Donate Your Brain to a Brain Bank to Help Future Generations

Recently, when someone mentioned something about a brain bank, I immediately thought of a collection of ideas that are referred to as the brain bank by any company executive in a staff meeting. I was wrong. A brain bank is exactly what its name says: a bank for collection of actual brains collected from donors after their death.

Top research and medical centers need brain tissues for their investigations. Since a donated brain can provide a large number of samples and most of the studies need a not too big a tissue, one brain can help a lot of different researches. More than the count of brains, a variety of brain specimens are needed; therefore, normal brains are just as, or even more, in demand because normal brains provide comparison to the diseased brains as control tissue. For example, especially in Schizophrenia, protein differences inside the diseased brain and the normal brain are easily detected.

The so-called normal brain tissue is the brain tissue donated by individuals who did not have head trauma, seizure, dementia, delirium, or drug or alcohol abuse in their lifetime. Very often, brain banks run ads asking for normal brains because they are the kind most often to become scarce.

The recently gathered brain tissue is usually kept in short term refrigeration or -20 C freezer. For the long term maintenance, the brain tissue needs -85 C freezers.

As of today, brain tissue research has contributed to the understanding of many serious diseases and conditions such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Muscular Dystrophy, and Autism. Brain banks request tissues not only from the persons who are afflicted, but also from their parents, siblings, and other family members.

Becoming a future brain tissue donor is not difficult. Any person 18 years or older can fill out a form or a questionnaire and send it to a brain bank of his choice, but the most important thing is to inform one’s family of this–or any other organ–donation. Frequently, the family decides at the last minute whether or not to donate the organs. The survivors of the donor have to confirm the donor’s intent and they have to give their authorization to a Brain Bank to receive the donor’s medical records.

If a person is already a registered organ donor, his brain does not automatically go to a brain bank. A donor has to sign up with the center of his choice, so the brain is collected as well. A donor can also add his donor information to his medical ID, if he carries one on himself.

Some research centers in most US States maintain their own brain tissue banks like the Mayo Clinic, The New York Brain Bank (NYBB) at Columbia University, The Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (phone: 1-800-272-4622), and the University of Massachusetts. For autism research, the number to call is 1-877-333-0999 for Autism Tissue Program. If a brain is to go to a certain disease’s research in any one state, it is a good idea to find out if a research center in that state has its own brain bank.

The federally funded brain bank, a part of the Stanley Foundation, is in Washington D.C., behind Bethesda Naval Hospital, in a federal building where the donor brains are kept in 56 freezers, hooked up to a central computer. If the air conditioners fail, the computer calls the home numbers of brain-bank employees, who come to turn them back on. The good thing about this bank is that the tissue samples from one brain can be sent to different centers for research. Even the most accomplished brain banks sometimes request for additional tissue from the national Brain Bank.

Donating one’s brain is a dignified act because human morality and almost all religions encourage compassion. Being an organ donor and especially a brain tissue donor is a way to help the future of humanity.

Digital Frames Offer Signage On A Budget

There are certain types of digital signage that are available at dramatically lower cost. An innovative digital photo frame can help your bank achieve brand integrity, maintaining a consistent, unambiguous position in the market.

It is expected worldwide distribution of photo frames will reach 50 million next year. And they can be used in digital merchandising campaigns for banks as a way to showcase services and products to customers.

Corporate marketing teams can use digital photo signage to create effective customized messaging. This can be administered easily in real-time. Digital frames meet branding objectives by offering a value-add or call to action by providing branch-specific information that addresses specific needs.

A secure Web interface allows the user privacy to manage and update content. Several customized frames could include an organization’s consistent messages for branding which can be strategically positioned in different areas of the institution or other venues. Here are some examples:

Trade show booths: Thirty-two-inch photo frames provide the consumer a way to view entire photo collections, announce partnerships, contests, and more in real-time. Some technologies are wireless, with only one cord.

Conference room slideshows: Pre-loaded frames can save a lot of time displaying key messages for the audience.

Lobby area slideshows of products and services: Slideshows can display services and products, marquee employees, showcase company information, etc. in a casual style manner.

Feature options
Different brands of frames offer a variety of handy features: frames with a company’s logo and colors; on/off timers; WiFi picture upload, VIP gifts for corporate clients, cross-marketing for departments, and on-counter slides.

Scheduling conference rooms could be executed by using a digital frame in every room that has the day’s agenda. Break rooms can have announcements attendees or employees. Training materials, including diagrams, charts, or short videos are fantastic ideas of use for digital picture frames for the organization.

LCD screens are low cost today, which accounts for their common presence in reception areas. The price of a small (eight-inch) frame is expected to drop below $36 in the coming year. Financial organizations can leverage the devices to complement larger LCD screens.

For example, Huntington Bank’s digital frame is a customized digital signage solution displays moderate-sized frames that sit at each individual teller’s station. Customers are welcomed by a 32-inch monitor in portrait mode as they wait for the next available teller.

The frames and monitor often start the conversation about a value added service delivering a unified brand messaging.

Customer engagement draws customers in by messaging that is targeted to them in real-time. The communication objectives are met by allowing corporate to connect to branches by localized messaging. Consumers can then experience relevant content that directly impacts them.

What are your thoughts? Be on the lookout for digital picture frames to play an increased role in enterprise.

Is Your Bank in Immediate Danger of Failure?

As the Dow dips below 10,000, it’s not just your investments that might be at risk.

Your bank could be, too.

