Why Brain Donation?

Direct examination of brain tissue under a microscope is essential to confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementing diseases. This examination is accomplished by brain autopsy to examine the tissue after death. In addition to confirming a diagnosis, autopsy provides researchers with extremely valuable tissue for in-depth study and investigation of disease processes, leading us closer to the ultimate goal of identifying exact causes and effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

A confirmed autopsy diagnosis can reduce the uncertainty and concern many family members may otherwise experience regarding the cause of their loved one’s dementia. Brain autopsy also is critical for persons who die without dementia to characterize normal brain aging.

What is involved in an autopsy?
An autopsy is the examination of the body after death by a trained, specialized physician called a pathologist. For the ADNI study, autopsy will be limited to the brain only. This can be described as a brain donation for scientific purposes, but is not to be confused with organ donation to a living recipient.

Will others know that a brain autopsy was done?
Unless you tell people it will not be known. The autopsy is conducted in such a manner that there are no apparent marks, and it will not interfere with open casket viewing.

Will the family learn the results of the brain autopsy?
Yes. However, the examination of brain tissue is very complex and time-consuming and it may take between six and twelve months to complete the examination and prepare a report. A copy of the report and its findings will be provided to the family.

What is the cost?
There is no charge for the autopsy procedure for participants or their families in the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) study. The participant's family may be asked to pay for the transportation of the body to the funeral home after autopsy.

Does autopsy conflict with any religious beliefs?
Autopsy and brain donation do not conflict with most religious beliefs. If you have any questions concerning this issue, please consult with a leader from your faith. We encourage all ADNI participants to consider brain donation and to make their wishes known to their family.

Should you have any questions regarding brain donation, please contact your ADNI Study Coordinator at your nearest clinical site. Thank you for your effort to help us identify the cause of, and treatments for, this devastating disease.

ADNI Log small