BRACE has generously been given three 3D brain models, by the Health Tech Hub at UWE. These brains will be a valuable tool for dementia researchers and will allow everyone, from scientists, to general members of the public to have an increased awareness of the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease on the brain.

Using brain scans and 3D imaging provided by the dementia research group ‘ReMemBr Group,' which is part-funded by BRACE, the Health Tech Hub were able to accurately produce two Alzheimer’s Disease brain models and a healthy brain model exactly to scale, using a 3D printer. Each brain took 72 hours to print and is made from a hard resin material.

Dr Elizabeth Coulthard of the ReMemBr Group said:

“By printing from real brain scans, we can clearly see which areas of the brain are affected by dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The areas of brain that shrink are different in different dementias. The memory area, called the hippocampus, shrinks early on in Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, the front of the brain shrinks first in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (Pick’s disease).”

There are many differences between the Alzheimer’s disease brain and a healthy brain, and these can be seen and felt when handling the 3D brain models, most noticeably the weight of the Alzheimer’s disease brain is a lot less than the healthy brain.

Dr Laura Palmer, manager of the South West Dementia Brain Bank:

‘A healthy brain weighs between 1300 and 1400 grams; however, a brain with Alzheimer's will weigh between 1170 and 1260 grams. In people with end-stage Alzheimer's disease we often find that the brain can weigh as little as around 1000 grams at the time of death.’

Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive atrophy to the brain - a wasting away and shrinking of the brain tissue, which happens at a much faster speed than the old age-related shrinking, that would be expected in a healthy brain. The accelerated brain shrinking that happens in an Alzheimer’s disease brain, results in the brain weighing a lot less than a healthy brain.

The 3D brains will be publicly showcased for the first time on Wednesday 15th May to mark the beginning of Dementia Awareness week, during BRACE’s Design for Dementia event.

BRACE would like to say a big thank you, to the Health Tech Hub for their generous gift, which will be put to good use by BRACE, the ReMemBr group and the South West Dementia Brain Bank, who will all use the brain models as aids to teach and raise awareness of dementia.

Written by Nikola Scanlon