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Professor, Nutrition and Food Science, University of Reading

Professor Spencer's research group (currently 4 PDRA's, 1 research nurse, 2 research technicians and 14 PhD students) is recognised as one of the leading groups in the world dedicated to working mechanistically at the interface of dietary phytochemicals and brain function. His initial work focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neuronal death in Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease. Recent interests concern how flavonoids and other (poly)phenols influence brain health through their interactions with specific cellular signalling pathways pivotal in protection against neurotoxins, in preventing neuroinflammation and in controlling memory, learning and neuro-cognitive performance.

A major output from the group has been to help define the paradigm-changing concept of how flavonoids and other polyphenols act via non-antioxidant mechanisms of action in vivo to mediate physiologically/clinically significant benefits on human brain and vascular function. His group have defined how a number of flavonoids/polyphenols and their metabolites exert specific interactions within ERK and PI3 kinase/Akt signalling pathways, leading to increases in the expression of neuroprotective and neuromodulatory proteins and an increase in the number of, and strength of, connections between neurons. Furthermore, they have detailed effects on the vascular system, which may lead to enhancements in cognitive performance through increased brain blood flow and an ability to initiate neurogenesis in the hippocampus.