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3D brain scan is meeting of minds

A man who has taken part in a unique Edinburgh study has come face-to-face with a 3D printed scan of his own brain.

Photo of John Scott holding a 3D printed scan of his brain

Retired miner John Scott from Edinburgh is one of more than 1,000 people tested as part of the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, a study into thinking skills and brain ageing.

Medical imaging

Mr Scott’s 3D printed brain will go on display as part of an exhibition on medical imaging opening at the National Museum of Scotland this summer.

The exhibition will include the 3D brain, as well as a laser etched model of white matter - the neural connections in the brain.

First scan

It is the first time this type of scan has been displayed in this way.

At 11 years old, Mr Scott was one of the many children in Scotland who took a mental ability test at school.

Many years later the group, known as the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936, were contacted by the University to take part in follow-up studies.

Each participant's thinking skills and health have been tested over the past decade.

The results have formed the basis of a major study into how mental ability in youth affects thinking skills and health in later life.

Pioneering study

As well as regularly resitting the school mental test, the cohort have cooperated in taking many cognitive tests and medical examinations. These have included blood and ultrasound tests, brain scans, eye examinations and fitness tests.

Researchers have looked at a number of mental and physical functions of the group as they grow older.

Memory, speed of thinking, and many aspects of fitness and health have also been tested.

Researchers say the contribution of the group is invaluable in advancing our understanding of the ageing brain.

Meeting of minds

Mr Scott saw the 3D scan of his brain for the first time at the National Museums of Scotland’s Collection Care Centre.

To create the scan, Mr Scott attended a clinic at the Western General Hospital.

Data taken during the test was processed and converted into a 3D virtual model then printed by a 3D printer.

The resulting 3D print is a true representation of the structure of Mr Scott’s living brain.

I am used to looking at brain images on the computer day-to-day, but seeing a real model of the brain’s white matter connections in glass and the outer surface of the brain like this is a unique experience – they are incredibly striking objects.

Dr Simon CoxMRC Imaging Fellow

The brain imaging in Lothian birth Cohort 1936 is overseen by CCACE - The Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology which is directed by Professor Ian Deary, who leads the study.

Group Leaders Professor Joanna Wardlaw and Dr Mark Bastin of Edinburgh Imaging are supported by funding from Age UK and the MRC.

The 3D models of the brain surface and white matter were developed by Dr Mark Bastin and Dave Liewald. They worked in collaboration with Sophie Goggins, Assistant Curator of Biomedicine at the National Museum of Scotland and the Edinburgh College of Art (3D printed model).