Brain tissue for research into psychiatric disorders

13 June 2012

The Netherlands Brain Bank and five university research groups are to receive a major grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to set up a national infrastructure for collecting brain tissue from deceased patients with psychiatric brain disorders. The new infrastructure will make it possible to conduct more research, both in the Netherlands and abroad, on the causes of and possible treatments for such disorders, which are still largely misunderstood.


The Netherlands Brain Bank, part of the Academy’s Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN-KNAW), collects brain tissue from donors for scientific research. At the moment, however, there is little or no brain tissue available from people with schizophrenia, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD or post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients, families and carers are often unfamiliar with the procedures for donating brain tissue and insufficiently aware of the importance of such donations for research into psychiatric illnesses.

A contribution of EUR 3,450,000 from the NWO Large funding programme will make it possible to set up a national infrastructure to collect brain tissue from patients who have been accurately diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. The donations will be used for research purposes. This is important because psychiatric illnesses still raise many questions to which genetic research, neuro-imaging and animal testing do not provide satisfactory answers. The project will be run by the Netherlands Brain Bank in close collaboration with psychiatric research groups at five Dutch university medical centres (UMC Utrecht, VUmc Amsterdam, UMC St. Radboud, AMC Amsterdam, and Erasmus MC Rotterdam).

The project’s aim is to inform and invite psychiatric patients and their families to register as brain tissue donors with the Netherlands Brain Bank. In addition to recruiting donors by means of clinical cohorts, the project organisers also intend approaching patient associations. The project also has the support of the Royal Academy (€300,000), NIN-KNAW (€200,000) and the five participating university medical centres (€50,000 each).