Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Brain donation

Guide to brain donation

More people are suffering from brain diseases and disorders. There are no known cures for many of these conditions, and a high priority is given to research designed to improve our understanding of them, and find new treatments.

To ensure research is thorough, it is also important to have access to brain tissues from people who did not have the diseases being studied. These unaffected tissues are known as ‘control tissues’. It is crucial that scientists have access to these so that they can be compared with tissues from people who had a disease. These valuable donations are essential for developing new and better treatments for people with diseases and in the search for a cure.

Brain donation has helped researchers and doctors to better understand diseases such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease.

How to donate your brain for research

A list of human tissue banks which accept brain and spinal tissue for research is available on the HTA website or by phoning the HTA. Brain banking needs to take place as soon as possible after death. Individual brain banks may vary in their procedures and this should be discussed with the brain bank.

A person may consent for their tissue to be used for research, or, if there is no record of the deceased person’s wishes, consent can be obtained from someone nominated by that person to act on his or her behalf or from someone in a qualifying relationship to them at the time of their death.

Although it is possible for a person to record a wish to donate their brain in their Will, the reading of the Will may occur too late after the person’s death to allow the donation to take place. Potential brain donors are therefore encouraged to contact their chosen brain bank rather than relying only on the information contained in their Will. By contacting the brain bank, appropriate arrangements can be discussed and made. This improves the chances of a successful donation after the person has died.

Donating both brain and organs

Despite being separate donation systems, it is possible in certain circumstances for a person to donate their brain and spinal cord for research and be an organ donor – this will need to be discussed with the individual brain bank.

If a person wishes to register for both organ donation and brain donation, the HTA recommends that the person ensures that those closest to them are aware of their wishes.
Further information on organ donation can be found on the NHS Blood and Transplant website: www.organdonation.nhs.uk.

Do brain banks accept all donations?

There are various reasons why brain banks may not be able to accept the offer of a donation; they can give you more information about this when you contact them. For example, certain medical conditions may lead to the offer being declined. If a death is referred to a Coroner for the cause of death to be confirmed, it may not be possible for the brain and spinal cord to be donated. There may be some circumstances where it is not possible for the brain and spinal cord to be donated within the required timeframe, as most brain banks require that the tissues are collected shortly after death.

It will not usually be possible for the brain and spinal cord to be donated for research if the body is being donated to a medical school for anatomical examination, as medical schools require the whole body, including the brain and spinal cord.

Will brain or spinal cord donation affect plans for a funeral or memorial service?

Brain and spinal cord donation will not usually affect plans for a funeral, cremation or burial. The brain bank can give you more information about the timeframes for donation when you contact them.

You can also download a body and brain donation information pack (PDF), which is a printable version of the information contained on this site.

Contact details for brain banks

Wolfson Neuroscience Laboratories
Imperial College Faculty of Medicine
Hammersmith Hospital Campus
Burlington Danes Building
160 Du Cane Road
London W12 0NN

Contact: Dr George Gveric
T 020 7594 9732
F 020 7594 9733
E pdbank@imperial.ac.uk

Wolfson Neuroscience Laboratories
Imperial College Faculty of Medicine
Hammersmith Hospital Campus
Burlington Danes Building
160 Du Cane Road
London W12 0NN

Contact: Dr George Gveric
T 020 7594 9734
F 020 7594 9735
E ukmstissuebank@imperial.ac.uk

Neuropathology Dept
Level 1, West Wing
John Radcliffe Hospital
Headley Way, Headington
Oxford OX3 9DU

Contact: Dr Olaf Ansorge
T 01865 234904 / 01865 234403 (Includes out-of-hours message service)
F 01865 231157
E olaf.ansorge@ndcn.ox.ac.uk

University of Bristol
Level 1, Learning & Research
Southmead Hospital
Bristol, BS10 5NB

Contact: Laura Palmer
T 0117 414 7821
E laura.e.palmer@bristol.ac.uk

UCL Institute of Neurology
Institute of Neurology
1 Wakefield Street
London WC1N 3BG

Contact: Lynn Haddon
T 020 7837 8370
F 020 7278 4993
E l.haddon@ucl.ac.uk

Regional Neuropatholgy Service
The Royal Victoria Hospital
Grosvenor Road
Belfast BT12 6BA

Contact: Dr Brian Herron
T 028 9063 2319
E brian.herron@belfasttrust.hscni.net

Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource
Institute for Ageing and Health
Newcastle University
Campus for Ageing and Vitality
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE4 5PL

Contact: Debbie Lett
T: 0191 208 1231
E nbtr@ncl.ac.uk

Cerebral Function Unit
Greater Manchester Neuroscience Centre
Hope Hospital
Stott Lane
Salford
M6 8HD

Contact: Stephen Chew-Graham
T 0161 789 7373 (ext 2561)
E brainbank@manchester.ac.uk

Institute of Psychiatry
Box PO65
King's College London
De Crespigny Park
London SE5 8AF

Contact: Dr Claire Troakes
T 020 7848 0290 (Office hours)
F 020 7848 0275
E brain.bank@kcl.ac.uk
W https://www.kcl.ac.uk/ioppn/depts/bcn/Our-research/Neurodegeneration/brain-bank.aspx

Institute of Psychological Medicine & Clinical Neuroscience
Hadyn Ellis Building
Maindy Road
Cathays
Cardiff
CF24 4HQ

Contact: Dr Rebecca Sims
T 0292 068 8042
E ADResearch@cardiff.ac.uk

The Department of Neuropathology coordinates brain donation in Wales. If you would like to make a brain donation for medical research please use the contact details above.

Cambridge Brain Bank
Department Histopathology
Level 5 Box 235
Addenbrooke's Hospital
Hills Road
Cambridge CB2 0QQ

Contact: Beverley Haynes / Jenny Wilson
T 01223 217336
E brbank@addenbrookes.nhs.uk

Brains for Dementia Research Coordinating Centre Office
Ground Floor, Edwardson Building
Newcastle University
Institute of Neuroscience
Campus for Ageing and Vitality
Newcastle-upon-Tyne
NE4 5PL

Contact: Nicky Barnett - BDR Senior Manager
T 0191 208 2109
BDR.Coordinatingcentre@ncl.ac.uk
www.brainsfordementiaresearch.org.uk

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