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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland: New Study Finds African-American Families More Willing to Donate Brain Tissue Than Previously Thought

According to a new PLOS One study published by University of Maryland School of Public Health professor Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, African-American attitudes towards biomedical research may be more favorable than previously thought. 

Dr. Thomas, a professor of health policy and management, along with his coauthors, assessed research participation of African-American families in postmortem human brain tissue donation for neuropsychiatric disorders, as compared to Caucasian families. 

The researchers found that 57 percent of all next-of-kin in African-American families who were cold-called agreed to brain tissue donations on the spot, as opposed to 74.1 percent of their Caucasian counterparts. 

African Americans have been significantly under-represented in biomedical research participation (like organ donations and clinical trials), impeding the treatment and prevention of neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases. But the study found that success relied on the right approach. 

“When referrals for brain donation are identified, approached with clinical sensitivity by expertly trained post-mortem research staff, high success rates for brain tissue donation are attainable, even in African-American samples,” the study stated.

The increase in brain donation in African-American and other minority groups will lead to “improved understanding and treatment of complex psychiatric disorders in minority populations,” the researchers explained.

As one of the nation’s leading scholars in racial and ethnic health disparities, Dr. Thomas’ work involves translating clinical trial evidence into community-based interventions and designing culturally-tailored health promotion and disease prevention strategies for non-clinical settings.

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