Andrew Brown – Globetrotter, Granddad and ‘Join dementia research’ Champion
Few people have had so many roles in research. Andrew’s career began with training as an MLSO (Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer), in Darlington initially. After experiencing bacteriology, haematology and biochemistry, he settled in histology in the pathology department in Newcastle. Now, as well as research involvement, he travels the world taking spectacular photographs, and cares for his family.
Working with Dorothy Irving under the clinical supervision of neuropathologist Professor Robert Perry, Andrew showed that among people who had died with dementia but did not have very much Alzheimer’s pathology (relatively few plaques and tangles), many had experienced hallucinations as early clinical features. This group, called the ‘atypicals’ for several years, became known as ‘Dementia of Lewy Body Type’ after Andrew and Dorothy applied new staining methods to the brain cortex of these subjects, and showed some neurones contained Lewy bodies. The disease was called ‘dementia with Lewy bodies’ following the first international conference on the topic in Newcastle in 1996. Andrew went on to improve the staining techniques so they worked reliably in laboratories around the world.
Andrew decided to retire following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s. It may be an uncomfortable irony to have examined substantia nigra neurones (the cells that make dopamine) neuropathologically as a profession, and then to find his own were compromised. Assessing substantia nigra neurones led to Andrew’s involvement in jointly publishing an article in Biological Psychiatry in 1998, with findings that helped explain why people with dementia with Lewy bodies react so badly to antipsychotic medication.
Of course retirement was only a change in research involvement. Andrew is a research participant in several longitudinal studies, and he was an ‘early adopter’ of lay activity by joining the DeNDRoN PPI Panel in 2010. Andrew is on several study steering groups as a well-informed lay member. He attended a few PPI Annual Forums in London with the old DeNDRoN topic network and through that was invited to help develop and launch ‘Join dementia research’. Originally it was called RAFT – Recruitment and Feasibility Tool – but lay opinion was that it wasn’t a very good name and they definitely didn’t want to be called a ‘tool’!
Andrew has kept up friendships with many clinical researchers in the neuropathology and dementia field. Partly because of caring for his mother who had dementia, he was a founding committee member of the Alzheimer’s Society Newcastle Branch, and volunteered with them for 20 years.
Andrew’s wide knowledge makes him a brilliant champion for clinical research, for taking part in studies, and for ‘Join dementia research’ as a way for everyone to demonstrate their support, and take part in, dementia research.
To find our more visit: www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk