The outcome of light-based therapeutic approaches depends on light propagation in biological tissues, which is governed by their optical properties. The objective of this study was to quantify optical properties of brain tissue in vivo and postmortem and assess changes due to tissue handling postmortem. The study was carried out on eight female New Zealand white rabbits. The local fluence rate was measured in the VIS/NIR range in the brain in vivo, just postmortem, and after six weeks' storage of the head at -20 degrees C or in 10% formaldehyde solution. Only minimal changes in the effective attenuation coefficient mu(eff) were observed for two methods of sacrifice, exsanguination or injection of KCl. Under all tissue conditions, mu(eff) decreased with increasing wavelengths. After long-term storage for six weeks at -20 degrees C, mu(eff) decreased, on average, by 15 to 25% at all wavelengths, while it increased by 5 to 15% at all wavelengths after storage in formaldehyde. We demonstrated that mu(eff) was not very sensitive to the method of animal sacrifice, that tissue freezing significantly altered tissue optical properties, and that formalin fixation might affect the tissue's optical properties. (C) 2015 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE).