College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Research event celebrates volunteers’ generosity

Hundreds of volunteers who play a crucial role in healthcare research have been celebrated in an event marking their contribution.

The event brought together people who volunteer for research projects that could hold the key to unlocking information about a wide-range of conditions, from premature birth to depression and common diseases of ageing.

Cohort studies

The celebration focused on cohort studies – research projects that involve a group of people who are tracked over time, sometimes over a number of decades.

These studies provide valuable data that researchers worldwide use to understand the development of disease, experts say.

During the event, organisers from the University’s MRC Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology thanked volunteers for their commitment and presented research showcasing the extraordinary contributions that cohorts have made.

Healthy ageing

Celebrations involved a group of people – now in their 80s – who sat a childhood intelligence test in 1947. Many years after their school tests, these people were contacted and enrolled in research project that became the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936.

They were joined at the event by people from Aberdeenshire who were born in the 1950s and are now part of the Aberdeen Children of the 1950s (ACONF) study.

Cohort members have since taken part in thinking tests, health surveys and brain scans, offering a rare glimpse into how childhood intelligence, health and lifestyle factors influence ageing.

Premature babies

Organisers also welcomed volunteers from the other end of the age spectrum, representing families from Theirworld Edinburgh Birth Cohort – a unique project that tracks the wellbeing of babies who are born prematurely.

Scientists say the study – led by the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory at the University of Edinburgh – could help them understand more about the long term impact of premature birth and shed light on how best to support children who are born early.

The cohort was showcased alongside the Scottish Health Survey and Generation Scotland – a unique health resource of tissue samples and data involving more than 24,000 people – as well as the Edinburgh High Risk Studies, which has provided key insights into how depression and schizophrenia develop.

Heartfelt thanks

Organisers claim the event, which took place at the General Assembly Hall at the University of Edinburgh, reflects Scotland’s place as a pivotal hub for world-leading research.

Professor Andrew McIntosh, Director of CCACE, said: “We hosted this event to say a huge thank you to each member of the remarkable cohorts that were showcased. Thanks to the generosity of people who take part in cohorts, these studies have fundamentally altered scientific thinking about health and disease.

Professor Andrew McIntoshDirector of the Centre of Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology

The event was supported by funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome.

Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology

Medical Research Council

Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory