Brain Donation

Brain Bank Video image“[The] staff of WBDP was very sympathetic and understanding when the time came and very patient with our questions and emotions. They know how difficult this is and how important it is. They put our minds at ease for any concerns my family had about the process. The autopsy report was so helpful. While [mother’s] Alzheimer’s was so difficult to deal with the 18 years she had it, it was of comfort to have the final diagnosis and to know, without question, that it was in fact Alzheimer’s.”   
—Adult child of a brain donor

The Wisconsin Brain Donor Program (WBDP) is a repository for brain tissues collected for the purpose of research. The WBDP, which is part of the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, collaborates with the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WAI) and other interested organizations and individuals.

Brain Bank Video imageIndividuals who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or who have a parent who has been diagnosed with these disorders are important to this type of research because scientists do not currently know what causes of these devastating illnesses and unfortunately there is no cure. One donor's tissue can be used in multiple research opportunities for the treatment and prevention of a memory disorder.

Donors help the WBDP, and other researchers worldwide, actively advance the knowledge of memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. It is particularly helpful to have brain donations made by individuals who were cognitively healthy throughout their lives because we can then compare the differences between their brain and the brain of someone diagnosed with a memory disorder.

Many individuals gain satisfaction from knowing that their contribution may help others affected by similar neurological diseases. For some families, confirming a medical diagnosis in their loved ones encourages them to make changes that will keep themselves healthy, or to participate in a memory research study.

If you wish to donate, it is important to talk to your family members and physician(s).For registered donors, there is no cost. We encourage you to contact the WBDP to ask any questions you may have about donation and to determine if you are eligible to donate.

When a donation occurs, it is limited to brain tissue, a small sample of blood and small sample of cerebrospinal fluid. The brain-only autopsy is conducted 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. This is a common procedure that funeral directors and morticians are familiar with and is fully compatible with current funeral practices.

Donation to the WBDP is completely voluntary. You have the right to change your mind at any time. We strive to protect the confidentiality of donors and their families to the fullest extent.

For further information about donation, please contact: (608) 265-4000; or email brainbank@medicine.wisc.edu. For assistance with a donation, particularly in the evening or on weekends, please call our 24-hour pager: (608) 265-7000, ext. 5332.