Patients & Caregivers / Brain Donation Program
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Brain Donation Program

The ADRC offers a Brain Donation program for individuals who have been a participant of the Alzheimer Disease Research Center (ADRC). If you wish to have a brain autopsy performed on your loved one at time of death and have been part of the research program, please call 412- 692-2700 for more information.

*For individuals who have not been part of the research at the ADRC a brain autopsy can be coordinated through the Department of Pathology. During regular work hours Mon.– Fri. 7:00am – 5:30pm call 412-647-3734. After hours call 412-647-2345.

Why is brain Donation important?

A brain donation is helpful to the family because it will confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or other dementias. It may also eliminate unnecessary concern or wondering each time family medical history is discussed. Many families find that getting such diagnostic confirmation provides closure or resolution to the caregiving experience.

A brain donation will also contribute to scientific research. This information is vital to researchers working to better understand the effects of neurodegenerative disease on the brain. Without this research the development of better treatment would be greatly limited.

What special procedures must be followed at the time of death?

There are no special procedures but it is very important to have the brain autopsy performed before funeral preparations, within 12 hours of death, to be of maximum research value. There is however, still immense value in having an autopsy performed up to 24 hours after death. It is recommended that you contact the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (ADRC) as soon as you make the decision to participate in the Brain Donation program.

What is the cost of the brain autopsy?

There is no charge for current or previous participants of the ADRC.

Who can authorize a brain donation?

An individual or family member can indicate their intent for brain donation by giving provisional authorization prior to death.

After death however, the person's legal next-of-kin must authorize the brain donation before it can actually be performed. This is done via a 3-way phone conversation with ADRC personnel shortly after the patient’s death.

Which organs are examined at an ADRC research autopsy?

Under normal circumstances, only the brain is examined for ADRC participants.

Will I receive the autopsy results?

Yes, after completion of the autopsy procedure a report will be sent within several months.

Will brain donation disfigure the body?

No, a brain autopsy is performed very carefully so that it is not noticeable in any way and does not prevent an open casket viewing or other desired funeral practice.

Should I talk to my funeral director in advance?

Yes, we recommend as many prearrangements as possible be done in advance with your funeral director. This can help avoid increased stress at a very difficult time. If you do not have a funeral director, we would encourage you to consider selecting one in advance.

How does the deceased get to and from the brain donation site?

Transportation is generally provided by the funeral home. If this is not possible the ADRC can arrange transportation through a service.

Can an individual enroll in the brain donation program prior to death?

Yes, at any time prior to death, an individual can enroll in the ADRC brain donation program by indicating “intent” for autopsy and giving provisional authorization.



For additional information about the Brain Donation program please call the Alzheimer Disease Research Center 412-692-2700.