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Moving ahead with brain research and education

Two new projects funded

We would like to announce that we will support two vital research projects aimed at tackling Motor Neurone Disease (MND). The total being funded is £20,000. Both studies will be carried out in Scotland, highlighting the strength of medical research north of the border.

The Foundation fosters this expertise by giving support to early-stage research, often carried out by PhD or post-doctoral researchers. If results are promising, larger scale charities and funders can step in to take the research to the next level.

In its first-ever grant to the University of St Andrews, the Neurosciences Foundation will support a project looking at what happens to synapses in degenerative diseases such as MND. Synapses regulate the transmission of signals between brain nerve cells.

Dr Matthew Broadhead at St Andrews School of Psychology & Neuroscience will lead this project. It’s hoped it will broaden understanding of how and why synapses start to break down when MND and other illnesses first strike. The work might also lead to therapies that could protect affected synapses.

The Chair of the Foundation, Dr Sarah Deans, said: “We are delighted to be able to fund this project and for the first time to partner with the University of St Andrews.

We have supported a wide spread of research including glioblastoma (brain tumours), Parkinson’s Disease and research into the treatment of brain injuries. It is particularly pleasing now to be able to join the battle against Motor Neurone Disease which is such a cruel condition.

The other research boost will be delivered by Dr Zsofia Laszlo’s team at the Division of Cellular and Systems Medicine in the School of Medicine at the University of Dundee. Once again it will focus on brain synapses. These connections are critical for the brain to control our everyday life, thoughts, feelings, and movements. However, in brain diseases these synapses can break down, causing the brain to lose control, resulting in diseases such as dementia and Motor Neurone Disease.

Dr Laszlo’s research already focuses on synapses collected from MND donors and uses a technology called proteomics to identify the parts that make up a synapse and see how these have changed with MND. In this project the team will study synapses in the visual cortex. This region is relatively unaffected in MND and so might show up early changes. The team will make a freely available online tool for other researchers to use the data that is gathered.

The two projects complement each other nicely, and hopefully these studies will also boost the transmission of signals between these two excellent research teams.

The Daphne Merrills Studentship

We are pleased that our partnership with Brain Research UK has led to a successful application for a Studentship in Glioblastoma. This is a devastating condition, with only 5% of patients surviving beyond 5 years. Many of us will have had a friend or relative who has suffered from this.

The successful student is Febe Ferro, who will be working with Dr Sourav Banerjee at the University of Dundee. Here is a very brief lay summery of Febe’s project:

Enzymes are proteins that help speed up metabolism or chemical reactions in our bodies. They build some substances and break others down. All living things have enzymes and they are naturally produced in our bodies. 

Febe will be investigating a specific enzyme that is greatly elevated in stage IV brain cancer. It has been shown in experimental settings that absence of this enzyme in the tumours radically extends the survival of mouse bearing brain cancer. This needs to be explored in much more detail to see if it could be a potential target and whether it could make the brain cancer much more amenable to chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

We help provide funds for research to help with brain injuries and diseases of the brain

Our main role is to assist in the provision of funds for research groups based in Scotland whose work will ultimately help patients with brain tumours, stroke, head injury, Parkinson’s Disease, depression, schizophrenia, MS, epilepsy, motor neurone disease or other diseases of the central nervous system.

The Foundation has granted over £1 million to early career doctors and scientists to explore new techniques and diagnostic treatments for conditions relating to these disorders of nerves and the nervous system.

The Neurosciences Foundation supports Scottish groups researching innovative techniques and treatments of neurological conditions

We have supported research that:

  • has helped to improve the accuracy of assessing the cause of memory problems in patients with Parkinson’s Disease
  • has explored the use of memory training to improve daily living in patients with stroke or brain injury
  • has developed a chemical material that can be used with imaging techniques to measure the extent of inflammation in MS, PD, Alzheimer’s Disease and stroke
  • is exploring materials that might reduce the likelihood of ‘at risk’ patients developing a stroke
  • has helped to set up a European network of Centres studying improvements in the monitoring of head injured adults and children in neurological intensive care units
  • has resulted in the development of a chemical material that can be used with imaging techniques to study the action of drugs used to treat glioblastoma which is a very aggressive type of brain tumour
  • has explored whether properties of blood vessels in the neck might indicate the risk of developing a stroke

Some of our researchers

Katerina, Fraser, Christina and Ellen after their excellent presentations to the trustees on 3rd Nov 2022

Meet the trustees and members of the medical advisory board

Dr Sarah Deans
Chair of the Board of Trustees

Dr Sarah Deans

Sarah has a PhD in Physical Activity for Health, and a Masters degree in Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise

Sarah has more than 25 years of experience as a clinician and academic in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics. She worked at the University of Strathclyde for 21 years, teaching rehabilitation of those with limb absence, and professional skills for healthcare. She has published much of her research, and has enjoyed international and national speaking engagements. Sarah currently devotes time to her husband and two children, The Neurosciences Foundation, property development, gardening, and trying to be more physically active through walking Jimmy the dog.
Saif Razvi
Member, Medical Advisory Committee

Dr Saif Razvi

Saif is a neurologist with a special interest in treatment-resistant epilepsy and epilepsy mimics. He is currently Clinical Lead for Neurology for the West of Scotland. He also the neurologist at the William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre in Glasgow, where patients with complex epilepsy are assessed.

Saif is passionate about improving access of care to patients and has helped develop telemedicine (internet) clinics across Scotland over the past decade. He is also fascinated by the workings of the mind and works closely with many neuropsychologists to help improve care of people with neuropsychological illnesses.
In his spare time, Saif enjoys road cycling and following the peloton on the UCI world cycling calendar. and supplies it with the necessary regelialia.

