School of Medical Sciences

Neurological Foundation Douglas Human Brain Bank

The New Zealand Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank is established in the Department of Anatomy and Medical Imaging. The bank provides tissue for research programmes such as the pattern of cell death and chemical changes in Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, Epilepsy and Motor Neuron Disease.

This initiative has the enthusiastic support of:

  • the Alzheimer's Foundation (Auckland)
  • NZ Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Society (ADARDS)
  • Huntington's Disease Association of New Zealand
  • the Parkinsonism Society of New Zealand
  • the Schizophrenia Fellowship
  • the NZ Epilepsy Association.


Ethically approved procedures have been developed for the acquisition of postmortem normal and diseased human brains. Normal, Huntington's, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Epilepsy, Motor Neuron, Stroke and Schizophrenia Diseased human brain material is obtained from the Auckland City Hospital mortuary which provides the mortuary services for the Auckland metropolitan area (population over 1,000,000). Additional Huntington's and Parkinson's brains are air-freighted from other centres throughout New Zealand. The studies have the support of the Huntington's Disease Association of New Zealand, the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Society (ADARDS), the Parkinsonism Society of New Zealand and other neurological associations who notify us when a Huntington's, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's patient has died and assist in arrangements for the bequeathing of the brain to the Brain Bank for research purposes. A close working relationship has been established with these associations and a special "donor package" is available with information from the families of potential donors which details the necessary procedures for the bequest of brain tissue to the Brain Bank for research studies.


The brains are obtained as soon after death as possible, normally within 2-12 hours. The normal human tissue is taken from subjects who had previously been in good health with no known history of neurological disease or drug treatment and who had died suddenly without receiving medication (eg, road traffic accidents, sudden fatal myocardial infarction etc.). All human tissue bequests are routinely tested to exclude potentially hazardous infectious diseases (eg, HIV, Hep B, Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease etc).


All human brain tissue is carefully documented and stored to form a comprehensive human brain tissue bank in the department for studies on neurological diseases. Tissue has been received from over 300 normal and diseased human brains covering a wide variety of neurodegenerative diseases; this is an invaluable and unique collection of human brain material. The collection procedures are very efficient, with a shorter postmortem delay than is possible at most of overseas brain banks. As a result, requests for human brain tissue have been received from overseas research laboratories and research groups have established very productive and mutually beneficial research collaborations with leading brain research groups in New Zealand, Europe, Scandinavia and Japan.

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