- Scientific Advisory Committee for the 4th Wine and Health meeting; Sept 2013, Sydney, Australia
- Scientific Advisory Committee for the 6th International Conference on Polyphenols and Health; Sept 2013, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Editorial Board of Free Radical Research, Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Nutritional Neuroscience
- 2009-present: External Examiner for the MSc and BSc Nutrition and Dietetics degree courses at University of Surrey
- 2009-present: Member of the Nutrition Society Council and the Nutrition Society Programmes Committee
- 2010-present: Nutrition and Mental Health Task Force; ILSI Europe
- 2010-present: Member of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research (ISFAR).
- Programme Director for MSc Nutrition and Food Science
- Leader the Food Chain and Health sub-theme "Plant Bioactives and Health"
- Member of the Neuroscience at Reading Steering Committee
- Member of the Quality Assurance in Research team
- Seminar coordinator for the Nutrition Research Group.
Building locationHarry Nursten
Areas of interest
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.
The group operates at three main levels:
- implementation of human clinical trials to investigate the physiological/clinical benefits of foods, most notably flavonoid-rich foods on the vascular system and the brain
- cell and molecular studies designed to investigate the underpinning mechanisms of action of polyphenols with respect to neurodegeneration, cognition, vascular disease and cancer
- analytical analysis to: a) characterise flavonoids/polyphenols and other non-nutrient components in foods/beverages; and b) to investigate absorption and metabolism of polyphenols in human pharmacokinetic studies.
Research centres and groups
- Nutrition Research Group.
- Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice (Merit), 2007
- PhD Medical Biochemistry/Pharmacology – King’s College London, 1997
- BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, First Class – University of Warwick, 1993.
Awards and honours
- Senior Research Award at the ICPH Conference in Harrogate, November 2009
- Nutrition Society Silver Medal at the Nutrition Society meeting, July 2009
- Outstanding Research Award at the ICPH Conference in Kyoto, December 2007.