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Nuns Donate Their Brains to Alzheimer's Research 148

Posted by samzenpus
from the bring-me-a-pious-brain dept.
Many Catholic religious orders are participating in a long range Alzheimer's disease study. Rush University's Religious Orders Study began in 1993 and tracks the participants' mental abilities through yearly memory testing. In addition to the annual tests, the study subjects agree to donate their brains. From the article: "The researchers sought members of religious orders, hoping they would be willing to donate and would not have children or spouses interfering with that arrangement at the last minute. More than 1,100 nuns, priests and brothers across the country representing a wide range of ethnic groups are taking part."
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Nuns Donate Their Brains to Alzheimer's Research

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  • Abby.
    Abby what?
    Abby Normal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @12:53PM (#33370720)

    Nice trie, zombie scum! Your little charade won't fool me, you want this grey matter you've got to work for it. NO FREEBIES!

  • Rap his knuckles with a heavy wooden ruler. Don't think that's doing to do much for research.

  • They heard (Score:5, Funny)

    by MrTripps (1306469) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:05PM (#33370918)
    The nuns heard that helping science was a good habit to get into.
  • Ummm Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DevConcepts (1194347) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:05PM (#33370920)

    Given that the environmental structure is common to all persons at the location, it should remove some of the variables that exist and allow researchers to focus on the changes over time with regards to the disease itself rather than the differences that would be experienced with a geographical larger study.

    • Re:Ummm Yes (Score:5, Informative)

      by PyroMosh (287149) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:41PM (#33371484) Homepage

      WNYC's Radiolab did a very similar story involved nuns donating their brains to Alzheimer's research. It was the University of Minnesota though, so it may also have been a different group of nuns.:

      http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127211884 [npr.org]

      Basicly, you are right. They Nuns were a good choice because (as they put it):

      Snowdon wanted to look at aging over time, and decided to focus on sisters because they all had fairly similar histories and backgrounds. Most of them joined the School Sisters of Notre Dame congregation when they were 18, and all had abstained from smoking or drinking. So Snowdon signed up 678 sisters, all over the age of 75, from the order. All of the sisters agreed to donate a small part of their brains to the study after they died.

      The study looked at writing as an indicator of Alzheimer's risk. And they chanced upon a jackpot - all the sisters in the study had essays that they had written at 18 or 19, roughly 70 years earlier.

      Do yourself a favor and listen to that episode, or at least read the transcript.

  • by clemdoc (624639)
    Am I the only one who read 'Nuts' instead of 'Nuns'?
    • by 2names (531755)
      Nope. I read it that way too. And depending upon one's beliefs, our way of reading it is true as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:32PM (#33371336)

    How is their decision to stay in a religiously themed communal housing structure any different (from the standpoint of the cultural norm) from your decision to avoid sunlight and social interactions, and to live in your mother's basement collecting manga, video game paraphernalia, and a super huge collection of raunchy porn locked away on an encrypted filesystem?

    These people are motivated by their religious precepts to help other people, and believe in a spiritual afterlife. As such, they are less concerned about what happens to their bodies after they die than some other people, and more concerned about how they can continue helping people after they are gone (at least the ones that aren't pedophile priests anyway). Their brains get Alzheimers just like everyone elses, and such a huge turnout (over 1000 individuals in the study, for something that requires you to donate your brain, is a pretty huge turnout) means that there is a considerable chance that significant findings could be obtained through the study. That kind of thing alone merits some form of hat tipping.

    Why is everybody poking fun that they are all celibate, instead of praising them for their altruism in this respect? I mean, it's not like the average slashdot reader gets busy every friday night in his mother's basement you know. (no, Palmula Handerson and a bottle of Jergins doesn't count.)

    • How is their decision to stay in a religiously themed communal housing structure any different (from the standpoint of the cultural norm) from your decision to avoid sunlight and social interactions, and to live in your mother's basement collecting manga, video game paraphernalia, and a super huge collection of raunchy porn locked away on an encrypted filesystem?

      Maybe it's got something to do with a diet of anything other than Twinkies?
  • Granted, I didn't RTFA, but these people are giving massively.

    The whole process is annoying and gross and their doing it to help people. I'm no fan of Catholicism or the Abrahamic God, but they're doing good.

  • by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:46PM (#33371554)

    As someone with religious tolerance and have actually have worked with catholic Priests, Nuns, Monks, Bishops, etc... A lot of these people are Smart and have PHD and MDs in many areas of science and often with other areas of study as well. Don't let the traditional dress fool you, these people are actually well educated with sharp minds.

    Just because you don't agree with their religion or religion in general, don't let yourself think for a second that these people are any less then you.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "Just because you don't agree with their religion or religion in general, don't let yourself think for a second that these people are any less then you."

      Thank you jellomizer for saying this. It is astonishing to me that such an obvious statement even needs saying, but, apparently it does. Actually I can't imagine why traditional dress should "fool" anyone into assuming the wearer is uneducated or unintelligent. Perhaps I give people too much credit.

      Pam
      http://www.talksocialnews.com

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by c6gunner (950153)

      Your appeal to authority fallacy notwithstanding, it's worth pointing out that many people who believe in UFO's, bigfoot, and the JFK and 9/11 conspiracy theories also have PHD's etc. Having a piece of paper from a fancy school doesn't mean you're not an idiot, it just means you can focus on a task and have a higher IQ than a chimp.

