Centre for Brain Research

Structure of the Centre for Brain Research

Our profile


The Centre for Brain Research exists to identify and develop new treatments for brain disease.

The centre builds on three pillars of strength: world-class neuroscientists, skilled doctors and dedicated communities. Our combined, complementary expertise and knowledge will be a powerful force to address the challenges of neurological disease.

Our founding partners are:

  • The University of Auckland
  • Clinical specialists
  • Community partners
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The University of Auckland


The Centre for Brain Research is located within the University of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest provider of medical and biomedical research. It is renowned as one of the top-ranked universities in the world and internationally recognised for its neuroscience research.

The centre brings together over 70 research groups from across the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, the Faculty of Science and other Faculties within the University. Our neuroscientists boast world-class expertise in key areas such as neurodegeneration, neurogenesis, neuroprotection, neuroplasticity, regeneration and recovery.

Led by the directors Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull and Professor Alan Barber, the Centre’s research interests span four broad areas:

  • Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neuroscience
  • Cognitive and Computational Neuroscience
  • Sensory and Motor Neuroscience

Our expertise extends internationally with links to over 60 groups in major universities and research institutes around the world. This knowledge is underpinned by the $16 million redevelopment of the Grafton Neuroscience laboratories. The new facility provides a hub for the centre, as well as a direct connection to the Neurology and Neurosurgery departments at Auckland City Hospital. The state of the art resources include the Neurological Foundation of New Zealand Human Brain Bank, adult human brain cell culture, stem cell technologies, biomedical imaging, modern electrophysiology capabilities, gene therapies, optical science, audiology, cognition testing, drug technologies and therapeutic trials.

Scientific discovery and dissemination are at the heart of everything we do. Senior researchers from the basic neurosciences and clinical specialities meet monthly to discuss research outcomes and direction. The challenges and discoveries in neurological diseases are shared with frontline care workers from community NGOs. This ethos of collective facilities, active intermixing and collaboration promotes a more effective research environment.     


Clinical specialists


Auckland's Neurology and Neurosurgical hospital departments are amongst the largest in Australasia. The doctors at Auckland District Health Board work in partnership with other expert clinicians from the regional District Health Boards to provide care for a third of New Zealand's population.

These clinical teams are actively involved with leading national and international research projects and have extensive expertise in clinical trials. Already underway are over 30 clinical trials for Alzheimer's disease, stroke, brain trauma, Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington's disease, Muscular Dystrophy and Motor Neurone Disease. Links to neuroscientists, therapists and community workers in the Centre for Brain Research will see these trials further expanded and developed. 

The Centre for Brain Research works with:


Community partners


New Zealand has a well-established network of charities and support groups helping people living with neurological disease. These non-governmental organisations (NGOs) span the country at both a local, regional and national level. Consisting of experienced professionals and supporters, they provide invaluable assistance to patients and their familes.

Each NGO advocates for one type of neurological disease but their ethos is much the same; that of guiding people through the health and social care systems. Services range from fundraising for research or to support people living with brain disease, lobbying, public awareness, education and health or social support. Senior clinicians and neuroscientists from the centre play an important role as patrons or advisers on scientific and medical issues.

Dissemination and education are key aspects of the centre’s mission. Our track record for educational promotion and outreach has already been established through the New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge. This competition for Year 11 secondary school students provides a unique opportunity to involve pupils in science, and engage with the educational community. Visit New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge's website

Long-established community alliances have been formalised into strong partnerships with the Centre for Brain Research and we work closely with a number of community organisations. Consultation with community NGOs enables our neuroscientists to undertake the privilege of human tissue research. Our partners have facilitated the development of the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank as well as tikanga research protocols. Clinical and basic science researchers will work in synergy with community experts to increase understanding of these terrible diseases, and ultimately offer hope to those whose lives have been devastated by them.


Our Development

1920s First neurosurgical operations performed in Auckland Hospital by Sir Carrick Robertson
1935 Dr. J.E. Caughey (“Jock”) practises in Auckland City Hospital as the first neurologist
1946 Neurosurgeon Mr. Donald McKenzie helps to establish the first neurosurgical unit at Auckland City Hospital with a 16 bed ward and its own operating theatre
1959 First neurological unit in Auckland established, with ten inpatient beds
1968 First intake of medical students to The University of Auckland School of Medicine. Over 260 applications received for the initial 60 places; all lectures held on main campus
1970 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth opens the new School of Medicine Building at Grafton (24th March)
1973 First cohort of medical students at Auckland completes and graduates in 1974
1975 First PhD degree awarded for neuroscience research
1979 Dr Ernie Willoughby is appointed as a Senior Lecturer in the University of Auckland's Department of Medicine, becoming the first academic in neurology
1981 Professor Richard Faull receives the University’s first human brain donation
1993 The Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank is established
2003 The Auckland Neuroscience Network is established to foster collaboration between neuroscientists
2007 The New Zealand Brain Bee Challenge starts in Auckland
2008 Professor Alan Barber is appointed as the first Chair in Clinical Neurology, funded by the Neurological Foundation
2009 The Centre for Brain Research launches
2011 Brain Recovery Clinic, Biobank, Neurodiscovery Unit and Spinal Cord Research Facility (SCIRF) created
2013 Minds for Minds, Autism network and Freemason's Neurosurgery Chair launched
2015/6 Brain Research New Zealand Core and Dementia Prevention Research Clinic launched
2017 Knowledge Exchange Fellowships and Leo Nilon Fellowships created
2018 Ian and Sue Parton Parkinson’s Disease Travelling Fellowship and CBR Collaboration Awards launched