research has primarily been based on male brains – without any active recruitment for women,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, executive in charge of VA’s Veterans Health Administration. “We have a lot to learn about how the female brain deals with TBI and PTSD, which makes this effort long overdue.”
Founder and executive director of PINK Concussions, Katherine Snedaker, also lauded the collaboration as an important step forward for female brain injury survivors.
“We are so grateful to partner with VA to launch the first active recruitment of female veterans, as well as active-duty members and civilian women to be a part of brain injury and PTSD research,” Snedaker said. “VA continues year after year to be one of our most valued partners in our ongoing mission to improve pre-injury education and post-injury care for women with brain injury.”
Brain banks have become a central part of brain injury research. Particularly, the Veterans Affairs-Boston University-Concussion League Foundation Brain Bank has relied on donated brains to evaluate CTE in deceased athletes and veterans. Most recently, the brain bank found that 110 of 111 brains donated from former pro football players contained the tell-tale signs of CTE.
Unfortunately, nearly all of the brains donated to these brain banks have come from men. This has left a large gap in research pertaining to CTE, TBI, and PTSD research in women.
Whether you’re a veteran or a civilian, women can sign up to participate in the brain bank by taking the PINK Concussions pledge. The group says that although tissue donation will likely not occur until years or decades from now – after your death – enrolling early can help provide researchers with additional knowledge about the health of participants.
It should be noted, the pledge is not a legally binding form, and INK Concussions says the ultimate decision to donate your brain will be made by your next of kin at the time of your death.