How to Make A Donation

Call 1-800-Brain Bank

Request a Brochure

For comparative neurobiological investigations brain tissue is being collected from:

Becoming a prospective tissue donor is easy. Any person 18 years of age or older can simply complete the "Brain Donation Registration" and send it off to the Brain Bank. The next most important thing to do after signing up is to inform your family that you are pre-registered for brain donation at the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center. Often a brain donation is a last minute decision on the part of the family. Generally, however, it is better if the family has already openly discussed the idea of donation in order to avoid misunderstandings and to facilitate the donation process. At the time of death of the donor, the surviving family members will need to be available to verify the donor's intent-to-donate, and to offer authorization to the Brain Bank to acquire all medical records. At the time of death, an individual's body becomes the property of the spouse, or if there is no spouse, then the adult children or parent. Although an individual can make a personal request to donate his/her brain, ultimately it is the surviving family members who have the privilege and responsibility of deciding whether this unique and valuable gift will be made.

There are different categories of tissue donation:

  1. The "body donor" donates the entire body for medical education; however, the brain must remain with the body and cannot be used for research.
  2. The "organ donor" donates organs for transplantation; however, the brain begins to decay immediately at death, and brain donation is generally not compatible with organ donation. However, each case is assessed individually at death.
  3. The "brain donor" donates the brain for medical research and if interested, also has the option of donating eyes, skin, blood or bone tissue.
Please note that although these 3 options for donation are generally not compatible with one another, each case is handled and assessed individually.
In order to initiate the process of brain donation, Contact the Brain Bank at the time of impending death or immediately after the death of the donor. The Brain Bank associate will need the name and location of the donor and will work directly with the pathologist in charge. Most often, the brain should be removed and shipped to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center within hours following the death of the donor. Only the donor's brain will be sent to The Brain Bank, so the donor's body will not be transported away from your local area. When questionable circumstances surround a death, a state medical examiner/coroner may be responsible for a postmortem investigation involving the brain tissue. However, the remainder of the brain which is not required for their evaluations may be donated to The Brain Bank upon request by the family. Generally, medical examiners will cooperate with the family's decision for brain donation. When an investigation by the medical examiner is not required, a pathologist in a nearby hospital can perform the brain removal using a protocol supplied by The Brain Bank.
  1. In all cases, the identity of each donor and potential donor will remain strictly confidential.
  2. Brain donation does not conflict with most religious perspectives and will not interfere with an open casket or other traditional funeral arrangements (call 1-800-Brain Bank for a brochure outlining Religious Perspectives).
  3. A diagnostic neuropathological report will be sent to the family and pathologist involved with the case.
  4. Limited funds are available to cover the cost of brain removal for donors with schizophrenia or manic depressive illness, and the parents, siblings and offspring of individuals with these diagnoses.


Brain donation for research is not a widely publicized subject, so many physicians and pathologists are not familiar with brain banking. Contacting the pathologists at your local hospital and identifying the professionals in your area who are sensitive to the need for brain donation can greatly facilitate the donation process. If you are having trouble identifying a cooperative pathologist, feel free to call the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill at 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264) to obtain phone numbers for State and Local chapters of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill in your community. You can also access
NAMI's Web Page. These individuals may be helpful in identifying a cooperative pathologist in your state.

If you are interested in brain donation, we recommend the following steps:
  1. Have a family discussion about brain donation, and inform your physicians of your decision.
  2. Complete and return the attached "Brain Donation Questionnaire," registering the potential donor(s).
  3. Upon receipt of your "Brain Donation Questionnaire", we will send a wallet-sized "Donor Card." Carrying this card is not necessary but may facilitate the donation process.
  4. At the time of impending death or at death, call 1-800-BRAINBANK (1-800-272-4622) and provide the following information:
* complete name and current location of donor
* date of birth of donor
* time and cause of death (if known)
* name and address of legal next-of-kin
* neurological or psychiatric diagnosis (if applicable)
After the death of the donor, a "Postmortem Confirmation of Consent" form for donation must be signed by the next-of-kin. This form will be provided at the time of autopsy by the medical examiner, coroner or pathologist (if one has been identified) which authorizes the brain removal.
Those of us at the Brain Bank genuinely appreciate your interest and contribution to postmortem brain research into.
There are Several Ways to Get your Donation Process Started:
Contact Us By:

Our Address:          Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center
                                         McLean Hospital
                                         115 Mill Street
                                         Belmont, MA 02478  


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