Brain Donation

The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is the largest tissue repository in the world focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and CTE. The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank research team conducts cutting edge research on Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and mild traumatic brain injury. In collaboration with the VA Boston Healthcare System, The BU CTE Center, and nonprofits including the Concussion Legacy Foundation (formerly known as the Sports Legacy Institute), the brain bank contains more than 580 brains, including over 320 brains that have been diagnosed with CTE using the recently defined NINDS criteria for the diagnosis of CTE (6). Dr. McKee and her team of neuropathologists and other investigators have published a large number of studies focused on CTE (see below).

The VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank:

  • Collects central nervous system tissue samples (brain, spinal cord and eyes) from deceased athletes to better understand the effects of trauma on the human nervous system.
  • Reports findings to caregivers in a timely fashion
  • Stores and distributes optimally prepared tissue to qualified researchers around the world
  • Shares data and other findings with other researchers

The VA-BU-CLF research team is focused on developing:

  • A diagnostic test for CTE in living persons
  • Genetic risk factors
  • Environmental risk factors
  • The importance of age at first exposure
  • The roll of length of playing career
  • Treatment for CTE

The identity of donors is confidential and protected by both IRB rules and HIPAA laws. However, many donors have chosen to allow the CTE Center to release their names to draw attention to this important work.

For urgent brain donation matters, please call the BU CTE Center's 24/7 voicemail/pager at 617-992-0615.

For general brain donation inquiries, please contact our

Bobby  Abdolmohammadi by phone at 617-358-5996 or Laney Evers by phone at 617-358-5994 .

Brain Donation Registry

Similar to organ donation, pledging your brain to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank is a precious gesture that helps others in a truly impactful way. Everyone who pledges their brain will receive a personalized brain donor card and an informational packet on brain donation. To learn more about how to join the brain donation registry, click here.

Donor Registry


Information for Donor Families

Family members of deceased athletes may donate their loved one’s brain and spinal cord after their death to the VA-BU-CLF Brain Bank to be examined neuropathologically for evidence of CTE or other disorders of the central nervous system. Researchers also conduct extensive interviews with friends and family of the Legacy Donor to understand what they were like in life: including athletic and concussion history, educational and occupational history, medical history, and history of cognitive, behavioral, and mood symptoms.

All publication of findings are de-identified (without name and identifiable details) unless the CTE Center has received permission from the family to publicize the subject’s participation. The identity of donors is confidential and protected by both IRB rules and HIPAA laws. However, many donors have chosen to allow the Brain Bank to release their names to draw attention to this important work. Thanks to these families and donors, we have compiled a diverse collection of donated tissue proving CTE is not only a problem for football, but a problem for any sport with routine head impacts as well as military veterans. View the Legacy Donors page to learn about some of those donors.

Frequently Asked Questions about Brain Donation

The purpose of the research is to help understand the long-term effects of previous brain injuries, including any association with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). This donation process is an opportunity for individuals to help further research and help protect future generations. Participation will help researchers to better understand CTE, including its neuropathology, clinical presentation and course, and environmental and genetic risk factors.

The legally authorized representative (usually, the next of kin) may give consent to donate brain and spinal cord tissue following the death of a donor.

A full-time brain donation coordinator is available 24/7, 365 days per year to arrange the tissue collecting by a local diener near the locality where the donor has died. All costs for the extraction are paid by the VA-BU-SLI Brain Bank. The donation process is a time-sensitive matter; for urgent brain donation matters, please call the BU CTE Center 24/7 voice mail/pager at 617-992-0615.

There are no costs for participating in this research study. The study will pay for all expenses involved with brain and spinal cord donation. Please note that funeral expenses remain the responsibility of the family.

The next of kin is required to complete consent forms authorizing brain, spinal cord, and CSF and/or plasma donation. These will be faxed or emailed by the brain donation coordinator. Once completed, the donor’s next of kin is required to fax and/or email the signed consent forms back to the brain donation coordinator. One copy is retained by the VA-BU-SLI Brain Bank, and another copy is faxed to the local diener.

The autopsy procedure does not interfere with the events associated with the funeral. No disfigurement occurs as a result of this procedure. The family can plan an open casket or other traditional funeral arrangements and the donation process will be undetectable. In addition, we will do our best not to interfere with any arrangements the family might have.

One important goal of the research is to better understand the clinical presentations of CTE. In order to do this, we try to gather as much relevant information about our donors during their life as possible. Family members help by supplying relevant information to a designated clinician.