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.
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. Read more
Today we announced that a subset of participants of the UK’s longest-running cohort student, the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, are taking part in a new study about the onset of dementia. Here Laura Phipps, from co-funder of the study Alzheimer’s Research UK, explains how such well-studied people could be key to finding out why people develop dementia.
Prof Nick Fox (left) and Dr Jon Schott (right) at the Dementia Research Centre at UCL will lead the neuroscience sub-study with Prof Marcus Richards of the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing (Image copyright: Alzheimer’s Research UK)
OK, so they won’t necessarily need to be in the scanner on their birthday (perhaps too much to ask!) but the group were all born in the same week in March 1946. And now they’re approaching the big 7-0, they’re giving back a unique gift to research by agreeing to take part in a brain imaging study to reveal important insights into dementia.
The volunteers, all members the MRC National Survey of Health and Development, have been contributing to research since they were born. This incredible group of people have had regular assessments as birthdays have come and gone, to help researchers at the MRC Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL understand more about the impact of life on health. You can learn more about the National Survey of Health and Development by watching this video. Read more