Postmortem Brain Tissue Donation Program

The Framingham Study has been conducting research on neurological disorders for decades. In 1997, we began a postmortem brain tissue donation program, which has contributed significant information on the aging process.

Analyzing postmortem brain tissue may confirm a previous diagnosis of stroke, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or other neurological illness. It may also provide a diagnosis that was unclear earlier, document the extent of a disease or discover an unsuspected problem. Having a definite diagnosis may benefit the donor's family, by giving them a better idea of their genetic risks.

Brains of mentally healthy individuals are very useful to compare with those of individuals known to have neurological disorders. In this way, we continue to learn why some people remain mentally competent and physically healthy throughout their lives, while others develop strokes or become demented. Many of our participants, by nature altruistic, have expressed a desire to be organ donors. Just as a donation of a kidney or heart gives an individual recipient a second chance at a healthy life, a brain donation to research increases the chance of a healthy old age for the next generation.

We at the Framingham Study are particularly interested in exploring the environmental and genetic links to neurological diseases as well as healthy aging. Our original members, many of their children, grandchildren, and other family members have been coming to the Heart Study for decades, resulting in a wealth of data on physical and neurological conditions, life styles and other health-related changes that have occurred over time. Many participants also have had brain imaging and detailed neurological testing. By relating our clinical information to neuropathological findings, we have a unique opportunity to identify risk factors for disease. That is why the Framingham Brain Tissue Donation Program is open only to participants in the Framingham Heart Study.

If you would like more information about the Brain Tissue Donation Program, please contact Linda Farese, Research Coordinator, at 1-800-248-0409 or 508-935-3488 or email her at lfarese@bu.edu.