The South West Dementia Brain Bank

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

What is the SWDBB?

The SWDBB is based in the Learning and Research building at Southmead Hospital in Bristol, and contains brain tissue from almost 1000 donors. 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 SWDBB 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".

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.

Why is the SWDBB important?

The brain is very complex and currently there are not adequate alternatives for studying it in the laboratory. Comparing brain tissue from people who had dementia with that from people who did not allows researchers to identify differences, which helps towards understanding what has gone wrong. Examining brain tissue post-mortem is also vital for accurate diagnosis, and aids research because it reveals which symptoms match up with particular problems in the brain.

Further information

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

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

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