Prof Donald Hadley

Retired Consultant Neuroradiologist, Institute of Neurological Sciences and Professor of Radiology (Hon.), University of Glasgow with a long standing interest in neuroimaging research.

Publications have involved a range of investigations into the theme of central nervous system abnormality: its causes, repair mechanisms and outcome; how they might be visualised and measured objectively by radiology, particularly using MRI and SPECT at each stage particularly in relation to the response to treatment. These insults to the brain and spinal cord range through stroke, degenerative disease, trauma, demyelination and epilepsy to the growth of tumours.
Member, Medical Advisory Committee

Dr Paul Brennan

Paul is Reader and Honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon at the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian.
Paul's research spans the laboratory and the clinic, combining molecular, epidemiology and clinical investigation to guide rationale innovation to improve patient care. He applies this strategy to improving diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for people with brain tumours, and traumatic brain or spinal injuries.

As founder of University of Edinburgh spin-out, eoSurgical Ltd, Paul has also led innovation in surgical simulation training around the world. In the laboratory Paul probes mechanistic hypotheses generated by using large scale clinical data to drive discovery science. He collaborates on bringing innovative technologies to the clinic, developing the clinical and scientific evidence for adoption in routine care, such as the Clinspec Dx spectroscopic liquid biopsy test that can both stratify tumour risk in a symptomatic patient population, and predict tumour phenotype.
He is part of the CRUK Adult Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence, based on Edinburgh.
Trustee, Chair, Medical Advisory Committee

Prof David Wyper

Dave is a medical physicist with a particular interest in brain imaging. He has now retired, but was Director of SINAPSE [a Scottish Universities pooling group -] from 2010 till 2017 and was previously Director of the NHS Department of Clinical Physics and Bioengineering, based in Glasgow.

Dave’s most recent focus is on public understanding of science. We can easily resort to using acronyms and terms that are unfamiliar to non-scientists, but it should be possible to explain all science without resorting to jargon. Sadly, few lay summaries are clear to non-scientists. It’s a challenge.

To relax Dave gets on his bicycle. For many years he was a road runner, but has now reduced the pounding by getting on his Paralane Focus and riding sedately round the hills to the south of Glasgow. For many years he was a piper in Williamwood Pipe Band and is still invited to many weddings.

Margaret has put up with him for over 50 years and they have two sons, one daughter and two grandchildren. Margaret’s passion is dance. She set up and ran the Dance Foundation and now has several hundred children and mothers. Dave puts up the barres.


Phil Taylor

Phil had a thirty-year career in journalism and broadcast news. When he escaped, he started working with scientific research organisations helping to tell the extraordinary stories of their achievements. Latterly he has worked in communications in the Higher Education sector establishing his own company collaborating with scientists, researchers and educators.

In his spare time, Paul plays with his vintage Hornby Dublo collection and wishes Everton FC could do better.
Andrew Todd
Member, Medical Advisory Committee

Dr Andrew Todd

Professor of Neuroscience, Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, University of Glasgow

Andrew qualified in medicine at the University of London (1979) and obtained a PhD in Neuroscience from the same University (1983). He moved to University of Glasgow in 1984, and became a Professor in 2000. His work over the last 40 years has investigated the organisation of nerve circuits in the spinal cord, and in particular those that are responsible for pain and itch. Understanding more about these circuits will be important for the development of new treatments for these common conditions.

Dr Kristin Flegal

Since 2023, Kristin has held the post of Research Development Manager for Glasgow's Imaging Centre of Excellence (ICE), working to enhance access and usage of their imaging research facilities including Scotland's only 7T clinical MRI scanner.

Kristin has a PhD in Psychology with a concentration in Cognition and Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of Michigan. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in fMRI at the University of California, Davis, in 2015 she moved to the University of Glasgow to take up the role of Lead Scientist of SINAPSE (Scottish Imaging Network: A Platform for Scientific Excellence), a consortium of seven Scottish universities and partner NHS boards which maintains a shared environment for imaging research, knowledge exchange and education. From 2021 until 2023, Kristin worked as a Senior Project Manager in Glasgow's UKRI-funded Living Laboratory for Precision Medicine programme, responsible for the delivery of three Advanced Imaging collaborative projects with academic, clinical, and industry partners.
Trustee and treasurer

Henry Gildie

Henry is a chartered certified accountant and is a director of HLG Associates (EK) Limited.

Henry is a fellow member of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants who has operated at Director level, within industry, over the last 20 years.
Amanda Garden

Amanda Garden

Amanda has an honours degree in psychology from Edinburgh University. She worked in IT for over 40 years, the last 7 of which were spent working for the South East Scotland Cancer Network, which is based in NHS Lothian.

Since her retirement Amanda has continued her interest in IT by developing WordPress websites for family, friends, and charities. She has an interest in brain cancer research as she has suffered the loss of two close family members to brain tumours.

When not developing websites Mandy likes to spend time in the garden, reading, walking, and exploring Edinburgh and the Lothians on her bike.

John Pickard
Member, Medical Advisory Committee

Prof John Pickard, CBE

Professor John Pickard CBE FMedSci is Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery and Chairman/Clinical director of the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, University of Cambridge. He trained in Neurosurgery in the 1970’s at the Institute of Neurological Sciences in Glasgow with Bryan Jennett and Graham Teasdale where he worked with Dave Wyper. He has been Chairman of the SINAPSE International Advisory Board and external advisor to the MSN for Neurosurgery.

Following retirement, he established the NIHR Brain Injury Healthcare Technology Cooperative (now MedTech Cooperative) and moved to East Lothian for grandchildren, golf and escape from too many committees.

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