Centre for Brain Research launches first NZ Sports Human Brain Bank
6 December 2019
The Centre for Brain Research (CBR) at the University of Auckland is launching a new research focus on the impact of concussion and repeated head impacts in sports on the human brain.
The CBR is extending the reach and research offered by the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank – New Zealand’s only human brain bank – by launching the New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank Initiative.
From December 2019, the new extension to the brain bank will collect from donors who have played contact sports like rugby, boxing, soccer, and others, whether or not they have experienced a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI), to scientifically research how head impacts in sports influence brain health and brain disease.
Adding a sports injury aspect to its existing research platform is a significant step for the CBR and promises to deepen our understanding of the impact sports injuries have on the brain. It reflects a growing international focus on traumatic brain injury and brain diseases associated with repeated head impacts, including Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).
With a large focus on contact sports in our culture, it’s important that New Zealand is part of this global conversation and that our sports people are included and have access to relevant research results
CTE is a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. Internationally, the research has shown that CTE is found in the brains of those with a history of repetitive brain trauma, and most often in contact sport athletes.
By looking at the brain after death, researchers will learn how brain injury can lead to brain disease. They hope those discoveries will inform new ways to prevent and treat brain diseases. Approximately a fifth (21 percent) of all brain injuries in New Zealand are sustained through sport-related activity (ACC Sportsmart.co.nz). In 2018, more than 9,000 reported concussions were in young people 19 years or under. Concussion can cause long-lasting effects on a person’s health and wellbeing.
The New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank Initiative will be part of the University of Auckland’s Centre for Brain Research led by internationally recognised neuroscientist, Distinguished Professor Sir Richard Faull.
The Centre for Brain Research was established in 2009 and is home to New Zealand’s only human brain bank. The team are focused on a unique model of neuroscience that fosters collaboration at every level.
“With a large focus on contact sports in our culture, it’s important that New Zealand is part of this global conversation and that our sports people are included and have access to relevant research results,” says Sir Richard Faull.
“We join a growing global network of international brain banks in Australia, Brazil and the United States who offer this research. We’re proud to partner with them to better understand the impact on the brain.”
The New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank Initiative will be a collaborator in the Concussion Legacy Foundation (CLF) Global Brain Bank. CLF is a United States-based charity that is recruiting top scientists from around the world to study CTE.
In 2008, CLF partnered with Boston University and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to start the world’s first CTE-focused brain bank. That research team, led by Dr Ann McKee, has diagnosed over 400 cases of CTE in the US.
CLF co-founder Dr Chris Nowinski spoke at the launch event along with the director of the new Australian Sports Brain Bank Dr Michael Buckland.
“We are thrilled that Sir Richard Faull and the impressive team at the University of Auckland Center for Brain Research are joining the fight against CTE,” said Dr Nowinski, a former Harvard football player and WWE professional wrestler. “The global sports community needs top scientists like Sir Richard Faull and Dr Buckland studying our brains so we can learn to diagnose and treat this disease.”
“The Australian Sports Brain Bank looks forward to collaborating with our New Zealand colleagues at the New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank Initiative,” said Dr Michael Buckland.
“I hope that by working together we can make a uniquely Antipodean contribution to international collaborative efforts to understand, treat and prevent CTE”.
Nicola Shepheard | Media adviser
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