Ann McKee

Director, Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center
Director, Boston University CTE Center
Director, Neuropathology VA Boston Healthcare System

BU School of Medicine, L-5

William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Pathology

Dr. Ann McKee, William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor of Neurology and Pathology, is a board-certified neurologist and neuropathologist whose research revolutionized scientific thought regarding the late effects of concussive brain trauma and defined the post-traumatic neurodegeneration, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)

AD & CTE Center Role

Dr. McKee directs the Neuropathology Core of the Center, where she is responsible for conducting neuropathological analyses of brain tissue and maintaining the Center’s Brain Bank. Dr. McKee also leads clinical-pathological case conferences as part of the Center’s Research Seminar series. At her Bedford VAMC laboratory, she conducts weekly brain cuttings and gives monthly clinicopathological case conferences to GRECC staff.


2017                The Bostonian of the Year, 2017, Boston Globe 

2018                Time 100 Most Influential People in the World, 2018, Time Magazine 

2018                Sylvia Mackey Woman of the Year, Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats 

2018                Henry Wisniewski Lifetime Achievement Award in Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Alzheimer’s Association 

2018                National Academy of Medicine 

2018                Time 50 Most Influential People in Healthcare 2018, Time Magazine 

2019            Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, Paul Volker Career Achievement Award, Partnership for Public Service     


Dr. McKee has been a dominant force in the discovery and establishment that repetitive head impacts can produce a latent neurodegeneration, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Since her first publication on CTE in 2009, she has singularly identified the key neuropathological and clinical components of the tau-based neurodegeneration, CTE. Her research, including the creation of the world’s largest brain bank focused on brain trauma, has been a primary reason that CTE is now considered to be a late effect of sports and military-related head trauma, a key focus of NIH research, and a significant public health concern. 

Dr. McKee defined the full spectrum of neuropathological abnormalities in CTE and developed the McKee criteria for diagnosis and staging of CTE. Using the McKee criteria, two NINDS consensus panels confirmed CTE as a unique tauopathy with a pathognomonic lesion, distinct from all other forms of neurodegeneration. CTE is now considered an Alzheimer’s Disease Related Disorder (ADRD) and a key funding priority for NIH. Her work has been critical in establishing that contact sports such as football, ice hockey, rugby, and soccer, military blast exposure, interpersonal violence, and other sources are associated with increased risk for CTE. Dr. McKee created and directs the UNITE (VA-BU-CLF) brain bank, the world’s largest repository of brains from individuals exposed to traumatic brain injuries and neuropathologically confirmed CTE (over 900).

The brain bank is a unique, shared resource that has accelerated scientific discovery worldwide. She has shown that there is a robust dose-response between cumulative exposure to repetitive head impacts (years of football play) and risk for CTE. This relationship remains constant even after rigorously controlling for selection bias in a brain bank. Using cutting-edge techniques, including multiplex immunofluorescence and single nucleus RNA sequencing, she has shown that repetitive head impacts and CTE increase neuroinflammation, blood-brain barrier disruption, white matter rarefaction, myelin loss, and oligodendrocyte loss.  Her team was the first to define the roles of other pathological proteins in neurodegeneration after trauma, including TDP-43, beta-amyloid, and alpha-synuclein. Her team’s work demonstrated that repetitive head impacts also increase the risk for Lewy body disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and hippocampal sclerosis, alter the distribution of cerebral amyloid angiopathy, and accelerate beta-amyloid plaque formation. Her team defined the clinical features associated with CTE, including cognitive, mood, behavior, and motor impairments, with parkinsonism, REM behavioral disorder, and dementia common in severe disease.  Her team developed the research diagnostic criteria for traumatic encephalopathy syndrome (TES), the clinical syndrome associated with CTE pathology, that were key to creating the NINDS Consensus Diagnostic Criteria for TES.  Her team has multiple ongoing longitudinal prospective studies to evaluate living athletes and other individuals exposed to repetitive head trauma to improve clinical specificity and sensitivity and develop biomarkers to diagnose CTE during life. Throughout, Dr. McKee has been the steady voice of concern regarding the safety and risks of CTE for contact sport athletes, military veterans, and others exposed to repetitive head trauma. 


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