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Scottish Brains Sent to Australia for Study into Parkinson's Disease

Wednesday November 27, 2013

It is hoped a link will be discovered between dopamine levels and exposure to light that could lead to treatment for the disease.
Nicola Stow

Daily Record - THE University of Edinburgh has donated Scots’ brain samples to be shared and studied in Melbourne for vital research into Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health are investigating whether there is a link between levels of the feel-good molecule dopamine and exposure to light.

The study could lead to new treatments for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease in which dopamine levels are low.

The head of the Florey’s adult neurogenesis laboratory, Tim Aumann, said the pilot study could prove the hypothesis that patients who died in winter had fewer dopamine cells in the midbrain and hypothalamus regions, where dopamine is produced.

The research also raises the potential of drug-free treatments for conditions including schizophrenia and drug addiction where high levels of dopamine are recorded.

There could also be ramifications for conditions such as ADHD and depression in which dopamine levels are low, and seasonal affective disorder, where dopamine levels fluctuate. The study follows animal trials that showed there was a ‘‘chemical switching’’ that occurs in cells in rodent brains when placed in different environments.

But it now needs to be established whether this translates from rodents to humans.

The brain samples were imported because researchers needed to study people who had lived at high altitude, where winter days were short and summer days long.

The 20 samples from the brain bank at the university are evenly split between patients who died in summer and patients who died in winter. Dr Aumann said: ‘‘We’re looking for changes in the number of dopamine cells.”

The golf ball-sized blocks of brain, embedded in paraffin wax to solidify the jelly-like texture, are taken from the midbrain region associated with Parkinson’s disease.

Stow, N. (27 Nov. 2013). Daily Record. Scottish brains sent to Australia for study into Parkinson's disease. www.dailyrecord.co.uk.