Dr Claire Shepherd in the Sydney Brain Bank labs

Sydney Brain Bank



What is the Sydney Brain Bank?

The Sydney Brain Bank (SBB) is a biobanking facility that collects, characterises, stores and distributes human brain and spinal cord tissue for research into disorders of the brain and mind.
The facility was established in 2009 and is located at NeuRA, one of Australia’s leading institutes in brain research.
The Sydney Brain Bank houses specialised laboratories and equipment designed for handling, dissecting and staining human brain and spinal cord tissue specimens. Our staff are highly trained in neuroanatomy, histology and immunohistochemistry and also have extensive skills in neuropathology and microscopy (brightfield, fluorescence and confocal).

We are accredited through the NSW Health Biobanking certification program and operate within a national network of brain banks to facilitate requests for tissue and to build strong cohorts for research. We also partner with international consortia investigating the genetic architecture of brain and mind disorders and improved neuropathological characterisation.

How does the brain bank work?

The Sydney Brain Bank currently works with 10 brain donor programs. These focus on conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration and neurologically unaffected individuals.

In 2020, the National Rugby League (NRL) announced its support of the most recent donor program to the Sydney Brain Bank. This research at NeuRA is looking into the prevalence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and impact of sports-related brain injuries.

Our brain donors undergo detailed health assessments during life in order to examine how neurodegenerative changes may or may not be impacting on their quality of life.

After death, brain and spinal cord tissue collection is carried out in a NSW Hospital mortuary according to standardised autopsy procedures. All tissue is comprehensively characterised according to standardised research diagnostic criteria before it is banked for use. Researchers are invited to submit proposals for studies utilising these tissues, which are reviewed with the help of an independent scientific review committee. For more information about accessing tissue please head to our tissue request page – https://sbb.neura.edu.au/about

Why is this research so important?

Human brain tissue studies are vital to our understanding of neurodegenerative disorders, mental illness and normal ageing and have led to the development of diagnostic tools, the discovery of new disorders, novel genes and disease subtypes, the elucidation of disease mechanism and the development of therapeutic strategies. The Sydney Brain Bank is also internationally recognised for its excellence in clinicopathological research due to its standardized collection of brain tissue from prospectively followed cohorts with detailed longitudinal clinical information.

We currently hold brain tissue from over 700 donors with diverse neuropathologies including Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body disease, motor neuron disease, Huntington’s disease, frontotemporal lobar degeneration, multiple system atrophy, chronic traumatic encephalopathy as well as age-related change. Each year we distribute over 6000 frozen, fixed and slide-mounted tissue specimens to local, national and international research groups to facilitate advances in medical research. The majority of research articles arising from the use of Sydney Brain Bank tissue are published in the top 10% of scientific journals and have a field weighted citation index of 2.43.

How is the Sydney Brain Bank funded?

The Sydney Brain Bank is supported by NeuRA through philanthropic donations made to the NeuRA Foundation, and successfully awarded philanthropic and competitive grant funds.

How can you join a donor program?

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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See what’s going on at NeuRA


Brain and Knee Muscle Weakness Study

Why Does Quadriceps Weakness Persist after Total Knee Replacement? An Exploration of Neurophysiological Mechanisms Total knee replacement is a commonly performed surgery for treating end-staged knee osteoarthritis. Although most people recover well after surgery, weakness of the quadriceps muscles (the front thigh muscles) persists long after the surgery (at least for 12 months), despite intensive physiotherapy and exercise. Quadriceps muscle weakness is known to be associated with more severe pain and greatly affect daily activities. This study aims to investigate the mechanisms underlying weakness of the quadriceps muscles in people with knee osteoarthritis and total knee replacement. We hope to better understand the relationship between the changes of the brain and a loss of quadriceps muscle strength after total knee replacement. The study might be a good fit for you if you: Scheduled to undergo a total knee replacement; The surgery is scheduled within the next 4 weeks; Do not have a previous knee joint replacement in the same knee; Do not have high tibial osteotomy; Do not have neurological disorders, epilepsy, psychiatric conditions, other chronic pain conditions; Do not have metal implants in the skull; Do not have a loss of sensation in the limbs. If you decide to take part you would: Be contacted by the researcher to determine your eligibility for the study Be scheduled for testing if you are eligible and willing to take part in the study Sign the Consent Form when you attend the first testing session Attend 3 testing sessions (approximately 2 hours per session): 1) before total knee replacement, 2) 3 months and 3) 6 months after total knee replacement. The testing will include several non-invasive measures of brain representations of the quadriceps muscles, central pain mechanisms, and motor function and questionnaires. Will I be paid to take part in the research study? You will be reimbursed ($50.00 per session) for travel and parking expenses associated with the research study visits. If you would like more information or are interested in being part of the study, please contact: Name: Dr Wei-Ju Chang Email: w.chang@neura.edu.au Phone: 02 9399 1260 This research is being funded by the Physiotherapy Research Foundation.