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British newsreader Jeremy Paxman and actress Jane Asher are spearheading a campaign to encourage people to donate their brains after death to Parkinson’s Disease research.

The Parkinson's Disease Society wants to double the 1,000 people on its donor register by the end of the year to boost scientist’s understanding of the disease.

“Scientific research on brains both with and without Parkinson’s is essential,” said Asher, who is president of the society. “It’s vital that we secure more potential donors as this will help us move closer to a cure for what can be a debilitating and distressing condition.”

Every year, about 10,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the UK – one in 20 are under the age of 40. However, donating your brain to research is not something people take lightly, and a poll carried out by the charity showed that only 7% of people are comfortable with the idea of donating their brain. However, 63% do not have a problem with heart donation and 65% would agree to donate their kidneys.

“[The brains] are absolutely all used and they are kept frozen, clearly, very, very, very, very, cold, so they last almost indefinitely and every one is used and treated with great respect, I have to say,” said Asher. “For those who might worry about granny’s brain being perhaps not used properly, they are treated with great respect and every brain really does help towards a cure.”

Asher’s brother-in-law has the condition, and she has agreed to donate her own brain to the cause.

“I’ve visited the Parkinson’s Brain Bank and seen what fantastic work is going on there. Now we need a greater awareness of the benefits of brain donation so that more people come forward to register with us. So far 1,000 people have registered to donate their brains and with better public knowledge I’m sure we can double that number this year. Scientific research on brains both with and without Parkinson’s is essential. It’s vital that we secure more potential donors as this will help us move closer to a cure for what can be a debilitating and distressing condition.”

For more information about the campaign and donating your brain to research, visit the Parkinson’s Disease Society website.

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