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Dear Friends of The Brain Observatory

The Digital Brain Library is the most ambitious and demanding project undertaken at The Brain Observatory. It is an effort to catalogue the variety of phenomena that occur in the human brain in normal conditions and in the case of neurological disease. Neuroimaging techniques are employed to resolve brain anatomy and pathology using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)  and microscopy. Neurological images and data are archived together with information relative to the behavior, the medical history, and the biography of each project participant. The latter bequest their brain to research so that at some point all the information recorded in life can be correlated to microscopic maps of the actual brain. In principle, it is a technologically innovative, holistic approach to neuroimaging and brain banking that promises to explain the relationship between mind and matter. In practice, it is a gargantuan effort that needs your support to grow and acquire increasing significance in different fields of the clinical neurosciences.

The Digital Brain Library consists of two main collections. Each brain specimen is sliced into approximately 2,500 histological slices. A subset of approximately 200 slices are mounted on large-format thin glass slides and stained to reveal the microscopic landscape of structure and pathology in the brain tissue. The remaining slices are stored in numbered order, long-term, at -30 degrees celsius and constitute the frozen tissue bank. The finished subset of slides are digitized at cellular resolution on our custom-engineered microscope scanners and subsequently converted into files that can be studied by doctors, teachers, and students remotely over the web. Together with MRI data and 3-D models created using multiple neuroimaging modalities, the virtual histological slices constitute the digital collection that we strive to make accessible to other laboratories and the public.

There are many ways in which you can support our brain research, as well as our digital preservation and curation efforts. The following are some suggestions on how to explicitly direct your donation to crucial areas of our projects.


A pledge of $20 covers the costs of preparation of one large-format histological glass slide. To thank you for this donation we will send you one of The Brain Observatory’s bumper stickers.



$100 can secure the long-term cryogenic preservation of a series of tissue slices belonging to one brain. The names of those who funded the preservation of the brain will be listed in the upcoming brain bank’s website.  For these donations you will be eligible to receive a Brain Observatory T-shirt. This donation range is also instrumental in supporting our ongoing educational and outreach activities, which include bringing our science into local schools, arranging for tours at the laboratories, and increasing awareness on brain donation as well as participation in our projects.


$500 pays for the materials and supplies necessary for the preparation and storage of an entire batch of histological glass slides through one brain. Each storage box houses seventy-two glass slides. Two donations of $500 or one single pledge of $1,000 are needed to complete a series. The name of the donor(s) will be engraved on the box and will be associated with the digitized version on the Digital Brain Library’s web site.

When one of our brain donors passes, a network of professionals is immediately activated in order to ensure the wish of the patient and his/her family to donate the brain is honored. Two pledges of $1,000 support the initial costs relative to the procurement of one case. 


Donations of $1000 or greater can be extremely effective in supporting the technological backbone of the Digital Brain Library. Your pledge can be used to purchase an additional sub-zero freezer unit to preserve the cryogenic tissue slice collections (including extended warranty and maintenance costs). Our cryogenic brain tissue bank is constantly expanding; each 50 cubic feet freezer can house up to three complete series of  brain slices (that corresponds to 3 brains) and costs approximately $9,000.

Your pledge can also buy much needed digital storage that will provide a safe cyber-environment for the brain maps and oral histories of our patients. 



$10,000 (or two combined pledges of $5,000) allows you to ‘Adopt a Brainprogram. This means that you will sponsor the preparation and preservation of a complete  case of a medical patient in digital and physical form. Your name will be listed as the unique ‘Guardian Angel ’ for the patient who has donated his or her brain to benefit other patients who suffer with his or her condition now or in the future. With your help, one more medical case will be immortalized for future collaborative scientific research and public education. You may specify the field of study that your donation will support (that is, which neurological condition you would like to contribute to the understanding and treatment of). The name of generous donors who adopt a brain will be clearly featured in The Brain Observatory's and Digital Brain Library's web site, in a specific section.



or greater



A pledge of $100,000 provides a naming opportunity for the Brain Observatory's  'Research Fellowship in Multimodal Brain Imaging (this will cover salary and benefits, plus US VISA costs, if applicable). The fellowship in your name will also include all supplies needed for the trainee’s activities who will be mentored personally by Dr. Annese. If you visit us in San Diego, we would be glad to give you a tour of our laboratory. On the same occasion, you, the trainee, and Dr. Annese will have the opportunity to discuss the proposed project and the results of the research that were conducted with your generous support. 

A pledge of $100,000 can also support one 'Brain Artist in Residence' fellowship. The Brain Observatory has a history of promoting the interplay between the liberal arts and brain research. The fellowship is not limited to the visual arts, but can include literature, theater, and music composition. 

If you are more technology-oriented (we love geeks!), you may direct your pledge of $100,000 or more towards the suite of microscope scanners that we have engineered to digitize large format histological slides so that they can be available to other researchers (and the public) on the web. The speed of our current high-resolution scanning represents our most crippling bottle-neck in our processing pipeline. The more units we can build, the faster our digital collection will grow, providing the crucial and unique data that researchers everywhere need to understand the cellular basis of neurological disease. 

If you are interested in helping with capital planning and shaping the future of The Brain Observatory, which entails donations greater than $1,000,000, please contact Dr. Jacopo Annese at 858-822-4465 or by e-mail at

As we increase our outreach in the community we need help in managing new partnerships and leveraging on potential philanthropic support. ‘Ambassador’ opportunities to increase awareness of the project in our community and enhance our networking span are available; please contact Mrs. Ruth Klaming  at 858-822-4467 or by e-mail at if you are interested in becoming an Ambassador for The Brain Observatory.

Thank you sincerely for your support,

Jacopo Annese, Ph.D.

Director, The Brain Observatory