Professional Care / World-Class Research
Our mission is to provide comprehensive neurologic care to our donors, study the mechanisms that contribute to the development of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), and enrich our understanding of the pathology, etiology and epidemiology of trauma-related neurodegenerative disorders.
How It Works
It’s easy to make plans to donate a brain to the Tulane University Brain Bank and secure your legacy at the forefront of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research. The entire process is free, and prior to donation, eligible donors may receive medical evaluations and treatment plans provided by Tulane Center for Brain Health or Professional Athlete Care Team (PACT) clinic specialists.
Step 1: Potential donors and/or their loved ones can contact the Tulane Brain Bank donation team by phone or e-mail (Eric Beverly, Director of Operations, 504.988.4455, firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule a call to learn more about how to become a donor. Prior to contacting us, we recommend donors fill out this simple, two-minute questionnaire. You can also print and review the Brain Donation Form for more information.
Step 2: Once the donor and Tulane Brain Bank agree that a donation is appropriate, both parties will sign a consent agreement. This contract allows researchers to obtain the donor’s brain tissue following his or her death. In coordination with the family, Tulane Brain Bank will handle all arrangements for the transfer of a donor’s brain.
Step 3: Once the donation is complete, a researcher conducts a brain autopsy to analyze the brain tissue. When the autopsy is final, a comprehensive report is delivered to the donor’s family or other designated recipient, typically within six to nine months of the donation.
Step 4: Tulane Brain Bank researchers will continue to use samples of the brain tissue to gain a greater understanding of conditions such as concussions, traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
One brain donation can fuel information for hundreds of research studies. —National Institutes of Health
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Although anyone can donate their brain, the Tulane Brain Bank is actively seeking donation commitments from current or former athletes and active or retired military personnel, in order to facilitate our focused research in areas of trauma-related neurodegenerative disorders.
There is no cost to a donor's family for the donation procedure or the final, comprehensive report. All expenses related to brain donations are paid for by the Tulane Brain Bank.
Print and review the Brain Donation Form for more information.
Our donors range in age and overall health condition. Prior to a donation commitment, our team works with potential donors to get a better understanding of their health and background to determine if they are a candidate for brain donation.
Yes. Understanding the effects of brain injury on men and women is a critical part of the research we conduct. We welcome brain donations from all current or former professional athletes and military veterans.
Yes. By law, organ donor cards allow donations of organs, such as kidneys and lungs, for transplants into living recipients. Brain donations follow a different process and require special, prior arrangements before the donation in order to prepare for the donation and preserve the brain for research. Donors may commit to organ and brain donations with different organizations. When a brain donor pre-registers with Tulane Brain Bank, we will contact you to discuss the brain donation process, and how and when to make prior arrangements. If you are a current or former athlete or military personnel, we will also discuss whether you are eligible for additional care (medical evaluations and treatment plans) now.
You can still donate other organs. If you plan to donate other organs and/or your whole body after death, these donations can continue as planned and will not affect the brain donation process.
If you are a current or former athlete, or active or retired military, you may be eligible for free medical evaluations and care coordination now, through our programs with The Trust (powered by the NFLPA) or the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network and the Tulane Center for Brain Health.
Eligible athletes may receive a 3-day health assessment at Tulane Medical Center in specialties including cardiology, orthopedics, neurology and others. After the assessment is complete, the medical team provides eligible donors with a comprehensive care plan, including recommendations about medical care, and can connect a donor to appropriate treatment in their home community or at Tulane Medical Center.
Eligible military personnel may receive a 3-day health assessment focused on conditions such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans who have completed the assessment may also return for an intensive, 3-week outpatient program designed to address PTSD.
Yes, donors or their families may arrange a donation at the last minute, but timing is critical in these circumstances. In order for a brain to remain viable for research, the transfer must take place within 24 to 48 hours of death. The sooner contact is made with Tulane Brain Bank, the better.
Families should contact the Tulane Brain Bank immediately. Once we are notified, we will make all arrangements required for the transportation and completion of the donation.
No. The brain retrieval process will not affect the timing of funerals and burial or cremation, and it will not affect the option of an open casket viewing.
Once the brain has been transferred, an experienced researcher performs a brain autopsy. Researchers inspect the brain tissue under a microscope to look for changes or biological markers characteristic of neurodegenerative disorders (including CTE). This information is combined with the donor’s medical condition (reported symptoms, cognitive test results) to give researchers a better understanding of the cause of disease, how it progressed, and potential treatment options.
The results of this autopsy are then shared in a comprehensive report with the donor’s family or other designated contact, typically within six to nine months of the donation.
All brain tissue is stored in a carefully controlled brain bank at the Tulane School of Medicine, where students, faculty and researchers at Tulane may access samples to analyze and compare to other tissue samples as part of ongoing neurocognitive research.
The identity of our donors is strictly confidential. Names are not included in any information sent to researchers, and samples are coded in order to protect a donor’s privacy and anonymity.
Studies using donated brain tissue following death are the most promising avenue for researchers to learn how to prevent and cure disorders of the brain. Discoveries made possible by tissue donation provide hope to families affected by brain disease.
One of the most compelling areas of medical research is aimed at understanding the human brain and what goes wrong in disease. Research using donated brain tissue has allowed researchers to answer important questions about many brain diseases, including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Scientists are now also using brain tissue to investigate the effects of traumatic brain injury and concussions. As methods for studying genes and how they influence growth, behavior, development, and disease become more powerful, the availability of brain tissue becomes even more important. The limited supply of donated human tissues is a rate-limiting factor in progress to understanding these diseases.
Yes. Tulane Brain Bank researchers will provide a comprehensive report about their findings to a donor’s loved ones. We are committed to transparency, and we’re eager to share what we’ve learned.
"We’re humbled by the extraordinary generosity of our donors. They’ll leave a lasting legacy. Every donation helps us develop treatments and preventive strategies that will benefit future generations of athletes, members of the military, and countless others." —Eric Beverly, director of operations at the Tulane University Brain Bank