This Is What Happens To Your Brain When You Donate It To Science

One brain donated to science can be used in up to 50 research studies. Darragh Mason Field/Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank

From Statistic To Realty

For Robin, what was once simply a statistic on a sheet became his reality. The symptoms seeped into his work despite his best efforts. 

When he went to work as a director of education in further education, his tremor was "very, very marked," said Kierek-Bell. "He was always having to put his hand in his pocket."

But he could only pocket the problem for so long. 

The young students he works with in further education are typically studying after they fail to meet grades in the school system. This means "you have to remain in control, but if they see you shaking, they say: 'Oh you’re frightened of me, sir.'"

Of course, that was far from the case, but it didn’t make dealing with difficult students any easier.

"Even if you are on medication, that medication doesn’t always control Parkinson’s. It is as if you are on and off. You’re on your medication, but you’re experiencing an off period, which means the medication isn’t working as it should."

A perfect fit! Darragh Mason Field/Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank

This is one of the many reasons why brain donations are crucial. While we’ve come a long way since the bloodletting and blistering treatments of the late 1800s, scientists are still in the dark as to how to correct the disease. We’ve gotten flashes of insight from animal research, directing us where to focus next, but a cure remains elusive and questions linger.

Why will certain people develop Parkinson’s, uncontrollable tremors shaking their body like earthquakes? Why will others develop Alzheimer’s, their memories slowly slipping away from them? And why does the medication work for some, but not the others?

It is these very questions that brain banks around the world help facilitate investigations of. In fact, the Parkinson's UK Brain Bank is set to reach a milestone this October, with over 1,000 brain donations. This number is a benchmark of all the formative research done to date and still to come.

The beauty, yet difficulty, of our brains is that they are unique like snowflakes, each as individual as the person imbued with its personality. Yet, there are commonalities that neuropathologists can look for. This is why brain banks often accept brains from people without certain conditions like Kierek-Bell – they are, so to speak, "control" brains.

Darragh Mason Field/Parkinson’s UK Brain Bank
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