The South West Dementia Brain Bank

BRACE has been a long-standing supporter of the South West Dementia Brain Bank (the Brain Bank), providing significant funding commitments since the charity’s creation in 1987.

It is the largest dementia brain bank in the UK, with tissue samples from the bank underpinning researchers' work across the country.

The Brain Bank does not receive government funding and is reliant on charities like BRACE and their supporters, to keep their work going.

What is the Brain Bank?

The Brain Bank is based in the Learning and Research building at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, and contains brain tissue from more than 1300 donors.

Donations come from people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, as well as older people without any memory problems. The tissue is frozen or fixed so it can be stored long-term, and a wealth of information relating to pathology is collected. The tissue can then be used over decades, and supports research in South West England, the rest of the UK and internationally.

It is a member of Brains for Dementia Research (BDR), a network of brain bank facilities across England and Wales. By coordinating work across brain banks, BDR aims to set a gold standard for brain donation, provide more information about the donors throughout their later life and boost the number of brains donated. The Brain Bank is also a member of the MRC UK Brain Bank Network, which was established to "provide high quality brain tissue to scientists and clinicians to carry out cutting edge neurosciences research" and to "support major initiatives on research into neurological disorders".

Why is the Brain Bank important?

The Brain Bank is a vital resource. You cannot get to clinical trial without using human brain tissue first. Without it, we wouldn’t have drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2022 alone, the Brain Bank sent more than 11000 tissue samples to researchers in the UK and around the world, making research projects possible.

Comparing brain tissue from people who had dementia and from people who did not allows researchers to identify differences, increased the understanding of how dementia causes damage to the brain. Examining brain tissue post-mortem is also vital for accurate diagnosis, and aids research because it reveals which symptoms match up with particular areas in the brain.

For more information about the SWDBB, including how to become a brain donor, please click here

The Medical Research Council produced this short video about the SWDBB:

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