Dr Claire Shepherd in the Sydney Brain Bank labs

Sydney Brain Bank




The brain donation occurs as soon as possible after death. This is done with the utmost care and respect by highly trained staff who perform the brain removals. The limited autopsies are usually carried out at the nearest participating hospital that has appropriate mortuary facilities. After the procedure, the tissue is transported back to the Sydney Brain Bank where it is processed and held.

Brain tissue arrives at the Sydney Brain Bank and is processed and stored in different ways as a means of offering the greatest options for researchers who may want to utilise the tissues for their experiments. This may include freezing some of the tissue so that it can be used for DNA extraction and/or biochemical studies. This is done in the shortest time period possible to ensure viability of most neurochemicals, proteins and RNAs. For participants with a strong family history of disease, the DNA may be screened for genes in which rare mutations have already been associated with neurodegeneration. The remaining tissue is fixed in formalin to preserve it for histological examination.



All brains undergo thorough microscopic examination to determine a final diagnosis according to the latest published diagnostic criteria (see list below). This information is communicated to the donors’ recruiting brain donor program. All tissue samples are de-identified to ensure anonymity of the donor.


Examples of common neuropathology

Alzheimer's DiseaseLewy Body Disease

Latest published neuropathologial diagnostic criteria


Alzheimer’s disease

Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD)-TDP

A harmonized classification system for FTLD-TDP pathology. Mackenzie IR et al; Acta Neuropathol. 2011 Jul;122(1):111-3

Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD)-FUS

Distinct pathological subtypes of FTLD-FUS. Mackenzie IR, Munoz DG, Kusaka H, Yokota O, Ishihara K, Roeber S, Kretzschmar HA, Cairns NJ, Neumann M. Acta Neuropathol. 2011 Feb;121(2):207-18.

Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD)

Office of Rare Diseases neuropathologic criteria for corticobasal degeneration. Dickson DW, Bergeron C, Chin SS, Duyckaerts C, Horoupian D, Ikeda K, Jellinger K, Lantos PL, Lippa CF, Mirra SS, Tabaton M, Vonsattel JP, Wakabayashi K, Litvan I; Office of Rare Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 2002 Nov;61(11):935-46.

Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP)

Validity and reliability of the preliminary NINDS neuropathologic criteria for progressive supranuclear palsy and related disorders.Litvan I, Hauw JJ, Bartko JJ, Lantos PL, Daniel SE, Horoupian DS, McKee A, Dickson D, Bancher C, Tabaton M, Jellinger K, Anderson DW. J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 1996 Jan;55(1):97-105.

Globular Glial Tauopathy (GGT)

Globular glial tauopathies (GGT) presenting with motor neuron disease or frontotemporal dementia: an emerging group of 4-repeat tauopathies. Ahmed Z, Doherty KM, Silveira-Moriyama L, Bandopadhyay R, Lashley T, Mamais A, Hondhamuni G, Wray S, Newcombe J, O’Sullivan SS, Wroe S, de Silva R, Holton JL, Lees AJ, Revesz T. Acta Neuropathol. 2011 Oct;122(4):415-28.

Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG)

Aging-related tau astrogliopathy (ARTAG): harmonized evaluation strategy. Kovacs GG, Ferrer I, Grinberg LT, Alafuzoff I, Attems J, Budka H, Cairns NJ, Crary JF, Duyckaerts C, Ghetti B, Halliday GM, Ironside JW, Love S, Mackenzie IR, Munoz DG, Murray ME, Nelson PT, Takahashi H, Trojanowski JQ, Ansorge O, Arzberger T, Baborie A, Beach TG, Bieniek KF, Bigio EH, Bodi I, Dugger BN, Feany M, Gelpi E, Gentleman SM, Giaccone G, Hatanpaa KJ, Heale R, Hof PR, Hofer M, Hortobágyi T, Jellinger K, Jicha GA, Ince P, Kofler J, Kövari E, Kril JJ, Mann DM, Matej R, McKee AC, McLean C, Milenkovic I, Montine TJ, Murayama S, Lee EB, Rahimi J, Rodriguez RD, Rozemüller A, Schneider JA, Schultz C, Seeley W, Seilhean D, Smith C, Tagliavini F, Takao M, Thal DR, Toledo JB, Tolnay M, Troncoso JC, Vinters HV, Weis S, Wharton SB, White CL 3rd, Wisniewski T, Woulfe JM, Yamada M, Dickson DW. Acta Neuropathol. 2016 Jan;131(1):87-102.

