2.26.2006

Donating Your Brain to Science
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Scientists are dedicated - for example, spending your afterhours working on new memory tests or optimizing current tests or writing scientific articles after you have seen patients all day, many of whom hit the beaches of Omaha, though lamentably fewer today than in 1998 when Saving Private Ryan was released; or, they held Hamburger Hill, felt the Tet Offensive, or were part of Gulf War I or the current conflict. There are lots of memories there - I remember looking out towards Ford Island and the USS Arizona Memorial which was less than a half mile from our house. The scientist I am referring to is Dr. Ashford of course, who helps veterans on a daily basis; lately we have been working on the subtleties of action script and getting new tests optimized, often until the late hours. One of the tangible things you can do to help is leaving your brain to science

A while back we posted the story of Einstein's brain, fo example, as part of a longer post.

Many other people are doing the same, as societal focus switches towards early detection of dementia. This piece was especially moving, so here it is, though be warned it may not be for everyone in its discussion of the brain. If that might bother you, than don't read on

Probing a Mind for a Cure

By Stacey Burling
Ph. Inquirer Staff Writer

Bob Moore's brain lay on a white plastic cutting board.

There was something beautiful about its convoluted hills and valleys, the way rivers of dusky purple and red meandered through the beige flesh.
And mysterious. Here was the essence of a man who had gone to Yale, loved a woman, fathered six children, relished ice cream and Mozart and Kierkegaard and e.e. cummings, favored questions over answers and change over complacency, hated camping, loathed golf, and, over the last 20 years, had slowly lost the capacity to understand any of it.

He had died that morning in a Wilmington nursing home, years past being able to feed himself or walk or recognize the woman he had married 56 years before.
What had gone wrong with his brain?

Before neuropathologist Mark Forman lifted his knife last December in a basement autopsy suite at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he could see that Bob Moore's brain wasn't normal. But it would be weeks before he could tell Moore's family what had made the man they loved disappear long before his heart stopped beating.

Robert B. Moore, a Presbyterian minister, was a spiritual man, but he was also a believer in science and medicine.

After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 1993, at age 67, he entered a clinical trial of an experimental drug. He let doctors, intent on finding ways to detect dementia earlier, tap his spinal fluid and compare it with healthy people's.
And he decided that his brain would be autopsied at Penn's Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research, founded and run by two nationally prominent dementia researchers.

Doctors can tell with about 90 percent accuracy whether a patient has Alzheimer's, the most common dementia. But looking through a microscope at brain tissue after death is still the only way to diagnose it with absolute certainty.
Perfecting diagnosis is critical in the emerging era of drugs designed for specific types of dementia.

But diagnosis is just the beginning. By studying brains from patients such as Bob Moore, scientists hope to figure out how and why the damage occurred - and learn to prevent it. More than one in five women and one in six men who reach age 65 will develop dementia before they die, a study this month reported. By 2050, more than 13 million Americans will have Alzheimer's, another study estimated.

>>read more from the article



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