The Brain Donation Hub

two providers looking at a brain scan

Advancing Research in Alzheimer's and Brain Diseases

We are at an exciting time for research into Alzheimer’s and other brain disease. Years of effort have finally led to the development of disease-modifying drugs that can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and alleviate its debilitating symptoms.

Yet, enormous scientific discovery is needed to advance new and better treatments. The Brain Donation Hub is at the forefront of these breakthroughs, driving advancements that change lives.

With the generosity of donors and their families, The Brain Donation Hub supports talented neuroscientists by providing access to brain tissue -- an essential research tool. This invaluable resource enables research into underlying brain mechanisms and fuels breakthroughs in detection, treatment, prevention, and cures.

Why Choose Brain Donation?

A younger man sitting with his arm around his father

The Brain Donation Hub donors and their families are often motivated by personal experiences, such as having a close relative affected by a devastating brain disease. Brain donation decisions are typically based on:

  • Opportunity for a definitive diagnosis. Some brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s, require an autopsy for diagnosis, which is the examination of the brain after death. Following the autopsy, the donor’s family will receive a diagnosis through a neuropathology report.
  • Tissue research provides insights beyond what can be learned from clinical records alone. Care at Brigham and Women’s Hospital includes ongoing clinical tests to track changes in memory, cognition, language, and behavior. Brain donations allow scientists to study the relationship between cognitive tests and changes in brain tissue. This research enhances our understanding of disease progression and potential treatment options, particularly as treatment options continue to evolve.
  • Sense of comfort and pride. Brain donation is one of the most precious gifts a patient and their family can give toward biomedical research.

We also encourage healthy individuals to consider brain donations. Comparing healthy brains with diseased ones is important for understanding disease progression.

How to Participate

Planning in advance for a brain donation is helpful as it facilitates smooth coordination and avoids adding potential stress during a loved one’s passing. The enrollment process generally is as follows:

  • The patient’s physician can provide you with information about The Brain Donation Hub. From there, our clinical research coordinator will reach out to gather additional information about the patient.
  • Your intentions will be shared with the patient’s nursing home, other caregivers, and the funeral home.
  • Upon the patient’s passing, the assigned next of kin or health care provider will contact the designated physician at The Brain Donation Hub. Final consent is obtained, and logistical details are arranged.
  • The funeral home typically transports your loved one to the Brigham, and after the autopsy, returns them promptly to the funeral home.

Brain donation does not alter your loved one’s appearance. Your family can still choose to have an open casket viewing if you wish. There is no cost for the brain autopsy, as long as the donor was a patient at Mass General Brigham. However, the family may be responsible for pay for transportation costs and brain removal if the autopsy is performed elsewhere.

Contact Us

Brain tissue is invaluable. We are grateful for every patient and family that considers enrolling a loved one in The Brain Donation Hub.

To learn more, please reach out to your physician or email us.

Meet Our Team

Michael B. Miller, MD, PhD

Michael B. Miller, MD, PhD

Director, The Brain Donation Hub

Assistant Professor of Pathology, Harvard Medical School

Principal Investigator and Neuropathologist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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Dennis J. Selkoe, MD

Dennis J. Selkoe, MD

Vincent and Stella Coates Professor of Neurologic Diseases, Harvard Medical School

Co-Director, Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases

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Andrew M. Stern, MD, PhD

Andrew M. Stern, MD, PhD

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School

Associate Neurologist, Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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Elizabeth Hennessey

Elizabeth Hennessey

Clinical Research Coordinator

Learn more about Brigham and Women's Hospital

For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

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