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Insight blog: Posts tagged with neuroscience

Stories about the people, science and research of the Medical Research Council.

Making Parkinson’s disease research personal

15 Feb 2019

Last month, MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit scientists hosted a lab tour for people affected by Parkinson’s disease. Clinical Programme Leader Dr Esther Sammler, also an honorary consultant neurologist at NHS Tayside, explains why listening to the experiences of people living with the disease is so important for research.

MRC scientists with Dundee Research Interest Group steering committee members

MRC scientists (front row: author Dr Esther Sammler fifth from left, Professor Miratul Muqit third from left; back row: Director Professor Dario Alessi left, Paul Davies right) with Dundee Research Interest Group steering committee members (front row: Group Chair Marc van Grieken far left, Secretary Werner Remmele fourth from left).

Parkinson’s disease is a common condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years. Most people are familiar with the physical signs of the disease, such as slowness of movement, stiffness and limb shaking. But other symptoms – that are just as troubling – include sleep and mood problems, loss of smell, and declining memory skills. In Scotland alone, there are 12,000 people living with the condition. [...]

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Practice – not miracles – makes perfect

19 Jan 2017

Ainslie Johnstone, PhD student at the University of Oxford, studies the amazing ability of the brain to reorganise and adapt after injury. In her commended 2016 Max Perutz Science Writing Award article she describes how enhancing this process could help with brain injury recovery.

On 8 January 2011 Gabrielle Giffords, a US congresswoman, was shot in the head at point-blank range. The bullet struck Giffords’ forehead on the left-hand side and travelled straight through her brain, destroying everything in its path. [...]

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Why MRC-industry asset sharing is a win-win for me

14 Sep 2016

Just how useful is it to get access to a pharmaceutical company compound? Back in 2012 Dr Richard Mead of the University of Sheffield was one of 15 academic project leaders funded by the MRC to research an alternative use for a compound no longer being developed by AstraZeneca. As we launch the next round of the MRC-Industry Asset Sharing Initiative he tells us how the collaboration has brought together the best of both worlds.

Copyright: Richard Mead

Copyright: Richard Mead

I’m no stranger to the pharmaceutical industry. I spent three years in drug development at Celltech in the early 2000s. But even with my experience, it’s still amazing to be reminded of the resources that pharmaceutical companies have at their fingertips. It sounds obvious, but their access to unique compounds, and their ability to make them, is impressive. [...]

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Working life: Trials Manager Jen Lawson

24 Aug 2016

Jennifer Lawson is the Trials Manager for the recently launched Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study looking to do the most in-depth research ever conducted to find out how Alzheimer’s disease develops. She is part of Professor Simon Lovestone’s Translational Neuroscience and Dementia Research group at the University of Oxford.


Career in brief

  • Psychology BSc
  • Worked at the Oxford Mental Health Trust as a Research Coordinator
  • Part time Cognitive Neuroscience MSc whilst working full time at the Trust
  • Managed the feasibility study that has led to this Deep and Frequent Phenotyping study

My career path has been slightly unusual. Like many of my peers studying psychology, I planned to become a clinical psychologist. So I went to gain experience working in Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, assisting with clinical trials and other research studies. [...]

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To the Crick! Part four: Think long and hard

1 Jul 2016

Today, Professor Tim Bliss will be awarded The Brain Prize alongside Graham Collingridge and Richard Morris. Bliss worked at the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) from 1967 to 2015 and is now a visiting worker at The Crick. Archivist Emma Anthony found this photo of the young Bliss in the NIMR records and Sylvie Kruiniger finds out more.

Tim Bliss sits in his lab surrounded by equipment

The work on ‘long term potentiation’ (LTP) by Bliss, Collingridge and Morris has demonstrated how our brains change as we build memories. Bliss and Terje Lømo were the first to detail how LTP worked back in 1973 when they published the results of their studies conducted in anaesthetised rabbits. [...]

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Dementia: care today, cure tomorrow

3 May 2016

Charity partners Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK will be instrumental in involving people living with dementia in the work of the new £250m MRC-led UK Dementia Research Institute. Here Alzheimer’s Society Ambassador Keith Oliver shares his hopes for how the new institute will make life better for people with dementia, now and tomorrow.

Keith Oliver in his garden

Photo copyright: Alzheimer’s Society

My world changed in 2010 when I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 55. My early symptoms were falling over, an element of reduced concentration and being unable to follow things as well as I did previously.

I went to the GP thinking I’d got an ear infection and was sent for an MRI scan. When I had an appointment with a neurologist to discuss the scan he said, totally out of the blue, that it looked like the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. After attending a memory clinic for around four months of quite intensive testing and assessments I received a diagnosis. [...]

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Behind the picture: When Mr Scott met his brain

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.

Mr Scott holds a 3D print of his brain

(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. [...]

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Opening up research

21 May 2014

James Rowe

James Rowe (Image copyright: James Rowe)

MRC-funded research into how the brain processes music was the topic of the winning entry to the Europe PubMed Central ‘Access to Understanding’ science writing competition, announced in March. Here Dr James Rowe from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit tells us about the research, what it means to him, and why he made sure it was published on an open access basis.

I was delighted when I learned that Elizabeth Kirkham had chosen to write about our article in the EuropePMC writing competition, and even more so when it won. This paper was special to me for lots of reasons, over and above its scientific merit.

First, it represented an unexpected but highly productive and enjoyable collaboration with Dr Jessica Grahn, linking my work at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge Department of Clinical Neurosciences. Such innovative studies are greatly helped by core funding to the unit from the MRC, which encourages creative dialogue between scientists.   [...]

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Andrew Jackson: Listening to brain cells

5 Feb 2014

Andrew Jackson is a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow in the Newcastle University Institute of Neuroscience. He told Katherine Nightingale about research, part-funded by the MRC, which aims to decipher the brain patterns that control arm and hand function to help paralysed people.

Like many researchers who run their own lab, Andrew Jackson doesn’t spend as much time at the bench as he’d like. But he does get to spend the odd hour or two doing one of his favourite things — listening to brain cells.

“They become like old friends,” he says. “We’ve been able to track the same neuron over days, weeks and months and you start to get to know them quite well.”

There are important reasons for getting to know neurons. Andrew and his colleagues are hoping to use the knowledge they gain from listening in on the brain to allow paralysed people to control external devices such as prosthetic arms using just their thoughts. [...]

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