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Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Health Awareness – Why Brain Donation Matters

For nearly seven million Americans and their families, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) has become an incurable, heartless reality. The prevalence is expected to get worse in the coming years, and we just can’t seem to find the answers fast enough. Nearly every brain has value for neuroscience research, but when it comes to advances in AD, there are certain characteristics that make a donated brain even more valuable. In recognition of June’s Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Health month, consider these facts about brain donation by a loved one with AD:

  • Early onset cases are of particular interest to researchers. Since the average age of onset for AD is about 75 years old, it’s not always a surprise when dementia sets in. But when symptoms appear prior to age 60, it’s a different kind of tragedy. For families just beginning to enjoy a new stage of life, maybe with fewer responsibilities as parents or nearing retirement, the reality of an incurable neurodegenerative disease is particularly cruel.
  • There is not enough donated AD tissue from communities of color. It’s been established that AD strikes more often in black communities, but we haven’t done a good enough job of educating everyone about brain donation and why it’s so badly needed. Anyone in an underserved population should make certain their families consider brain donation – especially if AD is at play.
  • Anyone who has AD, is physically able, and lives near an Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, should strongly consider enrolling in research. It’s easy to see that if a person’s AD is monitored over time, and clinical samples are analyzed along with other data, and then their brain is donated upon passing, much more can be learned from the tissue. This contribution to science is incredibly meaningful. Similarly, if a person has participated in any kind of research or clinical trials, brain donation to “close the loop” is critical.
  • If there is a significant family history of dementia or AD, which is usually defined as an additional two or more blood relatives who had it, brain donation takes on heightened importance. Finding the genetic underpinnings of neurodegenerative diseases can’t happen soon enough and researchers are intent on the similarities that happen in families.

If someone in your family fits any of these criteria, please talk with him or her about brain donation. Help them pre-register, if possible, or do it on their behalf if not. Science needs us now to make AD a thing of the past.

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