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Oxford University professor Irene Tracey will be tackling the Virgin Money London Marathon this April for Alzheimer’s Research UK, in memory of her mum.

The professor and neuroscientist lost her mother, also called Irene, to dementia 10 years ago. She hopes to raise at least £3,500 for the UK’s leading dementia research charity by taking on this challenge.

I see every day how important it is for science to be supported, which is why I’m fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK. Research requires not only a lot of effort, but also significant funds. We’re on our way to understanding and treating dementia and, with sustained funding, we will get there.

Irene’s mum lived with her husband, Jim, in Oxford for many years. She had a mix of Alzheimer’s and dementia with Lewy bodies – a form that can cause hallucinations. Her symptoms first appeared when she was in her 60s and by the time of her death at 79, she was bedbound and unable to feed, wash or dress herself.

The condition had a huge impact on the entire family, as Irene explains:

“Although I’m familiar with dementia through my work, it was heart-breaking witnessing the symptoms first hand. Seeing my own mother unable to recognise herself in the mirror and having a conversation with her reflection was an unnerving thing to witness. Dementia is a one-way street. Every part of my mum slowly eroded away, as the dementia stripped away all her capabilities and functions bit by bit.”

The 49-year-old is a keen runner and has always wanted to complete the London Marathon. Her husband, Myles Allen, and their three children are hugely supportive of her challenge, which she is training hard for.

Alongside her research and lecturing, Irene has been the director of a large neuroimaging centre at the University of Oxford for the last 10 years. It is a state-of-the-art world-leading centre where she and her fellow scientists and clinicians investigate the brain and how it is affected by various conditions. Dementia research is a strong focus, so she knows how important it is that this area is well funded.

Irene is already well on the way to reaching her fundraising target and is currently on sabbatical before she takes on the headship of the university’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences in September. She is training hard and excited about April.

Kenneth Foreman, Sporting Events Manager at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“When there are 44 million people across the world living with dementia, it’s imperative that we do everything we can to try and beat the condition. Only research can achieve this, which is why we power world-class studies focusing on diagnosis, prevention and much-needed treatments for dementia.

“We’d like to thank Irene for taking on the London Marathon and raising funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK. We’re extremely grateful for her support and hope that her challenge will raise more awareness of dementia and the need to defeat it.”

To sponsor Irene, visit For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit