The Alabama Brain Collection is helping to understand the diseased and healthy brain for the benefits of future generations.

Your donation of brain tissue makes a world of difference! The Alabama Brain Collection (ABC), a resource of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), is dedicated to promoting research with brain tissue obtained post-mortem from individuals with and without neuropsychiatric disorders. 

Tissue is collected in collaboration with the Alabama Organ Center and other sources. The primary goal of the ABC is to provide high-quality tissue, along with comprehensive clinical information, for hypothesis-driven research. The ABC is not conceptualized as a Brain Bank with open access but is maintained and funded through collaborative research.

For more information about the Alabama Brain Collection, including an application for tissue use, please visit the following links:

What is mental illness?

Mental illnesses arise from brain diseaes that cause a disturbance in thinking, mood, or behavior. Mental illness is not a personal weakness any more than diabetes or cancer. The study of brain tissue from deceased mentally ill persons is one way to discover biological bases for mental illnesses.

Do the brains of people with mental illness look different to the naked eye than the brains of "normal" people?


How long after death does tissue have to be recovered?

Donated tissue is precious and should be recovered within 24 hours. We understand  that this is a very difficult and stressful time for families when we ask for verbal consent.

Tell me more about organ donation.

Organ Donation in the State of Alabama is regulated under the guidelines of the Anatomical Gift Act. The Anatomical Gift Act governs both live organ donations for medical transplantation and for making gifts of tissue to be used in medical research.

Can I still have a viewing and a funeral if I donate tissue?

Yes. The brain retrieval is performed in such a way that a viewing and open-casket funeral can be done. There is a no indication that a tissue donation has occured.

Is the brain tissue we have donated going to be used by commercial pharmaceutical companies?

This can only be done with special permission granted by the family.

Can studies be done individually on my loved one's brain?

The answer to this question is generally no. To date, no signature pathology ( such as that found in Alzheimer's, Huntington's, or Parkinson's disease) has been discovered that identifies people with mental illness. When we study the brains of people with mental illness, we do not "test" for mental illness per se, but we study grous of subjects and compare them to subjects without mental illness. The researchers who works outside of the ABC with the brain tissue do no not know the names of the deceased, and all identified records are kept strictly confidnetial.

How is the brain tissue preserved:

Tissue is dissected and assigned a code usually within 24 hours of the time of death. It is then either frozen or chemically preserved for further study.

Is there any cost to my family if I donate tissue?

No. The ABC covers all of the costs involved for tissue recovery.

Why was I asked to participate in a phone interview?

Researchers merely want to know more about the medical and psychiatric conditiions your loved one may have had, and about any medications they may have taken. The data collected during the interview are strictly confidential, and are used to diagnose the tissue for research purposes.

My loved one did not have a mental illness, why would you want to collect their brain?

We use brain tissue from individuals with no history of mental illness as "controls' to compare with tissue from individuals diagnosed with a mental illness. This makes it possible to identify brain structures or functions that are different in the disease condition. Without the brains of normal controls we would not be able to analyze tissue from patients when studying the biological basis of mental illness.

If I change my mind, will my loved one's tissue be used anymore for research?

You may change your mind about the donation and or the interview at any time. If you do change your mind, you may contact the Director of the ABC or one of the Coordinatiors.

I have more questions. Whom do I contact?

You may contact Dr. Rosalinda C. Roberts by phone at 205-996-9373.

General Information abut the Alabama Brain Collection

The Alabama Brain Collection is directed by Rosalinda C.  Roberts, Ph.D., the Kathy Ireland Endowed Professor in Psychiatry. Dr. Roberts directed the Maryland Brain Collection for over 15 years before coming to UAB. Researchers in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology at UAB are dedicated to improving treatment and understanding the causes and prevention of mental illness. 

The Alabama Brain Collection, started in 2008 by The Department of Psychiatry and Neurobiology at UAB, is supported by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. We fund the ABC with funds from collaborators grants, donations from private foundations and individuals, and a departmental cost center. .

The Alabama Brain Collection obtains donations from several sources including by the Alabama Organ Center, the Anatomic Board at UAB, family of donors or donors themselves.

 It is our goal for the UAB scientiists and collaborators around the world to use this tissue to understand how abnormalities in the brain relate to mental illness. 

The focus of the ABC is to study the following (see links for general information):

These diseases can be devastating to individuals, families and communities. Families who provide permission for the study of brain tissue give a precious gift representing hope for future generations. More information for families can be found through the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI).

Information for Researchers Utilizing the Alabama Brain Collection

The Alabama Brain Collection (ABC) is managed by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology as a resource to promote brain tissue research. We encourage neuroscientists, neurologists, and psychiatrists to become collaborators in the use of this tissue. Although the ABC focuses on psychiatric cases and matched controls, collaborations using neurological cases (such as Parkinson's, Huntingdon's, and dementia) may be collected for specific collaborations. 

The brain tissue in the Alabama Brain Collection is collected in collaboration with several entities with an emphasis on the preservations of high-quality tissue samples and the acquistion of detailed clinical infomration on all of the cases. 

If you are interested in obtaining postmortem tissue from the ABC, please submit an application to the ABC Director. In recognition that postmortem tissue from patients with neurological or psychiatric illness and from normal controls is limited, the guidelines and stipulations below are intdended to ensure optimal use of this resource and to establish mutually benefical collaborations with all scientists who are using the tissue. 

ABC Policy for the Use of Postmortem Tissue

The Alabama Brain Collection  (ABC) was developed as a University of Alabama, School of Medicine, department of psychiatry, resource to promote brain tissue research. It is a limited resource, labor and resource intensive, with emphasis on high quality clinical infomration and tissue. We encourage Neuroscientists, Neurologists, and Psychiatrists to become collaborators in the use of this tissue. The following guidelines and stipulations are intended to ensure optimal use of this resource, and to estabish mutually beneficial collaborations with University of Alabama scientists. 

  1. All requests are reviewed by the ABC Director. Experts in the field will be consulted if necessary to determine if the scienntific premise is sound. The disbursed tissue is exclusively for use of the applicant and may not be shared.The tissue may only be used in the approved experiments but may not be used in collaboration with commercial entities.any additional use must have written ABC approval.
  2. Requests must be based on an explicityly stated scientific hypothesis. Applicants are encouraged to discuss the proposed science with the director prior to submission.
  3. Requets for tissue to be used in grant applications must be received at least 6 weeks prior to the submission deadline. A budget for the ABC must be included in the application, and we will assist in preparing the budget request. The ABC budget for funded grants that have had nonspecific budget reductions imposed must reflect the overal budget reduction (i.e., a 10% total budget reduction would mean a 10% ABC budget reduction).
  4. Requests may be declined for reasons not reflecting scientific merit.
  5. The ABC disburses coded tissue. In the spirit of true collaboration, data analysis is performed using mutually agreed upon procedures. All data must be kept confidential and are not to be released to third parties without the explicit approval of all parties involved.
  6. The work involved in tissue acquisition and processing, and ascertainment of clinical data is critical to the scientific projects and is a foundation for collaboration. The ABC participates actively in analysis and reporting of data. Authorship and acknowledgement issues need to be addressed in advance of presentations and submission of abstracts and manuscripts. 
  7. The ABC screens tissue for certain infectious deseases, such as HIV or hepatitis B, prior to disbursement. However, all tissue must be handled using appropriate Universal Precautions and treated as if it were infectious. 
  8. All users of ABC tissue must secure IRB permission at their institutions and provide it to the ABC prior to tissue  disbursement. If necessary, the ABC will provide assistance to facilitate this process. 
  9. All unused ABC tissue must be returned to the ABC at the end of the experiement. For follow-up experiments, see #1 above.

These policies enable the ABC to meet obligations, to protect established collaborations, to seek financial support, and to ensure appropriate scientific involvement in selected projects.



If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Dr. Rosalinda Roberts.
Phone: 205-996-9373

If you need to discuss brain donation, and time is of the essence, you may contact Dr. Roberts on her cell phone at any time: (205-253-2270). 

You may also direct postal correspondence to the attention of Dr Roberts at: 

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology
University of Alabama at Birmingham
865D Sparks Center
1720 7th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35204