Mitochondrial function is required to meet the energetic and metabolic requirements of the brain. Abnormalities in mitochondrial function, due to genetic or developmental factors, mitochondrial toxins, aging or insufficient mitochondrial quality control contribute to neurological and psychiatric diseases. Studying bioenergetics from postmortem human tissues has been challenging due to the diverse range of human genetics, health conditions, sex, age, and postmortem interval. Furthermore, fresh tissues that were in the past required for assessment of mitochondrial respiratory function were rarely available. Recent studies established protocols to use in bioenergetic analyses from frozen tissues using animal models and cell cultures. In this study we optimized these methods to determine the activities of mitochondrial electron transport in postmortem human brain. Further we demonstrate how these samples can be used to assess the susceptibility to the mitochondrial toxin rotenone and exposure to the reactive lipid species 4-hydroxynonenal. The establishment of such an approach will significantly impact translational studies of human diseases by allowing measurement of mitochondrial function in human tissue repositories.