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.
Brain donation is a decision that individuals enrolled in our research and their families make only after thoughtful consideration. The decision has important emotional and practical implications. Members of the professional staff at the Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center are available to talk with you and answer your questions as you consider brain donation.
The time to start thinking about brain autopsy is now, even though death may be years away. Early discussion reduces the stress of such decisions at the time of death and allows for arrangements to be set in advance.
Your decision may be influenced by a variety of factors.
- Diagnosis. At present, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of neurodegenerative dementia can only be diagnosed with 100% certainty through a brain autopsy.
- Concerns about genetic factors. If other family members develop dementia in the future, confirmed diagnosis of previous cases is important, especially if treatment becomes available.
- Religious or cultural factors may influence attitudes toward brain autopsy, and individuals may feel the need to consult with religious leaders in their community.
- Benevolence. Brain donation often helps family members feel that they have provided a gift of hope to future generations, thereby diminishing the sense of hopelessness and despair.