Let’s face it: The global economy is still rough. The European debt debacle continues to spread from one country to the next, with no one sure where it will end. Here at home, the recovery is soft at best.

The best way to evaluate the economy is to ignore the mishmash of indicators that are released each day and focus on the one metric that really matters. It’s not reported like chain-store sales or the unemployment rate, but it’s nevertheless the best gauge of how the economy is doing.

This indicator is called the “net charge-off rate.” It is the amount of bank loans that borrowers can’t repay, and I think it’s the most telling way to measure the nation’s actual financial health. Say unemployment drops from 10% to 5%. If people still can’t afford to pay back their loans, then the country really hasn’t grown stronger, has it?

The charge-off rate is 1.94%, and it has, astonishingly, grown fivefold since the beginning of 2007. In a typical year, a bank should expect to lose about 32 cents for every $100 it lends. Right now, however, banks are losing $1.94 on $100 in loans.

This problem is made worse by bank’s deteriorating financial condition. At the beginning at 2007, banks had $1.80 in cash reserves for every dollar of loans that were past due. So even if all those loans went belly up — and not all past-due loans will — the banks were more than covered. Today, banks have only about 80 cents for every dollar of problem loans.

Don’t kid yourself into thinking that the worst of the financial crisis has passed. For some banks, it’s just beginning. Eating all those bad loans is hurting all banks, and many more are going to fail. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) says 77% of banks are profitable. But that leaves 23% that are bleeding cash.

The FDIC currently has 775 banks on its “Problem Bank” list. So far this year, 83 banks have failed, about half of which did so in the second quarter. That’s a truly frightening number by historical standards: About a third of the banks that have failed since 2000 have done so in the first 5 months of 2010.

The FDIC does not release its problem loans list, it only says how many banks are on it. But using a special ratio that measures a bank’s problem loans (the precursor to the loans that are eventually charged off), investors can determine with a high degree of accuracy whether their bank is safe.

It’s called the “Texas ratio.” It was developed by a financial wizard at RBC Capital Markets named Gerard Cassidy, who used it to correctly predict bank failures in Texas during the 1980s recession, and again in New England in the recession of the early 1990s.

The Texas ratio is determined by dividing the bank’s non-performing assets by its tangible common equity and loan-loss reserves. Tangible common is equity capital less goodwill and intangibles. As the ratio approaches 1.0, the bank’s risk of failure rises.

Every bank that has failed in the second quarter has had a Texas ratio of greater than 0.90. In fact the average was about 5.0.

Bank failures are announced on Friday afternoons, after the close of the week’s business. On June 5, Bloomberg news reported that three banks had failed: TierOne Bank in Nebraska, Arcola Homestead Savings Bank in Illinois and First National of Rosedale, Mississippi. On June 11, it was reported that another bank, Washington First International Bank, was seized. And June 18, it was Nevada Security Bank.

Frankly, none of these failures should have come as a surprise. After all, Rosedale had the highest Texas ratio of any bank in the country, at 15.78. TierOne’s ratio was 4.05, and Arcola’s was 0.91.

Investors simply cannot afford not to know if their bank is one of the ten banks I’ve identified as being in grave danger of failing. It’s crucial that all investors view the list of banks to ensure that their money is safe. And if your bank has a high or even a higher-than-average Texas ratio, then for heaven’s sake go in tomorrow and close your accounts. It’s always best to get out of Dodge ahead of the posse.

Using this highly accurate barometer of bank health, I’ve not only reassured myself that my own bank — the highly excellent Amarillo National — is safe and sound, I’ve also made a list of the top ten banks most likely to fail. If you bank at one of these institutions or have friends or loved ones who do, please pass this information along to them:

The Top Ten Banks in Danger of Failure as of June 9, 2010 are:

1. USA Bank, Port Chester, NY

2. First Commerce Community Bank, Douglasville, GA

3. SouthWestUSA Bank, Las Vegas, NV

4. High Desert State Bank, Albuquerque, NM

5. Bank of Ellijay, Ellijay, CA

6. Eastern Savings Bank, Hunt Valley, MD

7. ISN Bank, Cherry Hill, NJ

8. Habersham Bank, Clarksville, GA

9. Ravenswood Bank, Chicago, IL

10. First National, Savannah, GA

I don’t want to see any bank go under. But the fact is many have and many more will as the financial system works through its mountain of bad loans. The best way to predict which banks are in hot water is to use the Texas ratio.

One bit of good news is that the 20 publicly traded banks in the S&P 500 have low Texas ratios.

Institution – Ticker – Texas Ratio
Northern Trust – NTRS – 0.04
Peoples United – PBCT – 0.11
Hudson City Bancorp – HCBK – 0.15
Comerica – CMA – 0.20
Fifth Third – FITB – 0.23
Citigroup – C – 0.25
Keybank – KEY – 0.27
M&T – MT – 0.29
First Horizon – FHN – 0.32
Marshall & Isley – MI – 0.37
Regions Financial – RF – 0.37
Zion Bancorp – ZION – 0.42
J.P. Morgan Chase – JPM – 0.45
PNC Financial – PNC – 0.45
BB&T – BBT – 0.45
Huntington – HBAN – 0.48
Suntrust – STI – 0.54
Bank of America – BAC – 0.55
US Bank – USB – 0.60
Wells Fargo – WFC – 0.64

And again, if you have friends or loved ones who bank at one of the listed institutions, please pass this information along to them promptly.