Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia

YOU, and the power of research

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2013 at 11:33 am



Do YOU know what it feels like to hold a human brain in your hands?  Well now I can say that I do.  On Friday, May 24th some of the new members of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia took a “class trip”.  We went to Dalhousie University, the home of Nova Scotia’s Brain Tissue Bank.  And it was a truly unbelievable experience.

 The Maritime Brain Tissue Bank is one of three in Canada and primarily deals with degenerative diseases such as dementia.  The Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia is extremely proud to boast that not only does the money raised in this province stay in this province, but a portion of it goes directly to the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank.  This is extremely important research that is being conducted right in our own backyard and more people need to know about it.  One day, Nova Scotia could be the place where a cure is found.

 Our tour began with a warm greeting from Technician Andrew Reid.  Reid has been with the MBTB since 2000.  We were introduced to staff and saw slides of the proteins that can cause dementia.

 As Reid was touring us around the facility we approached a heavy metal door with a small window, when he pulled the door open I felt a cool wave of air hit me. As I adjusted to the change in temperature I realized what I looking at, and it was one of the most awesome sights I have ever seen.  Stacked on floor to ceiling shelves were jars and jars of human brains floating in preservative liquid.  I was mesmerized.  For some reason I didn’t think we were going to see a full size, intact brain.  Marked on each jar was the gender of the donor and a code for their disease, most read AD (Alzheimer Disease) and many seemed to be female.

 Reid took one of the samples, a healthy brain, removed it from its container and gave us a crash course in brain geography.  I was grateful for the tutorial as it has been many years since high school biology.   He then produced a second brain and showed us the differences between a healthy brain and a brain effected by Alzheimer disease.  It was unbelievable to see how much difference there was between the two. It was extremely powerful.

 And then it happened, he asked if I wanted to hold the brain, and I absolutely did. I held a human brain in my hands.  It was a very moving experience because even though it is by all accounts a mass of tissue, it is so much more.  As soon as you hold it, you become very aware of what you are holding.  This person probably had loved ones, children, parents, a spouse; people who respected and admired her, and I felt obliged to honour that.  I wanted to respect what I was holding and give thanks to the person strong enough to donate their brain to this extremely important research.

 And that is why, even though I work in fund development, I went on this trip.  I need to witness the work and research that is going on, so I can feel the connection to this cause, so that my job has purpose.  It is not just about raising as much money as possible.  It is about raising money so the MBTB can find a cure for dementia.

 “The Maritime Brain Tissue Bank was established at Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine and the QEII Health Sciences Centre, with the help of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. Its purpose is to collect brain tissues and to make them available for researchers who are trying to better understand the causes of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.”  Source

 Follow this link to find out how to donate a brain to the Maritime Brain Tissue Bank:


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