Back to home page

Brain Bank for Autism news

December 2013

Staff changes at Brain Bank for Autism

From January 2014, Olaf Ansorge will be the new Director of the Brain Bank for Autism & Related Developmental Research (BBA). Professor Margaret Esiri has steered the development of the BBA since its inception and she retires at the end of this month, but will remain a member of its Steering Group. Olaf is Head of Neuropathology at Oxford University and he is already the Director of the Oxford Brain Bank, which includes the BBA and three other research programmes; the Medical Research Council's Control Brain Bank, the Brains for Dementia Research Bank, and a collection linked to research into motor neuron disease.

Brenda Nally is also retiring from her role as Outreach Coordinator of the BBA. This role will mainly be shared from January between Anne Stares in the Tissue Coordinator Team at Oxford and Simon Wallace, the Research Director of Autistica, which provides the funding for the BBA. Anne will extend her current work in the Oxford Brain Bank to include similar work with each donor to the BBA and their family, liaising with other professionals involved at the time of donation, to ensure that the sensitive process of donation is as effective as possible. Simon has worked in autism research since 1996 and he was based at Oxford University for several years prior to joining Autistica. He will continue as an honorary affiliate to the University in his role with the BBA, which will include work with those who register a pledge to donate their brain for research. He will also respond to enquiries about the BBA and will provide information and support.

August 2013

Greater clarity in seeing how the brain works

Scientists at Stanford University have a developed an imaging technique which makes it possible to have a three dimensional view of how the brain functions. You can see a film about the technique, known as 'clarity', and read about it in the article in Nature magazine here. This includes images of the frontal lobes of a seven year old boy who had autism and it highlights how much this technique will help neuroscientists to understand the cellular composition of the brain.

April 2013

"Autism: inside the brain bank" - article in the Guardian

A severe shortage of brains is hampering potentially groundbreaking research into the causes and nature of autism was reported in the Guardian today.

"It is a matter of regret that we can't do it faster," says Professor Margaret Esiri, director of the initiative. She is optimistic that a clearer understanding of what happens to the brains of people with autism will lead to a faster development of interventions that could improve the quality of life of those affected by the condition. "This is a very positive thing to do, to help future generations. Those families who have done it have appreciated the opportunity. It gave some meaning to the awful experience of losing someone they loved," Esiri says. "We also need as many people as possible who don't have autism to consider donating because we need control tissue. People don't realise that a normal brain can really be valuable for research."

Read full article here.

October 2012

New brain bank for the Netherlands

The Dutch government has provided over 3 million euros to fund the establishment of a brain bank to support research into autism and a wide range of other conditions: ADHD, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Provision of the resources to carry out research into autism will be a strong focus of its work and the team will work closely with the UK and US autism brain banks to provide the infrastructure to coordinate international effort for the benefit of many families, and many research groups all over the world. The next newsletter of the Brain Bank for Autism will feature an article from the new Dutch brain bank team.

News article written by Brenda Nally of Brain Bank for Autism on brain research featured on Network Autism. Note: there is no charge to join Network Autism, a networking opportunity provided by the National Autistic Society for autism professionals, which already has 2250 members.

September 2012

Autism: Banking on new brain donors. Article by Karen Weintraub

This excellent article was posted on on 20 August 2012. This article cannot be accessed directly from the UK on the BBC’s US website, so you can read it in full here.

"When his son Alexei was first diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Christopher LePoer took some time off work to try to understand why his child couldn’t speak, had highly irregular sleep patterns and walked solely on his toes. After weeks spent ploughing through medical websites and research he came to one unsettling conclusion: scientists didn’t understand either...."

Read full article here

April 2012

Funding for brain banks

The Medical Research Council announced on 29th March that it will award £1.35 million for 2012/13 to help to meet the costs of brain banking for research in the UK. This is primarily to ensure that research into dementia can go ahead effectively but brain research into autism, through the UK Brain Bank for Autism at Oxford, will also benefit from this award.

World Autism Awareness Day

A very interesting and wide range of information about autism is published today, in recognition of World Autism Awareness Day, by the Science Faculty at the Open University. The team working in brain research at the OU work in partnership with the Brain Bank for Autism. Click here to read.

April 2011

The National Autistic Society has published an information sheet about brain research on its website. Download here

Lorna Wing has written about her experience of her daughter Suzie’s donation to the Brain Bank for Autism.

This is published in the Spring 2011 edition of the Communication magazine, published by the National Autistic Society. Download here

January 2011

International Brain Awareness Week

This takes place between 14th and 20th March. This year it coincides with UK Autism Awareness Week. On the afternoon of Tuesday 15th March, the Brain Bank for Autism will be part of an open meeting about brain research to be held at Cardiff University. This will be hosted by Sue Leekam, Professor of Autism at Cardiff University and Chair of the Wales Autism Research Centre. If you wish to attend, please email us here as soon as possible, since places are limited in number.

The international campaign is coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, 745 Fifth Avenue, Suite 900 New York, NY 10151, T: (212) 223-4040 / F: (212) 593-7623 ( Visit the website at: BAW Web site.

Please take any opportunity you have to raise awareness of the need for this research and please ask others to visit the Brain Bank for Autism website.