      On the other hand, success in the scientific fields can be directly correlated with religiosity - those who do the best work and contribute the most to our understanding of the

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Bing Tsher E (943915)

        On the other hand, success in the scientific fields can be directly correlated with religiosity - those who do the best work and contribute the most to our understanding of the universe are FAR less likely to be religious than their more mediocre counterparts.

        That's a rather ignorant assertion. The Scientific Method has nothing to do with a person's religious faith. But since you want to dabble in stereotypes, there may indeed be a coorelation between 'lost soul' spiritually hollow types who never make i

        • by yyxx (1812612)

          The Scientific Method has nothing to do with a person's religious faith

          No, that is an ignorant assertion. Historically, religion has been on a constant retreat, as the scientific method has proved one dogma after another untenable.

          (Religions like Catholicism and fundamentalist Christianity are now trying to cling to authority with pseudo-science like "natural law" and "creation science", but such ideas don't hold up to scientific scrutiny.)

      • Actually a lot of those people are often stereotyped as atheists who are wondering trying to find some greater force in the world.

        The fact that many people in the science field are openly hostile towards religious people couldn't be a factor that Religious people contribute less to some areas of study.

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          Actually a lot of those people are often stereotyped as atheists who are wondering trying to find some greater force in the world.

          And rightly so.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by sjames (1099)

        I'm going to have to call 'citation needed' on you there. Einstein was quite clearly a believer in God. Many others have some sort of spiritual belief outside the realm of science. It's not uncommon for a physicist to accept on faith that there is some great intelligence out there and that through physics they may better understand it. I've heard that from mathematicians as well.

        They may simply be far less likely to talk about it openly to avoid a bias against anyone in the academic world that professes a r

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by vadim_t (324782)

          I'm going to have to call 'citation needed' on you there. Einstein was quite clearly a believer in God.

          Definitely not in the traditional way, no [wikiquote.org]

          I do not believe in the God of theology who rewards good and punishes evil. My God created laws that take care of that. His universe is not ruled by wishful thinking, but by immutable laws.

          Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic [o

          • by sjames (1099)

            Certainly he wasn't a believer in a personal god but that's not the same as being an Atheist or un-religious.

            • by vadim_t (324782)

              Well, I'd hardly call him religious. I think he comes closest to agnostic.

              His god doesn't define morality, care about people, or affect the world. It works with rigid rules that are never deviated from, and due to this can be scientifically tested. He has nobody to pray to, no heaven and hell, no religious source of morality, and no dogma.

              My position concerning God is that of an agnostic. I am convinced that a vivid consciousness of the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennobleme

              • by sjames (1099)

                Buddhism is generally described as a religion.

                • by vadim_t (324782)

                  But it has rules and a prescribed morality (the five precepts), an afterlife (nirvana), a hell (naraka), a prophet (buddha), divine beings (asuras and devas) and religious texts (vinaya and sutras)

                  Einstein's stated beliefs include none of those.

                  I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for

      • by hawkfish (8978)

        On the other hand, success in the scientific fields can be directly correlated with religiosity - those who do the best work and contribute the most to our understanding of the universe are FAR less likely to be religious than their more mediocre counterparts.

        Citation, please?

        And for a nice example of an anti-religious bigot leading a nasty crusade to discredit a theory that was later vindicated, please see Jesuit physicist George LeMaitre's "primordial atom theory" which is known to this day by Fred Hoyle's derisive epithet, "the big bang theory".

        • by c6gunner (950153)

          Citation, please?

          One example:

          http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html [stephenjaygould.org]

          And for a nice example of an anti-religious bigot leading a nasty crusade to discredit a theory that was later vindicated, please see Jesuit physicist George LeMaitre's "primordial atom theory" which is known to this day by Fred Hoyle's derisive epithet, "the big bang theory".

          You should provide more detail if you expect me to see anything. Otherwise you may as well write "as an example of quantum mechanics, see rocks".

    • by deego (587575)
      > Just because you don't agree with their belief in a spaghetti monster, don't let yourself think [less of them.] Why are unscientific attitudes justified for the case when they pertain to religion. Would you also say the same for some one who thinks that 2+2=5?
      • Religion and Science are not really in conflict, just the ignorant people think that is such. Now parts of the religion can be put in question about their truthfulness. However most non-radicalized religions accept the idea that there is a literary truth and a physical truth. They can Accecpt that Jesus turned Water into Wine, and at the same time that there is no possible way to do this, without stripping the water atoms fusing together hydrogen atoms to make the carbon and other atoms and form molecule

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @01:54PM (#33371666) Homepage Journal

    The reality is that nuns are a very good group of subjects, since they not only donate their brains after death - which is essential in determining AD status, but we have full medical histories on them for many decades.

    None of our current studies focus on religion. The major risk factors are genetic and linked to diet and lifestyle.

    Thanks for helping, sisters!

  • In an effort to help "find a cure" we're doing the same. But it means a little more to us than most because apparently, we have a family history of this illness. My great grandfather was said to have been "crazy." The reason is because he ended up living at the uni where he was teaching, he wouldn't go home anymore (in the 1800s). So everyone just left him alone and as he got older and more "crazy" he got worse. Eventually he did die (leaving a LOT of written works behind because that was his obsession (wri
  • The way I heard this story was that a group of researchers were seeking brains for the study of Alzheimer's and they got NONE.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Wednesday August 25, 2010 @02:28PM (#33372026)

    But seriously guys, you are going way, way out there in this nun hate.

  • How will they be resurrected for Judgement Day when their brains are missing?

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers

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