Motor Neuron Disease

The genetics and neuropathology of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Al-Chalabi A, et al; Acta Neuropathol. 2012 Sep;124(3):339-52.

Parkinson's Disease

Neuropathological assessment of Parkinson’s disease: refining the diagnostic criteria. Dickson DW et al;  Lancet Neurol. 2009 Dec;8(12):1150-7. Review. Erratum in: Lancet Neurol. 2010 Feb;9(2):140. Lancet Neurol. 2010 Jan;9(1):29

Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

Diagnosis and management of dementia with Lewy bodies: third report of the DLB Consortium. McKeith IG et al; Neurology. 2005 Dec 27;65(12):1863-72. Review.

Consortium on DLB. Diagnosis and management of dementia with Lewy bodies: third report of the DLB Consortium. McKeith IG, Dickson DW, Lowe J, Emre M, O’Brien JT, Feldman H, Cummings J, Duda JE, Lippa C, Perry EK, Aarsland D, Arai H, Ballard CG, Boeve B, Burn DJ, Costa D, Del Ser T, Dubois B, Galasko D, Gauthier S, Goetz CG, Gomez-Tortosa E, Halliday G, Hansen LA, Hardy J, Iwatsubo T, Kalaria RN, Kaufer D, Kenny RA, Korczyn A, Kosaka K, Lee VM, Lees A, Litvan I, Londos E, Lopez OL, Minoshima S, Mizuno Y, Molina JA, Mukaetova-Ladinska EB, Pasquier F, Perry RH, Schulz JB, Trojanowski JQ, Yamada M; Neurology. 2005 Dec 27;65(12):1863-72. Review. Erratum in: Neurology. 2005 Dec 27;65(12):1992

Multiple System Atrophy

Second consensus statement on the diagnosis of multiple system atrophy. Gilman S et al; Neurology. 2008 Aug 26;71(9):670-6.

Grading of neuropathology in multiple system atrophy: proposal for a novel scale. Jellinger KA et al; Mov Disord. 2005 Aug;20 Suppl 12:S29-36.

Huntington’s disease

Neuropathological classification of Huntington’s disease. Vonsattel et al 1985. JNEN. 44:559-577

See what’s going on at NeuRA


During three decades on Australian television, two simple words brought us to attention.

‘Hello daaaahling’. Outrageous, flamboyant, iconic – Jeanne Little captivated Australians everywhere with her unique style, cockatoo shrill voice and fashion sense. "Mum wasn't just the life of the party, she was the party.” Katie Little, Jeanne’s daughter remembers. This icon of Australian television brought a smile into Australian homes. Tragically, today Jeanne can't walk, talk or feed herself. She doesn't recognise anyone, with a random sound or laugh the only glimpse of who she truly is. Jeanne Little has Alzheimer's disease. The 1,000 Brains Study NeuRA is very excited to announce the 1,000 Brains Study, a ground-breaking research project to identify the elements in our brains that cause life-changing neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other dementias. This study will focus on the key unresolved question: why do some of us develop devastating neurodegenerative diseases, while others retain good brain health? The study will compare the genomes of people who have reached old age with healthy brains against the genomes of those who have died from neurodegenerative diseases, with post mortem examination of brain tissue taking place at NeuRA’s Sydney Brain Bank. More information on the study can be found here. Will you please support dementia research and the 1,000 Brains Study and help drive the future of genetics research in Australia? https://youtu.be/q7fTZIisgAY