December 2019 | Issue 45
​My journey to Brain Bank Singapore

Joan.pngBy Dr Joan Sim, Manager, Brain Bank Singapore

It has been a very fulfilling journey since I took on the role as Manager of Brain Bank Singapore in October 2018. It closely matches my personal interests and what I hope to see as a positive change in the better understanding of mental health.

I had not expected to land in this position, because it is on the other side of the evolutionary spectrum of what I had specialised in neuroscience research. My previous working animal model was the Drosophila melanogaster, or pomace flies, that hover over fruits. They especially love apple vinegar. Yes, fruit fly is a type of animal that has humble beginnings. 

I have worked closely with fruit flies for eight years, studying the genetics of autophagy which is a wonderful recycling mechanism within cells to adapt to the increasing waste load turnover during ageing. Autophagy is linked to the dynamics of cellular metabolism and energy, which is proposed to play an important role in neuronal health.

Today, as part of the Brain Bank team, I enjoy the interaction with various groups of people, including the elderly and hearing different perspectives to their experiences. We are all the same, yet individually unique, which is why it is important to study the myriad brain tissues from patients, even healthy individuals who are not susceptible to debilitating neurological conditions. 

Brain Bank Singapore is a national initiative to pledge brain tissues for research after death. I feel really privileged to be a part of the team entrusted with this precious human tissue that fundamentally personify the individual. Most of all, I'm touched by the altruism of the giving human spirit.