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 characterise each case 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

SBB Common neuropathology

Latest published neuropathologial diagnostic criteria


Alzheimer’s disease

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

Motor Neuron Disease

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

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

Primary age-related tauopathy (PART)

Primary age-related tauopathy (PART): a common pathology associated with human aging. John F. Crary, John Q. Trojanowski, Julie A. Schneider, Jose F. Abisambra, Erin L. Abner, Irina Alafuzoff6, Steven E. Arnold, Johannes Attems, Thomas G. Beach, Eileen H. Bigio, Nigel J. Cairns, Dennis W. Dickson, Marla Gearing, Lea T. Grinberg, Patrick R. Hof, Bradley T. Hyman, Kurt Jellinger, Gregory A. Jicha, Gabor G. Kovacs, David S. Knopman, Julia Kofler, Walter A. Kukull, Ian R. Mackenzie, Eliezer Masliah, Ann McKee, Thomas J. Montine, Melissa E. Murray, Janna H. Neltner, Ismael Santa-Maria, William W. Seeley, Alberto Serrano-Pozo, Michael L. Shelanski, Thor Stein, Masaki Takao, Dietmar R. Thal, Jonathan B. Toledo, Juan C. Troncoso, Jean Paul Vonsattel, Charles L. White 3rd, Thomas Wisniewski, Randall L. Woltjer, Masahito Yamada, and Peter T. Nelson. 2014 December ; 128(6): 755–766.

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.

Frontotemporal Lobar Degeneration

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.



See what’s going on at NeuRA


LEAD!- Leveraging Evidence into Action on Dementia

Currently, there is no effective treatment for dementia, highlighting the urgent need to preventing more cases through evidence-based strategies for risk reduction. As there is an overlap between the risk factors for dementia and other preventable non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes, and heart disease, it is important to build upon proven risk-reduction strategies. What is LEAD? LEAD! is a project funded by the NHMRC Boosting Dementia Research Grant led by Professor Kaarin Anstey. It involves an international collaboration between leading academics, clinicians, consumers, and community members. Organisations involved include the Department of Health, WHO, Dementia Australia, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Diabetes Australia, and Heart Foundation. The project aims to translate dementia research and implement evidence-based strategies for dementia risk reduction to individuals, communities, and healthcare centres. Three workstreams The project has three concurrent workstreams over five years: Development, Implementation, and Evaluation and adoption. The Development stream, led by Professor Kaarin Anstey and Associate Professor Peters, focuses on building a new tool for predicting dementia and other non-communicable diseases including stroke, diabetes or myocardial infarction. The tool will be available to the public, researchers and clinicians. It will save clinical assessment time, accurately predict multiple outcomes and will be more acceptable in comparison to using individual tools for each disease outcome. The Implementation stream led by Professor Nicola Lautenschalger’s team at the University of Melbourne, will develop strategies to support the implementation of dementia risk reduction evidence by engaging with consumers, clinicians, policy makers, and the public. The stream will develop strategies for incorporating the new risk assessment tool into various technological platforms (e.g., websites or apps). The Evaluation and adoption stream, led by Professor Anstey and in collaboration with Professor Louisa Jorm and Dr Heidi Welberry at UNSW, focuses on measuring trajectories of Australian’s national risk factor profiles for multiple chronic diseases. Collaboration with key stakeholders including the WHO will help build an evaluation framework and methodology for implementing evidence on dementia risk reduction based on WHO guidelines at national level and in the global context.