From Vodka Luge to Hospital Ward

My story starts with a party and ends with a hospital bed, but not for the reasons that you might expect.

There are some neurological conditions that linger in the brains of its victim for years, undetected as they are, these conditions can slowly work their way through the body until they rear their ugly head and create massive complications for the individual involved. This is exactly what happened to me and if it wasn’t for a series of events taking place I might well have never discovered anything about the condition that was lingering in my head for years. It might sound strange to be thankful of being in a hospital bed, but I’d much rather be here than in a coffin!

I wasn’t particularly psyched about my 18th birthday party. I understood that it was meant to be a big deal, that it signified a huge landmark for me that and that I was about to move from childhood into adulthood, but for some reason I just couldn’t get thrilled about the idea. At some point during the year leading up to my birthday I’d developed a kind of terminal apathy towards the world. It had begun with a series of bad grades in school. I’d always received good marks in all my subjects. Throughout secondary I found myself drifting through classes often achieving very little in my classes during the course of a day, but somehow I’d come through when it came to the exams. Things were a little different when it came to my A-Levels…

I met a whole range of different people when I arrived at college. Much to my surprise I met a number of people who were just like me: underachieving individuals who were quietly getting away with doing as little as possible whilst still getting good grades. I quickly bonded with this group of like-minded teenagers. We were united by a love for sarcasm and a mutual dislike for ‘try-hards‘. We were an invisible group, unnoticed by all other groups and would repeatedly be found in the local parks surreptitiously passing joints and snickering to each other. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why my grades were beginning to slide.

My parents were blissfully unaware of how much I was coasting. They assumed that I was studying in my room, when in reality I was playing video games. When I was out late they thought I was at a friend’s house, rather than at a local pub. They were still coasting off the success of my GSCE results. Having not forced to me into any kind of revision they felt that I must have been some kind of child savant all along. They planned my 18th birthday party as a celebration of both my success as well as their own. No expense was spared. Vodka luges were carved, food was prepared and guests were invited to what was expected to be the party of the year – but amidst all this preparation and anticipation, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed.

On the night of the party I was given free reign to drink as much as I like, my parents wanted my friends and I to celebrate, but they didn’t expect us to drink the bar dry. I woke up the next morning in a hospital bed being told that my stomach had been pumped and that I had a neurological condition. If it wasn’t for that night of excessive drinking and the subsequent months before it this condition would no doubt have lingered unnoticed until it was too late – now I have a chance of treating it.

October’s Neuropathology Update

MRI scans & pregnancy and Lewy Body Disease is new threat to contact sports players…

Pregnancy & MRI Scans: Behind the Headlines

In our first update we highlighted one brain scientist’s response to the misleading headlines in the American media concerning the correlation between CTE and American Football. News today is delivered to us through an alarming number of different avenues and, as such, it can often be difficult to make sense of what can often be an alarming amount of conflicting information. Where once the old adage used to go: ‘Don’t trust everything you read in the papers’, you’re better off lopping off the end of that to read simply: ‘Don’t trust everything you read.’ Whilst many are wise enough to take news from tabloid sources with a pinch of salt, other sources have more trust and can often be considered as gospel by certain readers.

The NHS has been running a series of blogs under the banner ‘Behind the Headlines’ in a bid to fact check the news and (hopefully) dissuade readers from making drastic decisions in relation to their health as a result of one persuasive article. We’ve done a little rooting around in their archives and discovered a particularly interesting piece from December 2016 concerning this headline: “Detailed MRI scans should be offered to some women in pregnancy to help spot brain defects in the developing baby, say researchers.” Not only is this headline vague but it automatically raised questions for the reader, it’s essentially ‘clickbait’ and could lead to a reader simply taking away the headline without reading any further. With the cost of a private MRI scan ranging from £300 to up to £800, there’s clearly money to be made here for those in the business – but the health implications are what we should be worried.

Click through here for the full story on the NHS site.

