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Newcastle brain bank recruits 200th donor for dementia research

Researchers at Newcastle University are calling for more people to consider brain donation after the 200th donor signed up for the brain bank, a vital tool to help researchers defeat dementia.

The brain bank is part of a £2m initiative called Brains for Dementia Research, which collects brain tissue as a resource for scientists. Despite reaching this important milestone, staff are keen to highlight the need for more people across the North East to make the same pledge.

Brains for Dementia Research, jointly funded by the charities Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society, was set up in 2007 to address a nationwide need for brain tissue. The Newcastle brain bank is one of six assessment and donation centres across the UK and recruits donors from across the North East. The brain tissue it collects will allow scientists to unravel the biology of dementia and will help in the search for vital new treatments.

Dr Chris Morris, Scientific Director of the Newcastle Brain Tissue Resource described reaching the milestone as a big step. He said: “It is brilliant news that Brains for Dementia Research in Newcastle has recruited its 200th donor and we would like to say a big thank you to those who have already agreed to donate.

“We understand that brain donation is a very personal decision, which should be supported by friends and family, but we would urge more people in the region to find out about what it is and how they could get involved.

“Brains for Dementia Research and tissue resources like the one at Newcastle University provide scientists with the vital brain tissue they need to perform top class dementia research. There is still so much progress to be made in understanding and potentially curing dementia and all of this work requires donated brain tissue. We hope that by recruiting more donors, the tissue bank in Newcastle will continue to play a key role in finding the answers to this terrible condition for future generations.

After signing up, donors are asked to complete a short interview every one or two years - to monitor their performance on some simple memory and thinking tasks. Anyone over the age of 65 can register to be a donor even if they do not have dementia. Healthy brain tissue is also very important, as it helps scientists to understand how normal ageing differs from dementia.

Judi Pyle, 68, a retired police officer from North Shields, learnt about Brains for Dementia Research while visiting her friend who has dementia with Lewy bodies. After reading more about the scheme, she signed up to donate her brain to the Newcastle brain bank.

She said: “Everyone knows that you can donate blood and sign up to be an organ donor, but I had absolutely no idea that you could sign up to donate your brain. When I read more about the project, I realised that there was absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t sign up – my brain’s not going to be useful to me when I’m gone so why shouldn’t it be useful to someone else?

“I know the devastating effect that dementia can have on people and their families and if my donation can help to provide the answers for people in the future then I’m more than happy to do my bit. I wish them luck in getting to 300.”

More information can be found on donating your brain for the Brains for Dementia Research programme in Newcastle or contact Debbie Lett or Carein Todd on  0191 208 1231 or email


published on: 6 February 2012