Monty Python star Terry Jones chose to donate his brain to science

Monty Python star Terry Jones chose to donate his brain to science before his death aged 77 after battling dementia

  • His brain was added to the bank at UCL’s Institute of Neurology, his family said 
  • In 2016, was announced Jones was diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia
  • He registered as a donor after discussions with his doctor and his family 

Monty Python star Terry Jones, who died at the age of 77 on Tuesday after battling a rare form of dementia, donated his brain to science, it has been revealed.

The actor and comedian’s family said his brain was added to the bank at University  College London’s Institute of Neurology, the Sunday Telegraph reported. 

In 2016, it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with primary progressive aphasia, a rare form of frontotemporal dementia where symptoms get progressively worse over time – and he had received treatment at the UCL institute.

The condition affected the Welsh-born star’s ability to communicate as it caused the brain tissue which is important for speech and language to deteriorate.    

Monty Python star Terry Jones, who died at the age of 77 on Tuesday after battling a rare form of dementia, donated his brain to science

He registered as a donor after discussions with his doctor and his family, and the procedure was performed shortly after his death.

The donation will help doctors conduct further research into FTD, a relatively rare form of dementia.

Prof Thomas Warner, director of the Queen Square Brain Bank at UCL told the publication: ‘Studying brain tissue helps to advance our understanding of these conditions. Donation is not that common and it is incredibly valuable.’ 

The Queen Square Brain Bank archive is used for research into Parkinson’s disease as well as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia and accepts 80-100 brains each year.

The actor and comedian directed some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works, including Life Of Brian (Jones is pictured right in the film). Eric Idle, Michael Palin, John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam also starred in the film

Jones and his wife, Anna Soderstrom, gave an interview in 2017 to raise awareness of the condition as part of a fundraising campaign that raised over £600,000.

There are 10 brain banks in the UK and donors must join a register. 

Prof Warner added that often donors are seen early on when they still have the capacity to consent. 

However sometimes the decision is made later by the family if they feel that is what the person would have wanted. The brain is then collected. 

Jones in what is believed to be his last picture. Last May, his friend Michael Palin shared the picture of the pair online, saying: ‘Moving moment with Terry J’

Some of the brain tissue from the UCL bank is sent around the world to be studied by researchers.

Prof Warner said that his team receive more offers of brain donation than they can afford to accept. 

The actor and comedian Jones directed some of the comedy troupe’s most-loved works, including Life Of Brian.

Tributes poured in for Jones including from fellow Python star Sir Michael Palin who said he was ‘kind, generous, supportive and passionate about living life to the full’. 

Monty Python’s popularity soared in the 1970s, reaching Europe after a compliation of sketches won a second place prize at the Montreux Festival in 1971. 

PRIMARY PROGRESSIVE APHASIA; RARE DISEASE THAT SILENCED STAR 

Primary progressive aphasia (PPA) is a rare type of dementia which affects speech and communication.

In 2016, it was announced that Monty Python’s Terry Jones had been diagnosed with the condition. He died on Wednesday aged 77.

It is a form of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) where symptoms get progressively worse over time as the brain tissue which is important for speech and language deteriorates.

It is caused by clumps of abnormal protein forming inside brain cells, mainly in the front and side of the brain, that control language and behaviour.

These are thought to stop cells working properly by damaging them. 

The first symptoms of PPA are problems with speech and language, such as struggling to find the right word or remember somebody’s name.

Speech can become slow and hesitant, with sufferers reluctant to join in conversations.

As the condition progresses, other symptoms can include changes in personality, memory loss and movement difficulty.  

The comedian was born in Colwyn Bay, North Wales, in 1942, moving to Claygate, Surrey, at the age of five.

At Oxford University he became involved in the theatre scene and met fellow Python-to-be Michael Palin, with whom he went on to write TV series Ripping Yarns.

The pair wrote and performed revues for the university’s theatre club.

Later, Jones worked on TV shows like The Frost Report, Do Not Adjust Your Set, Broaden Your Mind and The Complete And Utter History of Britain.

TV history was created after Jones sat down at a tandoori restaurant in north London, in 1969, with Palin, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle and US animator Terry Gilliam to discuss working together on a new BBC comedy.

The six members of the Monty Python team, 1969. Left to right: Terry Jones, Graham Chapman (1941 – 1989), John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin

They wanted to move away from the punchlines and structure of traditional sketch comedy.

Irreverent TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus was born, making its debut late on a Sunday night on BBC One on October 5, 1969, just before the weather bulletin.

Some 45 episodes of the show, with its surreal, stream-of-consciousness style, aired until 1974, and it snapped up Bafta awards and even led to a German spin-off.

Jones often appeared in drag, sometimes as a ‘haggard housewife,’ or nude, while his other characters included Arthur ‘Two Sheds’ Jackson, Cardinal Biggles of the Spanish Inquisition and Mr Creosote, the monstrously obese restaurant patron.

He made his directorial debut, alongside Gilliam, with Monty Python And The Holy Grail in 1975.

Jones later directed Life Of Brian (1979), about a hapless man mistaken for Jesus.

The film was attacked as blasphemous but has since been voted the funniest of all time.

Jones also went on to direct The Meaning Of Life (1983), the Pythons’ last film together.

It featured loosely linked sketches and the unforgettable song, Every Sperm Is Sacred.

Less than a year after the Pythons called time in 1983, Jim Henson, the puppeteer creator of the Muppets, was in talks with Jones to pen the script for his new fantasy film.

Bowie was eventually cast as Jareth the Goblin King in the adventure fantasy film Labyrinth, while Jones was brought in to pen the words.

Terry Jones Introduces his wife Anna Soderstrom and their daughter Siri to John Cleese in 2010

But, by the time the feature was released in 1986, the script had gone through several rewrites and much of Jones’ work had been removed.

Jones also directed Personal Services (1987), a fictional biopic starring Julie Walters and inspired by real-life madam Cynthia Payne.

He also went behind the camera for Erik The Viking (1989), based on his own children’s book.

His other credits include The Wind In The Willows (1996), with performances from Idle, Palin, and Cleese. 

He further explored his surrealist comedy in 2015’s Absolutely Anything, an absurdist tale about a downtrodden schoolteacher given the chance to do anything he wants by aliens. 

Despite a stellar cast of Simon Pegg, Kate Beckinsale and Robin Williams, the film was a critical failure.   

Aside from a cameo in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky in 1977 and a memorable turn as a drunken vicar in The Young Ones, Jones rarely acted outside of his own projects.

He appeared in two French films by Albert Dupontel – Le Createur (1999) and Enfermes Dehors (2006).

And between 2009 and 2011 he narrated the CBBC programme The Legend Of Dick And Dom, which starred the well-loved children’s presenting duo as two young princes on a quest.

In 2014, Jones took part in a reunion of remaining Monty Python members – Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989.

The live stage show, which featured an extended cast of dancers, a full orchestra and special effects, delighted thousands of fans.

But in 2016 it was announced that Jones had been diagnosed with dementia.

He suffered from primary progressive aphasia, which affects the ability to communicate. 

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