Lewy Body Disease is another brain disease threatening contact sports players

A new study published by researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine has revealed a further potential causal link between playing contact supports (such as hockey and football) and the development of Lewy Body Disease. The paper, published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, suggests that contact sports players have an increased risk of developing the degenerative condition which can lead to Parkinson’s disease. Although CTE has attracted a great deal of headlines in recent years, the study’s results have shown that Lewy Body Disease can be developed independently, as a result of repetitive head impacts associated with contact sports.

The sample group assessed results from 694 brains in total with 269 of those belonging to former athletes. Out of this athlete group 217 were found to have developed CTE, whereas 54 (20.2%) were diagnosed with Lewy Body Disease. Lewy Body Disease is closely linked with dementia and is often confused with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s due to its similarities in presentation which include fluctuations in alertness, hallucinations, muscle stiffness and loss of memory. The study has highlighted a possible causality between CTE patients’ loss of motor functions which has previously been unexplained, in addition to revealing that those that do not develop CTE are more likely to go on to develop Lewy Body Disease.

See the full article here.

September’s Neuropathology Update

A new web-tool for sequencers, research on Alzheimer’s and CTE in American Football…

We bring you all the latest news and developments from the world of Neuropathology, including recent discoveries concerning the effect that epigenetic changes might have on Alzheimer’s disease, how a new kind of enhancer drug might be the key to treating pediatric brain cancers and more…

Nauen Lab’s Transcript Consensus is open for use

A new web-tool has been published to allow genomic researchers to better understand and identify shared DNA sequences. TraC (short for transcript consensus) has been designed to give scientists all over the world access to an ever growing data set of mRNA data, sourced from public repositories of gene sequences. The search tool finds all sequences shared by two (or more) splice variants and depicts these results in the form of an intuitive, interactive plot which has the potential to be of use to anyone researching DNA.

This tool comes courtesy of the Nauen Lab at John Hopkins University, a research team that specialises in the area of epilepsy, specifically MTLE (medial temporal lobe epilepsy). MTLE is a form of epilepsy that occurs in patients after a head injury or series of febrile seizures. Many patients do not experience the debilitating effects of epilepsy until many years after the initial injury, indicating that the neural circuit of the medial lobe undergoes a pathological remodelling over a long period of time. This slow-burn onset makes it very difficult for an effective diagnosis to be made. Thankfully, through on going research into electrophysiology and morphology, the team at the Nauen Lab are getting closer to understanding the process of MTLE.

See the new web tool here.

UK Researchers inch closer to demystifying Alzheimer’s disease

Over 26 million people are affected by Alzheimer’s disease globally, a number that only continues to grow as the world population ages. After a series of breakthrough studies, researchers from the University of Exeter and King’s College London are getting closer to understanding the causes behind Alzheimer’s Disease. Current studies have discovered that chemical changes to DNA, specifically within the ANK1 gene, are associated with measures of neuropathology in the brain. The study, which was published in Nature Neuroscience, revealed that patients who had a higher concentration of Alzheimer’s neuropathology also had more DNA modifications within their ANK1 gene.


It has long been expected that Alzheimer’s disease damages particular regions of the brain, post-mortem examinations of patients have suggested that regions such as the entorhinal cortex were particularly vulnerable to damage. If further research confirms a link between Alzheimer’s Disease and epigenetic changes in the brain then researchers will be another step closer to understanding how this disease is caused and how we can go about reversing its damaging effects.

See the abstract for the complete research here.

CTE & Statistical Mis-Truths

The term ‘fake-news’ is bandied around a lot these days and, although the term is more commonly associated with the political machinations of Presidents and Prime Ministers, it’s important to remember that ‘mis-truths’ can crop up in all sorts of places. Twitter posts and Facebook feeds might well have been the battleground of lies that led up to a number of elections and referenda in 2o16, but this wasn’t the year that fake news was invented – far from it. Newspaper headlines have been playing their part for decades and it was one particular headline that caused a particular kind of uproar in the USA.

The headline in question read: “CTE found in 99% of brains from deceased NFL players”. After an article on this topic was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the American media went into a frenzy and parents across the country pulled their children from any football related activities. Dr. Peter Cummings, a forensic pathologist, was one of these parents, but after he had a look into the statistics behind the headlines he found himself doubting his initial actions.

See Dr. Cummings post here.