Dr Claire Shepherd in the Sydney Brain Bank labs

Sydney Brain Bank



What do we do?

Our aim is to provide Australian and international researchers with access to well characterised post-mortem human central nervous system tissue through an integrated process.

The objective of the Sydney Brain Bank is to collect, characterise and distribute human brain (and spinal cord) tissue for research purposes. We seek to facilitate meaningful research into neurodegenerative conditions to enable better treatments, quicker and more accurate diagnoses, and ultimately development of preventions and cures.

Our primary focus is on the collection of cases with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease and frontotemporal lobar degeneration. Unaffected or “control” cases are also collected to act as comparators for disease but also to enable studies on healthy ageing.


Why is having a brain bank so important?

Neurodegenerative disorders have a huge personal and social impact in addition to an ever-increasing economic burden to individuals and the community. There are currently no treatments that target disease, rather only treatments that may offer some temporary relief from symptoms.

Current imaging techniques still cannot assess many cellular biological aspects of the brain, particularly at the molecular level. This is the level that is primarily affected in neurodegenerative diseases, and is the level required to definitively diagnose these diseases and to understand their cellular causes. This is why such tissue and the Sydney Brain Bank is needed for research into understanding and curing these disorders.

Researchers in Australia and overseas interested in investigating areas such as basic disease mechanisms, earlier and more accurate diagnosis, genetic contributions to diseases, better treatments, and ultimately, cure and prevention, can request this tissue for their research studies.


Who funds and supports the Sydney Brain Bank?

To be successful in these goals and endeavours, we rely on the generosity and altruism of people who participate in longitudinal brain donor programs during life and who choose to donate their brains for research after death. We also depend on scientists who request the tissue seeking to alleviate the suffering that neurodegenerative diseases cause.

The Sydney Brain Bank is cooperatively managed and supported by NeuRA and the Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales.

NeuRA logoUNSW logo

Who is involved in running the Sydney Brain Bank?

The Sydney Brain Bank is governed by a management committee, is directed by Dr Claire Shepherd and managed by Heather McCann. The Brain Bank operates with the NSW Brain Tissue Resource Centre at The University of Sydney as the NSW Brain Banks (NSWBB).

Sydney Brain Bank staff members:

Dr Claire Shepherd (Director)
Professor Glenda Halliday (Research Neuropathologist)

Heather McCann (Manager)

Francine Carew-Jones (Brain donor liaison officer)

Andrew Affleck (Research associate)

Adèle Lusson (Research Officer)

Carla Scicluna (Research assistant)


Want to learn more about the Sydney Brain Bank and brain donation? Then please head to our Frequently Asked Questions page


The Sydney Brain Bank is based at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) which is located next to the Prince of Wales Hospital on Barker St in Randwick NSW.

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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