FAQs: Brain Tissue Donation Program

I think I might be interested in donating my brain to science, but what if I change my mind later?
Indicating your intent to participate in research is not a binding commitment. You may change your mind at any time.

Are there any costs?
No. Families incur no costs as a result of participation.

How is it done?
After death, brain autopsy is conducted by a specially trained neuropathologist and involves the removal of the brain through an incision in the back of the head with no disfigurement. The brain tissue is then retained for research purposes.

How long does it take?
The autopsy procedure itself takes no more than 45-75 minutes, but additional time, usually several hours, is needed for the transportation of the body to and from our facilities.

How soon after death must the autopsy be performed?
There is no absolute set time limit, but the sooner that the autopsy is done, the more research projects can benefit from the donated brain tissue. We hope to be able to perform all autopsies within 1-12 hours of death.

Can the participant still have open casket?
Yes. There is no disruption to the participant’s appearance and no significant postponement to any burial or funeral arrangements.

What will the participant’s family receive?
Approximately six months after the brain autopsy, a comprehensive neuropathology report is sent to the family. This letter documents the diagnosis and summarizes other findings as well. Family members may always call the center if they have further questions about the findings.