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

 Work: +44 (0) 131 651 1895



Personal profile

  • 2023 - 2025: President of the British Neuroscience Association
  • 2022: Appointed an Ambassador for Alzheimer Scotland
  • 2021 - 2023: President-elect of the British Neuroscience Association
  • 2021 - present: Alzheimer’s Research UK Scientific Advisory Board member
  • 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 neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease, other degenerative brain diseases, and ageing.  Working with a vibrant group of researchers, she is trying to understand why synapses and neurons become dysfunctional and die in these diseases in order to develop effective therapeutic strategies. Her work has shown that soluble forms of the pathological proteins amyloid beta and tau contribute to synapse degeneration, and that lowering levels of these proteins can prevent and reverse phenotypes in model systems. Her group has discovered that pathological forms of tau spread through the brain via synaptic connections. Working with the Lothian Birth Cohorts 1936, her group has also started to uncover why some people are resilient to cognitive decline during ageing. Further, she has pioneered high-resolution imaging techniques in human post-mortem brain and found evidence that these proteins accumulate in synapses in human disease.  Tara Spires-Jones has published over 100 peer reviewed papers which have been cited over 20,000 times. 

In addition to her research, Prof Spires-Jones is passionate about communicating scientific findings to the public and policy makers; increasing the rigour and reproducibility in translational neuroscience; promoting inclusivity and diversity in science; and supporting career development of neuroscientists.  She is President of the British Neuroscience Association (2023-2025), and is founding editor of the translational neuroscience journal Brain Communications. She was also a founding member of the FENS-Kavli Network of Excellence, which works to promote the future of European Neuroscience.

Prior to moving to Scotland in 2013, Tara Spires-Jones 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 Instructor from 2006-2011 and Assistant Professor from 2011-2013.  She completed graduate training (MSc and DPhil) at the University of Oxford from 1999-2003, and undergraduate training at the University of Texas at Austin from 1994-1999. 


Team members

  • Jane Tulloch (Lab manager)
  • Manuela Marescotti (Scientific Editor, Brain Communications)
  • James Catterson (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Declan King (Postdoctoral Fellow)
  • Jamie Rose (Research Technician) 
  • Rob McGeachan (ECAT Veterinary Clinical PhD student)
  • Edmond Mouofo (Wellcome Trust PhD student)
  • Elizabeth Simzer (Research Technician and Scientific Editor)


Selected Publications

Colom-Cadena, M., Davies, C., Sirisi, S., Lee, J.-E., Simzer, E. M., Tzioras, M., Querol-Vilaseca, M., Sánchez-Aced, É., Chang, Y. Y., Holt, K., McGeachan, R. I., Rose, J., Tulloch, J., Wilkins, L., Smith, C., Andrian, T., Belbin, O., Pujals, S., Horrocks, M. H., Lleo, A., Spires-Jones, T. L. (2023). Synaptic oligomeric tau in Alzheimer’s disease—A potential culprit in the spread of tau pathology through the brain. Neuron, 111(14), 2170-2183.e6.

King, D., Holt, K., Toombs, J., He, X., Dando, O., Okely, J. A., Tzioras, M., Rose, J., Gunn, C., Correia, A., Montero, C., McAlister, H., Tulloch, J., Lamont, D., Taylor, A. M., Harris, S. E., Redmond, P., Cox, S. R., Henstridge, C. M., … Spires-Jones, T. L. (2023). Alzheimer’s Synaptic resilience is associated with maintained cognition during ageing & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Tzioras, M., McGeachan, R. I., Durrant, C. S., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2023). Synaptic degeneration in Alzheimer disease. Nature Reviews. Neurology, 19(1), 19–38.

Yeap, J., Sathyaprakash, C., Toombs, J., Tulloch, J., Scutariu, C., Rose, J., Burr, K., Davies, C., Colom-Cadena, M., Chandran, S., Large, C. H., Rowan, M. J. M., Gunthorpe, M. J., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2022). Reducing voltage-dependent potassium channel Kv3.4 levels ameliorates synapse loss in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain and Neuroscience Advances, 6, 23982128221086464.

Tulloch, J., Netsyk, O., Pickett, E. K., Herrmann, A. G., Jain, P., Stevenson, A. J., Oren, I., Hardt, O., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2021). Maintained memory and long-term potentiation in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease with both amyloid pathology and human tau. The European Journal of Neuroscience, 53(2), 637–648.

Kurucu, H., Colom-Cadena, M., Davies, C., Wilkins, L., King, D., Rose, J., Tzioras, M., Tulloch, J. H., Smith, C., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2021). Inhibitory synapse loss and accumulation of amyloid beta in inhibitory presynaptic terminals in Alzheimer’s disease. European Journal of Neurology.

Tzioras, M., Stevenson, A. J., Boche, D., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2020). Microglial contribution to synaptic uptake in the prefrontal cortex in schizophrenia. Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology.

Pickett, E. K., Herrmann, A. G., McQueen, J., Abt, K., Dando, O., Tulloch, J., Jain, P., Dunnett, S., Sohrabi, S., Fjeldstad, M. P., Calkin, W., Murison, L., Jackson, R. J., Tzioras, M., Stevenson, A., d’Orange, M., Hooley, M., Davies, C., Colom-Cadena, M., Anton-Fernandez, A., King, D., Oren, I., Rose, J., McKenzie, C.-A., Allison, E., Smith, C., Hardt, O., Henstridge, C. M., Hardingham, G. E., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2019). Amyloid Beta and Tau Cooperate to Cause Reversible Behavioral and Transcriptional  Deficits in a Model of Alzheimer’s Disease. Cell Reports, 29(11), 3592-3604.e5. 

Henstridge, C. M., Hyman, B. T., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2019). Beyond the neuron-cellular interactions early in Alzheimer disease pathogenesis. Nature Reviews. Neuroscience, 20(2), 94–108. 

Jackson, R. J., Rose, J., Tulloch, J., Henstridge, C., Smith, C., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2019). Clusterin accumulates in synapses in Alzheimer’s disease and is increased in  apolipoprotein E4 carriers. Brain Communications, 1(1), fcz003. 

Pickett, E. K., Rose, J., McCrory, C., McKenzie, C.-A., King, D., Smith, C., Gillingwater, T. H., Henstridge, C. M., & Spires-Jones, T. L. (2018). Region-specific depletion of synaptic mitochondria in the brains of patients with  Alzheimer’s disease. Acta Neuropathologica, 136(5), 747–757. 

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

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.

de Calignon, A., Polydoro, M., Suárez-Calvet, M., William, C., Adamowicz, D. H., Kopeikina, K. J., Pitstick, R., Sahara, N., Ashe, K. H., Carlson, G. A., Spires-Jones, T. L., & Hyman, B. T. (2012). Propagation of tau pathology in a model of early Alzheimer’s disease. Neuron, 73(4), 685–697. 

de Calignon, A., Fox, L. M., Pitstick, R., Carlson, G. A., Bacskai, B. J., Spires-Jones, T. L., & Hyman, B. T. (2010). Caspase activation precedes and leads to tangles. Nature, 464(7292), 1201–1204. 


Information for students:

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