Nun makes ultimate contribution to Alzheimer's research

Posted by Dan Grippo
Friday 13, August 2010 | Category:   Consecrated Life

Catholic nuns are known for their acts of charity, but Sister Adrienne Schmidt has found a way to give beyond the grave: she will donate her brain to science, reports John Biemer in The Chicago Tribune.

First, though, she participates in an annual battery of memory tests administered by Rush University researchers. Schmidt, 82, repeats numbers and stories in exercises designed to provide a history of how her brain is aging.

When the time comes, Schmidt's brain will join hundreds of others in cooling units in a laboratory at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study tracks cognitive decline to identify risk factors for Alzheimer's.

Schmidt, of the Congregation of St. Joseph in La Grange Park, Illinois, said some of the other sisters were a bit squeamish about donating their brains. But not her: "You know, what's my brain going to do once I'm gone anyway?" she said. "It's ceased."

The Rush researchers sought members of religious orders, hoping they would be willing to donate and would not have children or spouses interfering with that arrangement at the last minute. More than 1,100 nuns, priests and brothers across the country representing a wide range of ethnic groups take part.

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