To facilitate alcohol-related research, NIAAA is currently supporting the collection of autopsied human brain tissue from control and alcoholic individuals for distribution to qualified alcohol research investigators. Tissue collection and distribution is provided by the Tissue Resource Center (TRC), University of Sydney, Australia. The goal of the "brain bank" is to provide human brain tissue for the study and characterization of the neuropathology, neurobiology and neurogenetics of chronic alcohol consumption.

About the TRC

The Tissue Resource Center (TRC) is located in the Neuropathology Unit of the Department of Pathology, University of Sydney, Australia, and is under the direction of Professor Clive Harper. The purpose of the TRC is to collect and distribute post-mortem human brain tissue to be used by neuroscience researchers for the study of alcohol-related brain disorders 1.

To facilitate the collection of human brain tissue by the TRC, the brain donor program, Using Our Brains, has recently been established. Through this completely voluntary program, participants who agree to donate their brains to the TRC upon their death will receive annual medical and lifestyle evaluations. This will enable the TRC to obtain more accurate and detailed descriptions of the medical histories of the brain tissue collected. Visit the Using Our Brains donor program website for additional information.

Human Tissue for Research

Australia has a large number of alcoholics who do not co-abuse other drugs. This makes the alcoholic population of Australia a unique resource for researchers studying alcohol's long term effects on the brain. Since 1985, the TRC at the University of Sydney has been developing a "brain bank" of normal and alcoholic human brain tissue. The Center is collecting human brain tissue at autopsy from alcoholic, malnourished and control cases having confirmed clinical and pathological diagnoses. Diagnoses are confirmed by physician interviews, review of hospital medical records, questionnaires to next-of-kin, and from pathology, radiology and neuropsychology reports.

Investigators interested in alcohol research may submit a request for tissue from the TRC. Brain tissue may be obtained as either fresh-frozen or formalin-fixed samples.

  • Fresh-frozen tissue is initially cut into 10 mm coronal slices and further block dissected into the following brain regions; prefrontal cortex, anterior and posterior cingulate cortex, caudate putamen, rostral and caudal thalamus, basal forebrain, hippocampus, amygdala, primary visual cortex, cerebellum, midbrain, pons and medulla. All tissue is subsequently snap-frozen and stored at -80 oC.
  • Formalin-fixed tissue is fixed in 15% buffered formalin, embedded in agar, and sliced coronally at 3 mm intervals. Blocks of fixed brain tissue are prepared from superior frontal cortex, cingulate gyrus, parietal cortex, temporal cortex, occipital cortex, hippocampus, thalamus and hypothalamus, basal ganglia, mamillary body, pons, medulla, cerebellum (lateral) and cerebellum (vermis). All cortical blocks contain substantial amounts of white matter.

Further descriptions of the tissue available to investigators include the age, sex, post-mortem delay, pH of tissue and disease classification. Among the potential uses of this tissue are to identify neuroanatomical, neuropharmacological, neurochemical and genetic changes in humans induced by chronic alcohol consumption. Questions and inquiries concerning the TRC and the availability of brain tissue may be directed through the TRC website.

Requests for Human Tissue

Requests for alcoholic and control brain tissue samples are to be made directly to the TRC Coordinator:

Donna Sheedy
(-61-2) 9351 6143 or 2410

To receive tissue, investigators must have IRB or ethics approval as necessary from their parent institution for the use of human tissue. All tissue requests received by the TRC are subsequently reviewed independently by an external Scientific Advisory Board (SAB). The SAB makes the final recommendation to NIAAA and the TRC for the distribution of tissue.

Upon SAB recommendation, the TRC will supply to the investigator the requested tissue and appropriate documentation stripped of all personal identifiers. Tissue will be provided at no charge. However, the Principal Investigator and Research Institution will be responsible for all shipping costs incurred, and for complying with U. S. Customs regulations for the import of human tissue from foreign countries.

Brain tissue that is received from the TRC is for the exclusive use of the Principal Investigator, and cannot be redistributed to other researchers without authorization from the TRC. All material remains the property of the TRC, and any remaining material must be returned on request. All unused tissue must be returned to the TRC upon completion of the research project.

The TRC requires that each Principal Investigator provide an annual listing of all presentations, disclosures, and publications arising from the use of the materials. The Principal Investigator also agrees to acknowledge the contributions of the Tissue Resource Center (TRC), supported by NIH Grant R01 AA12725 (NIAAA), in any and all oral and written presentations, disclosures, and publications resulting from any and all analyses of the brain tissue.


  1. Sarris M, Garrick TM, Sheedy D and Harper CG (2002) Banking for the Future: an Australian Experience in Brain Banking. Pathology 34: 225-229.
  2. Harper C, Dixon G, Sheedy D, Garrick T (2003) Neuropathological alterations in alcoholic brains. Studies arising from the New South Wales Tissue Resource Centre. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 27 (6): 951-961

NIAAA Coordinators

Matthew Reilly, Ph.D.
Program Officer, Division of Neuroscience and Behavior

Antonio Noronha, Ph.D.
Director, Division of Neurosciences and Behavior

NIAAA Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) Members

Tatiana Foroud, Ph.D.
P. Michael Conneally Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics
Chancellor's Professor
Director of Hereditary Genomics Division
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indianapolis, IN

Fulton T. Crews, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC 27599

R. Adron Harris, Ph.D.
Professor and Director
Waggoner Center for Alcohol & Addiction Research
University of Texas
Austin, TX 78713