FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about Brain Donation
Who is eligible for brain donation to our program?
Patients, normal controls, and other research participants who have been well evaluated over time by the Penn Memory Center
How is the brain donation procedure performed?
The brain is removed by experienced autopsy technicians through an opening created low on the back of the skull. All other tissue is then properly repositioned and carefully sewn in place, with the stitches hidden. There are no visible indications of the procedure, should open casket viewing be desired.
Are funeral arrangements affected, or are there costs involved?
No. The next-of-kin of the registered brain donor simply contacts our autopsy telephone service, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and holidays, immediately after the registered donor’s death. Our service pays your designated funeral provider for transport of the body to the University of Pennsylvania for the brain donation procedure, which requires approximately two hours to perform, and to then transport the body to your funeral facility. There is no charge to a family for any aspect of the brain donation process.
How is donated brain tissue used?
The brain is examined by neuropathologists at Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research (CNDR), and the donor’s family receives a report. Tissue is used in current research and banked for future study. Samples may also be shared with researchers worldwide who can add to and advance our knowledge.
Is donation compatible with religious beliefs?
Organ and tissue donation, for medical diagnosis and to advance research that can help provide a healthier future for generations to come, is compatible with nearly all world religions. If you have concerns, please discuss this issue with your spiritual advisor to learn how your religion interprets brain donation.