710 West 168th Street, 3rd floor
Brain Donation Program
The Taub Institute's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center performs an essential research procedure to learn about memory disorders: brain autopsy (also known as brain donation). Our ability to understand how Alzheimer's disease affects the brain and causes debilitating memory loss, confusion, and eventually death, is dependent upon studying brain tissue. This is a key factor in the scientific exploration for study of the diseases of memory loss. Brain autopsy is also useful in clarifying risks to relatives of people with Alzheimer's disease, which in some cases has been identified as a genetic disorder.
Brain autopsy is a type of surgical procedure done after death that does not disfigure the person. Nor are funeral arrangements affected. It is coordinated gently and carefully by our staff here at Columbia from the initial planning stages to the call at the time of death. You will also receive the report generated by the autopsy.
You can make a significant contribution to memory disorders research by your consideration of this procedure. Additionally the donation of normal brain tissue is another way you can help us.
Our brain donation program is available to individuals who have been examined by our physicians or who are enrolled in our research projects. If you wish to have your family member participate you may discuss this with Arlene Lawton, R.N.
To learn more about brain autopsy, please call our coordinator Arlene Lawton, R.N. at (212) 305-9086.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q. Will brain donation disfigure the body?
A. No. The brain donation is performed by a trained physician, a pathologist, who is as skilled as a surgeon in performing the procedure. An open casket is still possible, and the examination does not delay preparation of the body for burial.
Q. Does the entire body have to be examined?
A. No. Brain autopsy is limited to the brain only. This is sufficient to enable us to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia.
Q. Will brain donation delay the funeral?
A. No. The examination is done soon after we are notified of the patient's death. The procedure is completed within hours, and we work with the funeral directors in order to expedite transition of the body from the medical center to the funeral home. If desired, we will provide the family with a report of the findings. Generally, results are available in about 3 months.
Q. What is done with the tissue once it is removed?
A. The first procedure is to analyze the tissue to establish an accurate diagnosis. After the examination, we use the tissue for scientific studies designed to understand the causes of Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative disorders. The brain tissue is then stored for future investigation as needed.