Brain Donation

The UNITE Brain Bank is the largest tissue repository in the world focused on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and CTE. The UNITE Brain Bank research team conducts conducts high-impact, innovative research on chronic traumatic encephalopathy and other long-term consequences of repetitive brain trauma in athletes, military personnel, and first responders. In collaboration with the VA Boston Healthcare System, the Concussion Legacy Foundation, and the BU CTE Center, the UNITE Brain Bank contains more than 1,400 brains, including over 700 brains that have been diagnosed with CTE using the recently defined NINDS criteria for the diagnosis of CTE. For more information on the neuropathological diagnosis of CTE, please see The Second NINDS/NIBIB Consensus Meeting to Define Neuropathological Criteria for the Diagnosis of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.

Ann McKee, MD and her team of neuropathologists and other investigators have published a large number of studies focused on CTE.

The UNITE 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 UNITE 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:

Madeline Uretsky at

For questions regarding your Brain Donation Registry Card, please be advised that CLF is in the process of transitioning to digital brain donor cards. No new physical brain donor cards will be mailed out at this time. Thank you for your patience and continued support of brain donation and clinical research. Please email for more information.

Brain Donation Registry

Similar to organ donation, pledging your brain to the UNITE 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. Please see the Legacy Donors page and Donor Stories page to learn about some of those donors.

Information for Donor Families

Family members of deceased athletes may donate their loved one’s brain and spinal cord after their death to the UNITE 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. 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.

Donor Memorial Wall

Frequently Asked Questions about Brain Donation