Brain Donation Program

This program refers to brain donation through autopsy.

Autopsy: The Gift of Knowledge

Although there are many types of Alzheimer's disease research, neuropathological studies have produced some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the understanding and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. These studies are only made possible by persons who generously donate their brain to research. By consenting to autopsy, patients and family members can give the "gift of knowledge" and contribute to the search for a cure for Alzheimer's disease.

Why is brain autopsy important?

To confirm diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease: Neuropathological examination remains the “gold standard” for confirming the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or another illness that causes dementia.

To contribute to research: The greatest research contribution comes from autopsy studies of people who have participated in research during life.

I am not a research participant; can I still donate my brain?

We very much appreciate your thoughtfulness and willingness to donate your/a relative's brain for Alzheimer's disease research. Unfortunately, if you/your relative was not part of a clinical research study at UCLA, the research that can be done with the brain is substantially limited.

I don't have Alzheimer's disease. Is my brain donation helpful?

Yes. Healthy brains offer valuable information about the normal aging process and in allowing comparison with brains that have been affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Do I have to decide now?

You may decide at any time. If you decide to donate, you must complete an autopsy consent form.

When should plans for autopsy be made?

As soon as possible. It is much easier to make arrangements for an autopsy in advance.

Can there still be a normal funeral?

Yes. Brain donation and autopsy will not interfere with embalming or an open casket memorial service.

Is brain donation compatible with most religions?

Yes, it is compatible with most religions. A potential issue may arise in religions requiring burial within a certain period from death because most UCLA facilities are closed on the weekends. If a patient passes away later in the day on Friday or on the weekend the autopsy would normally be done the following Monday morning. Individuals are encouraged to speak with their religious leaders about brain donation.

What does my family get after the autopsy is complete?

Your family will receive a complete written report of the autopsy findings in approximately 60-90 days; this time interval may be longer if special studies are required. As well, the Neuropathologist completing the report will be happy to discuss her/his findings with your family members.

Is there any cost for autopsy?

If you/your relative was ever a patient at UCLA for any reason (i.e. you/your relative has a UCLA medical record number) there is no charge for the autopsy or cost of one-way transportation to UCLA within 100 miles. If you/your relative was never seen at UCLA, examination of the brain will cost $2,000.00 (this includes cost of transportation to UCLA within 100 miles).

I have decided to donate my brain. Now what?

Advance planning is important. In addition to signing an autopsy consent form and making your plans known to your funeral home, it is important to discuss this decision with your family so that everyone is on board and familiar with your wishes.

If you have any questions.

If you would like more information about the Brain Donation Program or if your loved one has already enrolled in the ADRC Longitudinal Study, please contact the Easton Center at (310) 794-3167 or UCLA Decedent Affairs at (310) 825-7846.


If your loved one has previously participated in research, signed an autopsy consent form and is at the end of life, please follow these steps.

Step 1 Within 6 hours of death (or as soon as possible):
If during business hours: (9 am - 5 pm Mon-Fri, 9 am - 4 pm Sat), call UCLA Decedent Affairs at (310) 825-7846, or (9 am - 4 pm Mon-Fri), call the Easton Center at (310) 794-3167.
If outside of business hours or if you cannot reach anyone above: call the UCLA Page Operator at (310) 825-6301, press "1" and ask for the Neuropathologist on-call to be paged.
Step 2 UCLA Decedent Affairs or the Neuropathologist will give you contact information for transport services. Call the transport service to arrange body pick-up.
Step 3 Contact UCLA Decedent Affairs to arrange transportation to a mortuary. Once the autopsy has been performed, UCLA Decedent Affairs will contact the mortuary for body pick-up.
Step 4 You will receive a detailed autopsy report in approximately 60-90 days.

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