MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The University of Miami is becoming a major player in fighting brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Dr. Deborah Mash has spent an entire career studying the human brain. She stores them in refrigerators at the university’s Brain Endowment Bank at the Miller School of Medicine.

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The organs, which allow us to think, feel and create, come from human donors and are used in research aimed at finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, mental illness or autism.

“We need to know what causes schizophrenia. We need to understand autism. We need to know what causes Alzheimer’s,” said Mash. “The only way to uncover the mystery of these diseases is to study the human brain after death.”

Mash and her staff have recently received a major boost from the National Institutes of Health which has committed $8 million to the university’s brain repository. The NIH is looking to create a national network of brain banks where researchers around the world can access human brains in hopes of finding the next miracle cure for brain related diseases.

“This is the first time the National Institutes of Health has worked to get all the brain tissue banks together under one umbrella organization to help us advance the study of the human brain,” said Mash.

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Mash pointed out that Miami was one of only five national brain banks funded by the NIH to meet the new initiative.

“We are very proud to represent our city and our state of Florida to be one of five,” said Mash.

The NIH money will also fund an outreach program aimed at convincing people to become brain donors once they die.

“We all need to get behind this. We all need to understand that one brain donated for medical research can supply that next piece of fundamental research that leads to a scientific breakthrough,” said Mash.

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Click Here to find out how you can become a donor.

Eliott Rodriguez