Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an imaging technique that uses a strong magnet, radio signal, and a computer to produce pictures of the inside of your body with great detail. It allows the doctor to obtain pictures of bone and soft tissue in two or three dimensions. The scans are painless and use no X-ray.

If you choose to do an MRI, you will be placed on a padded, motorized table, which glides into the large magnet. The magnet is round and open at both ends.

  • Part of your body, from head to thigh, will be in the magnet.
  • The inner part of the magnet is lighted and ventilated for your comfort.
  • You will hear loud tapping noises during the scanning process.
  • You will be given ear plugs to help you during your scan.
  • The technologist will be able to see and hear you at all times during the scan.
  • The time for the entire scan ranges from 45 to 60 minutes.
  • To obtain the best images of your body, it is very important that you lie still while the MRI machine is scanning.

The Lumbar Puncture

As part of some of our studies, you may have the option to participate in a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap). By participating in this procedure you are providing us a small amount of your spinal fluid so that we may test it for biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). These markers may one day help us to prevent or treat AD.

A lumbar puncture involves placing a needle between the bones of the lower back, below the end of the spinal cord, to draw the fluid known as cerebrospinal fluid or CSF. This fluid flows around the spinal cord and the brain.

The purpose of the lumbar puncture for research is to evaluate how various proteins and substances found in the brain and fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord affect a person’s risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease or having the disease progress.

Wisconsin Brain Donor Program

The Wisconsin Brain Donor Program is a repository for brain tissues collected for the purpose of research. The Wisconsin Brain Donor Program (WBDP) collaborates with the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and the interested public across the state.

People with clinically diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease (AD), memory concerns or those who are cognitively healthy are especially important to this type of research as scientists do not currently know what causes these devastating illnesses and there is no cure. One brain donor tissue could be used in multiple research opportunities for the treatment and prevention of AD.

Through these donated tissues, the Wisconsin Brain Donor Program can actively participate in advancing the knowledge of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.

Many individuals gain satisfaction knowing that they have contributed to science by donating and potentially helping others who are or will be affected by similar neurological or neuromuscular diseases. For some families, confirmation of clinical diagnosis may allow them to possibly take preventative measures or allow for participation in other research studies.

If you wish to donate, it is important to let your family members and physician to know your wishes. Contact the WBDP to go over the criteria for donation and to assess your eligibility as a donor. Certain fees can apply for transportation or to perform an autopsy; these fees are discussed during an eligibility consultation with a brain donor staff member.

When a brain donation occurs, it is limited to brain tissue, a small sample of blood and small sample of cerebrospinal fluid. Brain tissue is collected under the guidance of a board certified neuropathologist. The donors and their families are always treated with respect and compassion.

Brain removal does not cause disfigurement and does not interfere with funeral arrangements or viewing of the deceased. This is a common procedure that funeral directors and morticians are familiar with and incisions are fully compatible with currently accepted funeral practices.

Donation to the Wisconsin Brain Donor Program is completely voluntary. You have the right to change your mind at any time. The WBDP strives to protect the confidentiality of donors and their families to the fullest extent.

For further information, please contact: (608) 256-1901, ext. 11767; 24-Hour Pager: (608) 265-7000, ext. 5332; or email