Could You Give Away Your Brain?
Once again, let me start this off with a quote:
“More people need to donate their brains to medical research if cures for diseases like dementia are to be found, UK scientists say”. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7813114.stm)
This is true – After all, how can we perform scientific research on something we don’t have? But would you be willing to give away your brain to science once you had passed on?
“Key protein identified that moves Parkinson’s treatments a step closer – 3 October 2011
New research at the University of Oxford – part-funded by Parkinson’s UK – has identified a key protein called Nedd4 that may lead to the development of potential new treatments for Parkinson’s.”
The human brain is an amazingly complex structure, far too difficult to replicate and impossible to study closely in a living human being – at least without breaking several codes of ethical conduct. The close up study of the brain is essential to further our research in areas such as Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Autism – being just a few of the hundreds of other brain disorders out there. For us as psychologists we would have to perform identical tests across a large sample of subjects in order to achieve valid results; however there are very few brains available for research within the UK – How do we use so little to create meaningful results?
“Our research leads to new trial of ‘iron removal’ drug for Parkinson’s – 12 September 2011
Exciting new research at Imperial College London Hospital is getting underway to test Deferiprone – a drug that helps remove excess iron from the body – as a new treatment for Parkinson’s.”
But why are there so few brains available to such important research? It would seem that it is mostly down to a poor awareness of the subject in general; and then some common misconceptions. I came across some interesting views while scanning through the many pages of internet, but the most used reason I found for not wanting to donate a brain was on the basis of religion. Now this is a whole subject in itself and not one I will go into with this blog. However if you wish to read some of what I was looking at, this would certainly be the most ‘interesting’ source: http://www.sciencebuzz.org/poll/would_you_donate_your_body_to_science_after_you_die
“Parkinson’s UK-funded scientists grow nerve cells from skin cells – 23 August 2011
For the first time our scientists have grown new nerve cells from a person with one of the most rapidly progressing inherited forms of Parkinson’s. This exciting study has the potential to bring about a huge breakthrough in Parkinson’s research.”
Is this good enough? Should we even have to ask? In my opinion the reward for research in this area far outweighs the cost – after all, if we don’t donate it, it will either rot away in the ground or be cremated with us (Unless we opt in for Cryogenics). We have already learned so much from this type of research – a few examples of which you will notice dotted throughout this blog, but without this research we would not be able to establish a link between Dopamine and Parkinson’s disease or the relationship between brain structure and Autism. Furthermore, without being able to test possible solutions on human samples how can we possibly declare our findings are at all relevant to humans?
So back to my first question – Could you give away your brain?
Research quotes taken from: