Tara Spires-Jones

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Tara Spires-Jones
Tara Spires
Alma materUniversity of Texas at Austin University of Oxford
Known forResearching mechanisms of synapse degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientific career
InstitutionsMassachusetts General Hospital

Harvard Medical School

University of Edinburgh
ThesisGenetic and epigenetic interactions in activity-dependent cortical plasticity. (2003)

Tara Spires-Jones, is Professor of Neurodegeneration and Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh[1]. She is also programme lead of the UK Dementia Research Institute.

Education and career[edit]

Spires-Jones studied as an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin where she graduated as a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and a Bachelor of Arts in French in 1999.  She was awarded a British Marshall Scholarship which enabled her to undertake a D.Phil in environmental influences on synapse development and degeneration with Professor Sir Colin Blakemore at the University of Oxford.[2] After completing her D.Phil in 2004 Spires-Jones worked as a postdoctoral Research Fellow Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School where she undertook research on synaptic degeneration and Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis[2][3]. Following her fellowship she remained at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School as an instructor from 2006-2011 and Assistant Professor from 2011-2013[2]. In 2013 Spires-Jones moved to Scotland to join the University of Edinburgh as Reader and Chancellor’s Fellow. She was awarded a Personal Chair of Neurodegeneration at the university in 2017.

Spires-Jones is a Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS)-KAVLI Network of Excellence scholar[2], Chair of the Alzheimer’s Research UK Grant Review Board[4] and a member of the Scottish Government's Scottish Science Advisory Council[5].

She regularly engages in science communication, outreach and engagement [6][7][8][9][10][11], and is a member of the Science Media Centre, advising journalists on science reporting, and commenting on new science stories.[12]


Spires-Jones' research focuses on synaptic changes and dementia, specifically the degeneration of synapse connections between neuronal braincells in Alzheimer’s disease. Using array tomography and multiphoton imaging to examine both diseased and healthy brain tissue, Spires-Jones' research has shown that the amyloid beta and tau proteins that cause neuropathological lesions in Alzheimer’s disease, contribute to synapse loss and that reducing the level of these proteins prevents synaptic degeneration[13]. Preventing the spread of tau proteins may enable new synapse connections to be formed.[14]

Her research has also shown how alpha-synuclein protein builds up in neurons that connect cells in Dementia with Lewy Bodies, suggesting that these connections enable the protein to jump between cells, spreading damage through the brain and causing symptoms of dementia.[15]


  1. ^ "Prof Tara Spires-Jones". The University of Edinburgh. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  2. ^ a b c d Office, FENS. "Tara SPIRES-JONES". FENS.org. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  3. ^ "Professor Tara Spires-Jones | The Scottish Science Advisory Council". www.scottishscience.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-10-09.
  4. ^ "Scientist Focus: Dr Tara Spires-Jones | Alzheimer's Research UK Blog". www.dementiablog.org. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  5. ^ "Professor Tara Spires-Jones | The Scottish Science Advisory Council". www.scottishscience.org.uk. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  6. ^ "NCTalks with Tara Spires-Jones: ApoE4, synapse degeneration and Alzheimer's - Neuro Central". Neuro Central. 2018-04-09. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  7. ^ "Long Interview: Tara Spires-Jones, 14/07/2018, Good Morning Scotland - BBC Radio Scotland". BBC. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  8. ^ "expert reaction to study looking at nutrient drink and prodromal Alzheimer's disease | Science Media Centre". www.sciencemediacentre.org. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  9. ^ "Pharma giant ending Alzheimer's research". BBC News. 2018. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  10. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - BBC Inside Science, Alzheimers research, Lucy in the Scanner, Smart bandages, From supernovae to Hollywood". BBC. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  11. ^ "Tara Spires-Jones: the brain is complicated but funding research will bring progress | The Centre for Dementia Prevention". The Centre for Dementia Prevention. 2016-12-02. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  12. ^ "How the Science Media Centre Helps Avoid Face-Palm Moments When Reading the News - Digital Science". Digital Science. 2015-09-01. Retrieved 2018-10-12.
  13. ^ "Tara Spires-Jones - Edinburgh Research Explorer". www.research.ed.ac.uk. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  14. ^ "The chemistry of synapses". Chemistry World. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  15. ^ "UK DRI: UK Dementia Research Institute | UK DRI: UK Dementia Research Institute". UK DRI: UK Dementia Research Institute. UK DRI: UK Dementia Research Institute. 2018-10-12. Retrieved 2018-10-12.CS1 maint: others (link)