Having graduated from Cambridge and London, John Starr came to Edinburgh as a research fellow in the Department of Psychiatry in 1989 to investigate the relationship between blood pressure and cognition. After moving to become a research fellow in the Department of Medicine, he spent two years at the Hammersmith Hospital, London before returning as consultant and part-time Senior Lecturer in Geriatric Medicine based at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Edinburgh.
Working with his colleagues Ian Deary and Lawrence Whalley, he has developed his interest in the relationship between physical and mental health. Their work was recognised by their receipt of the Tenovus Scotland Margaret MacLellan Award 2006 for research on 'The Brain including both neurological and psychiatric disorders'. Between 2003-2005, John Starr held a ‘Leading Practice Through Research’ award from the Health Foundation to improve the health assessment of older people with learning disabilities and his clinical duties and national training roles have also moved along this new direction.
John Starr is married to Claire and they have four children. As a member of the William Morris Society he continues his interest begun when he read History of Art, an experience that inspired him to working across traditional disciplinary divides.
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- Royal Institute of Public Health: Fellow
- Association of Physicians of Great Britain & Ireland
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DNA methylation leaves a long-term signature of smoking exposure and is one potential mechanism by which tobacco exposure predisposes to adverse health outcomes, such as cancers, osteoporosis, lung, and cardiovascular disorders.
Non-pathological, age-related cognitive decline varies markedly between individuals and places significant financial and emotional strain on people, their families and society as a whole. Understanding the differential age-related decline in brain function is critical not only for the development of therapeutics to prolong cognitive health into old age, but also to gain insight into pathological ageing such as Alzheimer’s disease. The Lothian Birth Cohort of 1936 (LBC1936) comprises a rare group of people for whom there are childhood cognitive test scores and longitudinal cognitive data during older age, detailed structural brain MRI, genome-wide genotyping, and a multitude of other biological, psycho-social, and epidemiological data. Synaptic integrity is a strong indicator of cognitive health in the human brain; however, until recently, it was prohibitively difficult to perform detailed analyses of synaptic and axonal structure in human tissue sections. We have adapted a novel method of tissue preparation at autopsy to allow the study of human synapses from the LBC1936 cohort in unprecedented morphological and molecular detail, using the high-resolution imaging techniques of array tomography and electron microscopy. This allows us to analyze the brain at sub-micron resolution to assess density, protein composition and health of synapses. Here we present data from the first donated LBC1936 brain and compare our findings to Alzheimer’s diseased tissue to highlight the differences between healthy and pathological brain ageing. Our data indicates that compared to an Alzheimer’s disease patient, the cognitively normal LBC1936 participant had a remarkable degree of preservation of synaptic structures. However, morphological and molecular markers of degeneration in areas of the brain associated with cognition (prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex, and superior temporal gyrus) were observed. Our novel post-mortem protocol facilitates high- resolution neuropathological analysis of the well-characterized LBC1936 cohort, extending phenotyping beyond cognition and in vivo imaging to now include neuropathological changes, at the level of single synapses. This approach offers an unprecedented opportunity to study synaptic and axonal integrity during ageing and how it contributes to differences in age-related cognitive change.
The direct-weighted Schedule for the Evaluation of Individual Quality of Life, Direct Weighting (SEIQoL-DW) is an individualised measure of QoL that has been little used in very elderly people.