What we do

The Neurological Foundation is an independent body and charitable trust that raises funds to ensure this country’s top neuroscientists and clinicians can continue leading-edge research into neurological disorders.

Founded in 1971 the Foundation shares a noble vision with these researchers: to progress research so that significant advances can be made in the prevention and cure of neurological disorders. One day this will greatly reduce the level of suffering and premature death from diseases of the brain and nervous system. Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and motor neurone diseases, stroke, multiple sclerosis, migraine, epilepsy and traumatic brain injury are just a few of the wide spectrum of disorders that are the focus of the research we fund.

The Foundation also supports the education of neuroscientists and neurologists with scholarships and fellowships to enable them to build their careers and continue research.

The Foundation is funded by individual New Zealanders with more than 98% of contributions coming from donations and bequests. No financial assistance is received from the government.

The foundation’s funding policy

Following a policy laid down by the Foundation’s founders, donations are committed to research directly, Bequests are invested unless there is a provision in the will to the contrary or it is obvious that it is to be spent. Investment income is used to make up the shortfall in the research budget. Surplus investment income is reinvested. This system provides the certainty of ongoing funding for career scientists and long-term research projects.

All grant applications are internationally peer-reviewed to ensure top-quality research is funded. In 2011 the Foundation gave over $2 million in grants to researchers and students, with research covering a wide spectrum of neurological disorders.

The Foundation is New Zealand’s only independent neurological research funder.

40 years of funding research

A group of interested parents and health professionals established the Neurological Foundation in 1971. Their objective was to develop a long-standing organisation specifically focused on neurological disorders.

During its establishment the founders, joined by the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the Epilepsy Association, concluded that the only way to improve the outlook for people with neurological disorders was to find the causes, the best treatment and preventative measures, and ultimately the cures. Research was the key. It became the principal focus of the Foundation on its formation and remains so today.

In 1972 five projects were approved for funding at a cost of $28,500. Now 40 years later, partly through prudent investing but mostly because of the generous support of thousands of New Zealanders, the Foundation now commits between $1.5 and $2 million annually.

Public awareness

Alongside committed research the Neurological Foundation also funds valuable education initiatives such as Brain Awareness Week, regular public lecture series, and regularly provides its members and the wider public with information about the latest advances made in neurological disorder research.

History of the Neurological Foundation

(Based on Notes on the Formation and Original Aims of the Neurological Foundation by Philip Wrightson MBE, FRCS, FRACS)

With the development of neurological and neurosurgical services at Auckland Hospital (now Auckland City Hospital) in the 1960s came the need for research and development which was strengthened by the establishment of the Medical School in the early 1970s. Colleagues at the University of Otago and other neurological and neurosurgical treatment centres throughout New Zealand were also enthusiastic about the concept – the demands of neurological research including high cost and a lengthy time frame necessitated a centralised national funding and evaluation system.

In 1970 Professor Val Chapman of the University of Auckland's Botany Department initiated the formation of a neurological research organisation. He was joined by Mr John Seabrook of the long-established Auckland car importer Seabrook Fowldes Motors, the Mayor of Auckland Sir Dove-Myer Robinson, Wellington surgeon Roland O’Regan and others.

A scientific steering committee was set up in 1971 comprising Professor Chapman, Professor John Carman of the University of Auckland's Anatomy Department, neurologists Dr Barry Cant and Dr Gavin Glasgow, and neurosurgeon Philip Wrightson. It was decided that the proposed organisation would focus on research into neurological areas, leaving patient support and advocacy to others (the Epilepsy Association and the Multiple Sclerosis Society were involved in the formation process) and that assessment of research applications would be rigorous.

The founders decided that the Neurological Foundation would be a true foundation – with all donations invested, and projects funded from the interest. The Bryant Trust of Hamilton initiated the Foundation’s funds with a donation of $45,000 (valued at approximately $350,000 today).

It is a tribute to the foresight of those pioneers and the unstinting generosity of thousands of New Zealanders that nearly 40 years later the Foundation is able to grant $2 million annually.