Our ageing population has a high prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases, and infectious diseases of the nervous system are emerging in Asia. Extrapolation from animal research to humans has the disadvantage of species differences in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and genetics. The systematic collection and cryopreservation of human brains at autopsy in "brain banks" is a useful resource. Standardised protocols for brain retrieval, dissection, cryopreservation, and distribution have been established. Brain bank networks in the USA and Europe facilitate data and specimen exchange, and make high quality tissue available. The Sri Lankan population has distinctive demographic and ethnic features which may modulate the presentation of neurological disorders. Life expectancy of 74.1 years is the highest in the region. The over-60 population (currently 9.6%) is expected to increase rapidly to reach 13% in 2010 and 21% in 2025. To develop effective management strategies, it is essential to have baseline scientific data on nervous system disorders. Due to its cultural and religious practices, Sri Lanka is in a unique position to obtain brain tissue for research.