Identical twins Helen Bersten and Joan Rodd are one of 471 very special pairs who have so far participated in the Older Australian Twins Study (OATS). This study has provided researchers with substantial insight into the factors associated with brain ageing – and the links to the development of dementia, depression and cognitive decline.

Helen and Joan first joined the study back in 2008, two years after it first commenced recruitment. They are currently involved in the latest phase of the study which involves a magnetic resonance scan (MRI) and a NAV-PET scan, which is a special brain scan that helps to identify plaques in the brain associated with a decline in memory with age.

Creativity can sometimes strike in the most unusual of places. While undergoing her NAV-PET scan, Joan composed the following poem entitled ‘Radioactive’ and kindly shared it with us. The twins have found it very rewarding to be involved in such a ground-breaking study and encourage other twins to join in – see how below.

They’re strapping us in for the ride of our lives

with whistles and bells and bright shining lights.

The tunnel is narrow with strange whirring sounds

while light cooling air is blowing around.

We travel so slowly a snail could pass by;

for 20 long minutes so still must we must lie.

They’re trying to look at the plaques in the brain

so science can triumph again and again.

Just a regular day for OATS Twin Study Plan

as all of us go through the NAV-PET scan.

To read more about the results of this study, you can view this recent article published in The Age.

If you are interested in learning more about participating in the OATS study, we are still recruiting twins aged 65 plus from NSW and Victoria. Please visit our website for more information.

Do you have an interesting story to share about your research experience? Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Twins Research Australia

Address: 3/207 Bouverie St
Carlton, Vic 3010


ABN: 84 002 705 224

Twins Research Australia has received continuous funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) since 1981, most recently through a Centre of Research Excellence Grant (2015-2022). TRA is administered by the University of Melbourne.

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