Medical science needs your brain
"We need the best brains working on the best brains." That's the way Professor Paul Francis from King's College London sums up the problem facing scientists working on a range of diseases including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Autism.
The simple fact, he says, is that not enough people are donating their brains to medical science after they die - and if that doesn't change vital research into the neurological processes that cause these diseases could grind to a halt.
Academics like professor Francis say they need some 300 people a year to donate their brains to help find cures and treatments for Alzheimer's, but nothing like that number are coming forward.
At the Oxford Brain Bank for Autism researchers have just 20 brains to work on - no where near enough to draw meaningful scientific conclusions from comparisons with healthy tissue.
Ironically the shortage of healthy brains to run comparisons with is even more acute, and scientists are urging people who don't suffer from any sort of neurological condition to consider leaving their brains to medical science.
Part of the problem, according to Professor Margaret Esiri at the University of Oxford, may be that people are reluctant to donate their brains because they see the organ as the basis of their identity. "It used to be other parts of the body that we thought were important but now people realise that their brain is the crucial thing that gives them their mind and their self."
It's this area of neurological research - into consciousness and developing a 'theory of the brain' - that really excites Professor Steven Rose. Speaking on the programme this morning he described neuroscience as the hottest area of research in biology.
"You and I have a hundred billion nerve cells in our brain, with a hundred trillion connections between them. The possible permutations of those connections are more than there are particles in the universe. It's clear that we cannot understand the brain of any of us, or certainly the minds of any of us, without putting neuroscience together in a much broader context than many of us are able to think about."