Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences
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Prof Tara Spires-Jones

Our research focuses on the mechanisms and reversibility of synapse degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, other degenerative brain diseases, and ageing.

Professor Tara Spires-Jones

Personal Chair of Neurodegeneration; Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences

  • 1 George Square
  • Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ

Contact details

Personal profile

  • 2017 - Present: Professor of Neurodegeneration, UK Dementia Research Institute Programme Lead, Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences; University of Edinburgh (funded by UofE, ERC Consolidator Award, and the UK Dementia Research Instutute)
  • 2016 - 2017: Interim Director, Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems; University of Edinburgh (funded by UofE and ERC Consolidator Award)
  • 2013 - 2017: Reader and Chancellor’s Fellow; University of Edinburgh
  • 2011 - 2013: Assistant Professor; Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School
  • 2006 - 2011: Instructor; Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School
  • 2004 - 2006: Research Fellow Neurology; Massachusetts General Hospital/ Harvard Medical School
  • 2000 - 2004: DPhil Neuroscience; University of Oxford

Research Theme


Tara Spires-Jones research focuses on the mechanisms and reversibility of synapse degeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, other degenerative brain diseases, and ageing.  Her work has shown that both of the proteins involved in the neuropathological lesions in Alzheimer’s disease (amyloid beta and tau) contribute to synapse degeneration, and further that reducing the levels of these proteins prevents degeneration and improves memory in disease models.

These experiments indicate that the plasticity of the brain will allow recovery after treatments, giving hope for some functional recovery in patients if we can develop therapies that remove the toxic protein species from the brain.          

Prior to moving to Scotland in 2013, she ran a group studying Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis with an emphasis on synaptic pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School, where she was an instructor from 2006-2011 and Assistant Professor from 2011-2013.    

In addition to conducting her own research, Dr Spires-Jones is a FENS-KAVLI Network of Excellence scholar working to foster the careers of early-career scientists through scientific exchanges, influencing science policy, and facilitating exchange between science and society.  She also advises the Scottish Government on science policy as a member of the Scottish Science Advisory Council.


Team members


Selected Publications

Henstridge CM, Sideris DI, Carroll E, Rotariu S, Salomonsson S, Tzioras M, McKenzie CA, Smith C, von Arnim CAF, Ludolph AC, Lulé D, Leighton D, Warner J, Cleary E, Newton J, Swingler R, Chandran S, Gillingwater TH, Abrahams S, Spires-Jones TL. Synapse loss in the prefrontal cortex is associated with cognitive decline in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Acta Neuropathol. 2017 Dec 22. doi: 10.1007/s00401-017-1797-4.

Colom-Cadena M, Pegueroles J, Herrmann AG, Henstridge CM, Muñoz L, Querol-Vilaseca M, Martín-Paniello CS, Luque-Cabecerans J, Clarimon J, Belbin O,  Núñez-Llaves R, Blesa R, Smith C, McKenzie CA, Frosch MP, Roe A, Fortea J, Andilla J, Loza-Alvarez P, Gelpi E, Hyman BT, Spires-Jones TL*, Lleó A*. Synaptic phosphorylated α-synuclein in dementia with Lewy bodies. Brain. 2017 Dec 1;140(12):3204-3214. doi: 10.1093/brain/awx275. PubMed PMID: 29177 27. * equal contributions

Pickett EK, Henstridge CM, Allison E, Pitstick R, Pooler A, Wegmann S, Carlson G, Hyman BT, Spires-Jones TL. Spread of tau down neural circuits precedes synapse and neuronal loss in the rTgTauEC mouse model of early Alzheimer's disease. Synapse. 2017 Jun;71(6). doi: 10.1002/syn.21965.

Paolicelli RC, Jawaid A, Henstridge CM, Valeri A, Merlini M, Robinson JL, Lee  EB, Rose J, Appel S, Lee VM, Trojanowski JQ, Spires-Jones T, Schulz PE, Rajendran L. TDP-43 Depletion in Microglia Promotes Amyloid Clearance but Also Induces Synapse Loss. Neuron. 2017 Jul 19;95(2):297-308.e6. toi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.05.037.

Jackson RJ, Rudinskiy N, Herrmann AG, Croft S, Kim JM, Petrova V, Ramos-Rodriguez JJ, Pitstick R, Wegmann S, Garcia-Alloza M, Carlson GA, Hyman BT, Spires-Jones TL. Human tau increases amyloid β plaque size but not amyloidβ-mediated synapse loss in a novel mouse model of Alzheimer's disease. Eur J Neurosci. 2016 Dec;44(12):3056-3066. doi: 10.1111/ejn.13442.

Spires-Jones TL, Hyman BT. The intersection of amyloid beta and tau at synapses in Alzheimer's disease. Neuron. 2014 May 21;82(4):756-71. dos: 10.1016/j.neuron.2014.05.004. 

Kay KR, Smith C, Wright AK, Serrano-Pozo A, Pooler AM, Koffie R, Bastin ME, Bak TH, Abrahams S, Kopeikina KJ, McGuone D, Frosch MP, Gillingwater TH, Hyman BT, Spires-Jones TL. Studying synapses in human brain with array tomography and electron microscopy. Nat Protoc. 2013;8(7):1366-80. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2013.078.

Information for students:

Willingness to discuss research projects with undergraduate and postgraduate students: YES - please click here