Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center

Brain Autopsy

Please note: We are only able to accept brain donations from those who have enrolled in our longitudinal research program, the Northwestern Alzheimer’s Disease Center Core study, and have been followed annually in that program.

CNADC Patient Autopsy Brochure 

CNADC Control Subjects Autopsy Brochure 

The clinical autopsy coordinator of the Northwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center, serves as the liaison between the patient's family, funeral home, nursing home or hospice, and Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH). When there is a brain-only autopsy, the clinical autopsy coordinator is called, usually by a relative of the patient. The coordinator contacts the Funeral Home, and facilitates communication between the Funeral Home, family, and NMH Medical Records to obtain permission for autopsy, and also assists in arrangements for transport of the body to NMH for performance of autopsy (Monday-Friday, 9:00am-3:30pm; Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, 9:00am-2:30pm). Any decisions concerning performance of a brain only autopsy at an irregular hour will be made by Dr. Eileen Bigio, Director of the Neuropathology Core and Brain Bank of the Northwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center. NMH Medical Records is responsible for notification of the Autopsy Service (Monday-Friday) or pathology resident on-call (Saturday, Sunday, and holidays) when there is a brain-only case. The coordinator is responsible for providing the pathology resident performing the autopsy necessary patient demographic and clinical history.

Evaluation of Case

Dr. Eileen Bigio evaluates the case microscopically, and a diagnosis is made. A Brain Autopsy Report is prepared, filed with the Autopsy Service, distributed to the Northwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center, and sent to the family within 3 months.

Storage and records

Brains are permanently stored, and requests for tissue for research purposes are submitted to Dr. Bigio for review by the Northwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center. Records of tissue requests, further studies, distributions, associated research projects, principal investigator of associated research projects, and publications will be compiled in the Neuropathology Core of the Northwestern Alzheimer's Disease Center.

For more information, contact the Memory Research team at 312-926-1851 or email