Thomas Willis Brain Collection

The neuropathology project, centred on the Thomas Willis Brain Collection, is concerned with exploring new disease pathways in patient’s tissue with modern techniques. Short term benefits are anticipated in the establishment of molecular tests as predictive or prognostic tools. With direct clinical benefit will likely arise in the medium to or long term.


The project seeks to:

  • Integrate collections with clinical, imaging and biofluid data collected in vivo.
  • Identification of new markers for the diagnosis or stratification of patients.
  • Identification of potential new treatment targets.


The Thomas Willis Brain Collection hosts neuropathological tissue collections including:

  • Brains for Dementia Research / OPTIMA / Neurodegeneration.
  • UK Brain Bank for Autism and Related Developmental Research.
  • UK MRC Control Brain Bank.
  • Oxford Brain Tumour Biobank.

The collection holds both post mortem brains (n = 104) and brain biopsies (n = 587) (Jan 2012).


  • Selection as the UK site for the establishment of the UK MRC Control Brain Bank.
  • Established on-site molecular neuropathology and oncology facility (including cell culture).
  • Integration into UK Brains for Dementia Network.
  • Research:
  • Molecular pathologic and genetic characterisation of juvenile ALS.
  • Identification of new GHR mutations that define a subtype of acromegaly.
  • Establishment of genetic screening, cell culture, and ex-vivo MRS for research into IDH mutant gliomas.
  • Tissue from the neuropathology resource contributes to more than 30 publications per year.


Samples and services can be accessed by internal (University of Oxford and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust) and external investigators.

Access and service requests should be raised through the contact details below.


  • Collaborating centre for the Brains for Dementia Research Initiative (BDR).
  • UK MRC.

Principal Investigator:

Dr Olaf Ansorge.


The Daily Telegraph published “The amazing story of my father’s brain” by Victoria Owen in October 2011 about her family’s experience of donating to the Thomas Willis Brain Bank. The article can be found here.


Address: Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences (Clinical Neurology), Neuroscience Offices, Level 3, West Wing, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington OX3 9DU

NDCN main reception number: 01865 234829 (please specify that your enquiry is about the Thomas Willis Brain Collection)