Ageing and degeneration

This research theme is trying to understand the cause of decline in the function of neuronal networks during ageing.

The brain is a marvellous, complex organ made up of billions of neuronal cells connected in functional networks. The neurons are supported by billions of glial cells that help maintain neuronal function and protect the brain from infection.  

When this intricate system goes wrong due to neurodegenerative diseases such as dementias and motorneurone diseases, the consequences are devastating.  Even in the absence of disease, many of us experience some deterioration of brain function as we age, such as a decline in memory, and age is the most important risk factor for the most common neurodegenerative diseases.

Currently, we do not fully understand the changes that cause a decline in function during ageing, why ageing predisposes people to diseases like dementia, or how neurodegenerative diseases kill neuronal networks leading to dramatic loss of function and death.   

In this theme, we are working to understand these important questions at many levels including molecules, cells, circuits, systems, and function.  We use a combination of techniques and models including examining structural and molecular changes in human post-mortem tissue, probing cellular function and dysfunction in vitro using cells from disease models and human stem cells, and looking for mechanisms circuit dysfunction and neurodegeneration in models of disease.

Neurodegenerative diseases cost the UK over £26 billion each year. We do not yet have effective treatments for these diseases, and the societal impacts of these diseases are intensifying as our population ages. Understanding the fundamental changes that occur during ageing and degeneration is essential to developing effective treatments.

Theme Lead: Prof Tara Spires-Jones 

Name Research interest
Cousin, Michael Presynaptic Cell Biology
Díaz Castro, Blanca Molecular and cellular mechanisms that link brain vascular dysfunction and dementia
Doitsidou, Maria Degeneration of dopaminergic neurons  
Durrant, Claire Synapse loss in neurodegenerative diseases
Fowler, Jill Mechanisms of neurodegeneration in stroke and dementia
Gan, Jian Cognitive neurophysiology in disease and behaviour
Gillingwater, Tom New therapies for neurodegenerative diseases
Hall, Andrew Chondrocytes, cartilage and osteoarthritis
Hardingham, Giles Protective & degenerative signalling in the CNS
Horsburgh, Karen Influence of vascular dysfunction on cognitive decline: relevant to ageing, vascular and Alzheimer's disease
Jackson, Mandy Purkinje cell dysfunction and degeneration
McColl, Barry Neuroimmune mechanisms influencing brain injury and disease
Murray, Lyndsay Degeneration of motor neurons
Opazo, Patricio  Synaptic repair mechanisms for the diseased brain
Pennetta, Guisy Molecular mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases
Qiu, Jing Microglial signaling
Skehel, Paul Molecular mechanisms of neurodegeneration
Smillie, Karen Synaptic vesicle recycling
Spires-Jones, Tara Degenerative brain diseases and ageing