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.
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
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. Read more