The charity, Unique, works to provide information about rare chromosome disorders to families and to professionals. It is an international support group, with a membership of over 7000 in 77 countries and it has published an article about the UK Brain Bank for Autism in its latest newsletter. The first of 10 donations so far made to the bank was from a young girl who had IDIC 15q chromosomal disorder. When they authorised it, her parents wrote: "We found some consolation in being able to help others by donating her brain tissue in order to further research." When other members in the UK become aware of the research initiatives associated with the BBA, they can decide if they want to give their support. For further information about Unique, please visit

Spring 2010

Download our newsletter as an e-book or as a pdf.

Autism Speaks UK, which has supported the development of the BBA, has become Autistica. The BBA welcomes this development and acknowledges the huge contribution made by Autistica to funding autism research in the UK.

August 2009

Information Item

Research investigators who seek brain tissue from control subjects as part of their project should contact Dr Colin Smith, Consultant Neuropathologist, who is Principle Investigator for the MRC Sudden Death Brain and Tissue Bank in Edinburgh. The bank is able to sample specific tissues as required for specific medical research projects which have appropriate ethical approval.
For more information please visit the website.

Email Colin

May 2009

Funding gained for Brain Bank for Autism's first research project

Autism Speaks has provided the funding for a pilot study to carry out imaging of the brains affected by autism which have been donated to the brain bank since it was set up last year.   It will use the most advanced brain-scanning techniques, which will enable scientists to carry out detailed examination of the structure of the brain.  One of the world's leading centres for brain imaging (FMRIB) is located at the site in Oxford where the brain bank is based.  There is considerable scope for advancing understanding of altered brain structure in autism by post mortem brain scanning. In particular, the value of prolonged diffusion tensor imaging over about 18 hours has been highlighted in planning this project.  This can give information about cerebral connectivity that cannot be obtained in any other way. FMRIB is leading the world in this type of imaging, including that on post mortem brains, and could develop protocols that could be followed in other countries as well as in the UK. This form of research should not only develop our understanding of how autism affects the way the brain functions and is structured; it could also point to new ideas for interventions which would improve the lives of people with autism.

On May 21st, the Thomas Willis Oxford Brain Collection (TWOBC), which hosts the Brain Bank for Autism & Related Developmental Research (BBA), held its first Research Meeting to give information about the findings of its research over many years into diseases and conditions which affect the central nervous system, particularly neurodegenerative disease such as dementia. The meeting highlighted the wealth of expertise in this research team, which augurs well for the BBA since it will be brought to bear on the research relating to autism which will be carried out in future years by this team and in collaboration with colleagues in the US and elsewhere. Margaret Esiri, Professor of Neuropathology and Director of the BBA and of the wider TWOBC, gives an account of the potential for research using post-mortem brain donation on the following blog sites:


Oxford University

March 2009

Brain Awareness Week

From 16th to 22nd March 2009, Brain Awareness Week (BAW) will help to emphasise the need for post mortem research into how the brain develops and functions, thus supporting the work of the Brain Bank for Autism in the UK (BBA). BAW is an international initiative which will stimulate the development of international brain banking, of which the BBA is one of the few exemplars. BAW is dedicated to advancing public awareness about the progress and benefits of brain research. Founded and coordinated by the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives and its sister organisation, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain, BAW is now entering its fourteenth year as a catalyst for public understanding of brain science. The Dana Alliances are joined in the campaign by partners from around the world, including universities, hospitals, patient groups, government agencies, schools, service organisations, and professional associations.

For more information, please visit the Dana Alliance website

February 2009

The Board of Research Autism has agreed to endorse and support the Brain Bank for Autism & Related Developmental Research.

Research Autism is the only UK charity exclusively dedicated to research into interventions in autism.  It carries out high quality, independent research into new and existing health, education, social and other interventions. Its goal is the improvement of quality of life and outlook for the individuals affected and those around them and it has the active support of some of the world’s leading figures in autism and research.

Its website is one of the biggest, most up-to-date, and most scientifically reliable websites in the world for information about autism and the issues facing people with autism.

On 10th February 2009, its Board of Trustees considered and approved the recommendation of its Scientific and Advisory Committee to endorse and support the Brain Bank for Autism research programme. This will enable more people to know about our work and it will help us to disseminate information about the research we undertake.

September 2008

Autism Speaks Newsletter features the Brain Bank for Autism. Read more (opens pdf)

August 2008

News article featured in Communication Magazine

Asking people with autism and their families to consider donating brain tissue for research is contentious. Here, Brenda Nally, of Autism Speaks, tells us why the charity backs the parent-led post-mortem brain tissue donation programme. Read article

Useful information

The following downloadable documents give more information about the Brain Bank for Autism and its work.

BBA Newsletter

2012/13 Edition - view here

2011 Edition - view here

2010 Edition - view here

If you would like to receive copies of future newsletters by email please register below.

  1. pass


A message from our supporters

A message from James Cusack, one of our supporters

Have a question?
Send it to us here

Please complete our enquiry form and one of our team will get in touch.

ask us a question

Become a brain donor or supporter

Register as a brain donor or register your support for our programme.

Register as a brain donor or supporter

Urgent brain tissue donations

To speak to our donations team please telephone us on

0800 089 0707