Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.
15 Jan 2016
This week Mr John Scott, a member of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, was able to meet his grey and his white matter in models made by the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (CCACE) and the National Museum of Scotland which are due to form part of a new gallery opening in summer 2016. Sylvie Kruiniger talks to CCACE’s Dr Simon Cox about the project.
(Image copyright: National Museums of Scotland)
How many people can say that they have held their own brain in their hands? In this picture, Mr Scott is doing just that. Its size, shape and folds perfectly match those housed inside his head. The 3D print of his brain’s outer surface will sit alongside a strikingly beautiful image of his white matter etched in glass at the National Museums of Scotland from summer 2016.
Mr Scott’s brain has been imaged numerous times over the past decade as part of studies of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 (LBC1936). The team, led by Professor Ian Deary (whose office we have visited in a previous post), used different types of MRI scan generated by the University of Edinburgh’s Brain Research Imaging Centre to generate the two objects for the museum’s collection. His white matter was mapped by a diffusion tensor MRI and, for the 3D print, his cortical surface was mapped by a standard structural scan. [...]
Continue reading: Behind the picture: When Mr Scott met his brain
14 Dec 2015
In a previous blog post Susan Jonas explained why she plans to donate her brain to research. But what happens to a brain once it reaches a brain bank? How is it handled to make sure it is in the best possible state to use in research? Here Dr Candida Tasman and Dr Laura Palmer from the South West Dementia Brain Bank at the University of Bristol explain.
Read more about Laura Palmer’s working life.
Find out more about brain banking on our website. [...]
Continue reading: What happens to a donated brain?
14 Dec 2015
Dr Laura Palmer is the manager of the South West Dementia Brain Bank at the University of Bristol, which is part of the MRC-led UK Brain Banks Network. Here she tells us about her working life, the pressure of a part-time PhD, and why people are always fascinated by her job.
Career in brief
- Undergraduate degree in pathology and microbiology
- Eleven years at the South West Dementia Brain Bank, starting as the bank technician and becoming brain bank manager
- Part-time PhD over eight years while working at the bank
As soon as I saw a job at the bank advertised I knew it was perfect for me. It brought together my degree knowledge with my interest in dementia stemming from my grandma’s vascular dementia. I didn’t have all of the necessary experience but I was persistent and keen to learn. At the time of my interview I was working nights in a supermarket!
Things have changed dramatically in the brain bank while I’ve been here. We’ve really grown and developed – we used to accept about 12 donations a year, now it’s more like 40. Public awareness of brain donation has increased really positively.
I called my PhD the ‘never-ending thesis’. It took eight years when I’d hoped to complete it in six. I began it part-time within about a year of starting to work here, funded by a wonderful local charity called BRACE which supports a lot of the bank’s work. Balancing my PhD with my job and trying to have a life was really difficult. It’s fantastic to be able to focus solely on my job now. [...]
Continue reading: Working life: Brain bank manager Dr Laura Palmer
5 Nov 2015
Susan Jonas helped to donate her aunt’s brain to medical research in 2013, an experience that inspired her to sign up to donate her own brain after her death. Here she explains the process around donating her aunt’s brain, and why she believes contributing to brain research in this way is so important.
I hadn’t thought much about brain donation until I saw in my aunt’s will that she wanted to donate her body to medical research. I had seen her will because I had enduring power of attorney over her affairs – otherwise I wouldn’t recommend stating such a wish in a will because by the time wills are usually read it would be too late to act.
My aunt was a lovely lady who moved to live near me in her 80s. She went into residential care after her behaviour began to grow a little odd and it became obvious that she couldn’t live on her own.
I knew she wasn’t going to live forever, so began to look into how to make sure her wishes could be met. She was a person who liked helping others in her lifetime and it seemed fitting that she would continue to help people in her death. [...]
Continue reading: Why I’m going to donate my brain to research
27 Aug 2015
There are more than 12,000 brains stored and ready for use by researchers in ten banks across the country ― and they’re easier to access than you might think. Here Dr L. Miguel Martins from the MRC Toxicology Unit explains what he gets out of working with brain tissue and provides some tips for researchers starting out.
Miguel (second from right) and his team.
I found out about the availability of deceased human brain tissue for my work because I have long-term collaborations ― since at least 2003 ― with colleagues at the UCL Institute of Neurology, which supports the Queen Square Brain Bank for Neurological Disorders, part of the UK Brain Banks Network.
My team’s research focuses on studying the genetics and cell signalling networks involved in Parkinson’s disease. I see using human brain tissue as being able to come full circle: Parkinson’s is a human disease which we investigate using animal models of the disease, and then validate in brain tissue donated by patients with Parkinson’s. [...]
Continue reading: Why I use human brain tissue in my research
21 Mar 2013
James Ironside (stack of brain samples bottom right)
Scientists working on brain diseases are often disheartened by the tricky process of tracking down human tissue samples for their work. But now they can use a new database to speed up their searches, explains James Ironside, Director of the UK Brain Banks Network.
Frustrating to find, time-consuming to request, and trapped behind endless paperwork; these are just some of the reasons neuroscientists give for not using human tissue samples in their research.
Over the past few years I’ve been trying to address these problems in my role as Director of the UK Brain Banks Network, a group of brain banks that the MRC established across the UK in 2009, which are funded by the MRC, the NHS and five charities: the MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Autistica.
The 10 banks collect, store and provide human brain tissue samples from more than 7,000 brains for research. Although scientists can model many aspects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis or motor neuron disease in the lab, they need samples of human brain tissue to validate their work, and understand the full complexity of these disorders. [...]
Continue reading: Speeding up the search for brain samples