Dr Claire Shepherd in Brain Bank lab

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 neuropathological examination to determine a final diagnosis according to the latest published diagnostic criteria. This information is fed back to the donors’ next-of-kin and medical practitioners via the recruiting brain donor program. All tissue samples are de-identified to ensure anonymity of the donor.



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 Disease

Lewy 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.

Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration (FTLD)-tau

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.

Lewy Body 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


*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

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The scourge of dementia runs deep in Lorna Clement's family. Of the eleven children her dear parents raised, four live (or have passed away) with complications of the disease. Her mother also died of Alzheimer's disease, bringing the family total to five. This is the mystery of dementia - One family, with two very different ageing outcomes. You will have read that lifestyle is an important factor in reducing the risk of dementia. We also know diet is a key factor, and an aspect that Dr Ruth Peter's is exploring at NeuRA. Along with leading teams delivering high profile evidence synthesis work in the area of dementia risk reduction, Dr Peters has a particular interest in hypertension (that is, high blood pressure) and in the treatment of hypertension in older adults. “We have known for a while that treating high blood pressure reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but it is becoming clearer that controlling blood pressure may also help to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Now we need to know what the best blood pressure is to protect brain health.” You are invited to read more about Lorna's story and Dr Peter's work, by clicking 'Read the full story' below. Please support dementia research at NeuRA Will you consider a gift today to help Dr Peter's unlock the secrets of healthy ageing and reduce the risk of dementia? Research into ageing and dementia at NeuRA will arm doctors and other medical professionals with the tools they need to help prevent dementia in our communities. Thank you for your support.