Leaving your brain to science: don’t let myths dissuade you

Scientists need postmortem human brains for research, but general organ donation programs don’t harvest them. Tish Hevel found a solution.

Brains are in short supply. Neuroscientists need brain tissue of all types to study the diseases that affect more than 15 percent of people in the world. Enter Tish Hevel. In 2015, after Hevel’s father died from Lewy body dementia, her family wanted to offer his brain for research—but knew that it would take much more than an organ donor card. The experience inspired Hevel to create the Brain Donor Project “to raise awareness of the critical need” and make enrolling easier for would-be donors. Nearly two years in, more than 2,000 people have signed up.

The organization that Tish Hevel created—online at braindonorproject.org—aims to simplify “the process of donating postmortem human brains for research,” she says, and dispel misconceptions about it. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Organ donor
If your driver’s license says you’re an organ donor, then congrats: You’ve done a noble thing. But not all your organs are included. Your heart, corneas, and pancreas might go to a lucky person, but your brain will stay with you unless you’ve made separate arrangements to donate it.

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