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University of Exeter Medical School

 Jonathan Witton

Jonathan Witton

Lecturer in Neuroscience

 10392 72 7583

 Hatherly D.2


Hatherly Building, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK


Dr Jon Witton is a neurophysiologist interested in how brain circuits support adaptive cognitive behaviours and how this is disrupted by neurodegenerative disease.

Jon graduated from the University of Manchester with a BSc (1st class) in Neuroscience. As part of his degree he spent a year working at the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim in Germany. He then moved to the University of Bristol as a PhD student in the groups of Profs Andy Randall and Matt Jones, where he studied mechanisms of neuronal circuit dysfunction in Down syndrome and dementia. After completing his PhD, Jon remained in Bristol as an Alzheimer’s Research UK Fellow with Dr Mike Ashby, studying how functional and structural changes develop in brain circuits during tauopathy-associated dementia.

In 2019 Jon was appointed Lecturer at the University of Exeter


  • 2009, BSc (hons), University of Manchester
  • 204, PhD, Univesrity of Bristol


  • Alzheimer’s Research UK Fellowship (PI, £196k, 2016-2019)

  • MRC PhD studentship (Co-I, 90k, 2016-2020)

  • MRC PhD studentship (Co-I, 90k, 2019-2023)

  • BBSRC 18ALERT (Co-I; £223k; 2019-2022)

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Research interests

Our ability to learn and remember shapes our behaviour, enabling us to adapt to new environments and optimise our performance in situations that we have already experienced. Jon’s research focusses on understanding how neuronal networks enable this cognitive adaptation, and how this ability becomes disrupted in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

To do this, Jon and his colleagues employ a multilevel systems neuroscience approach, combining in vivo two-photon and micro-endoscopic brain imaging, in vivo extracellular and patch clamp electrophysiology and behavioural analysis to understand how cognitive information is processed in brain circuits across different spatial and temporal scales.


Research projects

Current Projects:

  • Dysfunctional synaptic and neuronal network encoding in tauopathy-associated dementia.

  • Relationship between synaptic dysfunction and degeneration in dementia.

  • Neuron-microglia interactions during neuronal network oscillations.

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Journal articles

Randall A, Jackson J, Witton J, Johnson J, Ahmed Z, Ward M, Hutton ML, Isaac JT, O'Neill MJ, Ashby MC, et al (In Press). Altered synapse stability in the early stages of tauopathy. Cell Reports-D-16-02088R2
Francis VI, Liddle C, Camacho E, Kulkarni M, Junior SRS, Harvey JA, Ballou ER, Thomson DD, Brown GD, Hardwick JM, et al (2024). Cryptococcus neoformans rapidly invades the murine brain by sequential breaching of airway and endothelial tissues barriers, followed by engulfment by microglia. mBio, 15(4). Abstract.  Author URL.
Meftah S, Cavallini A, Murray TK, Jankowski L, Bose S, Ashby MC, Brown JT, Witton J (2024). Synaptic alterations associated with disrupted sensory encoding in a mouse model of tauopathy. Brain Communications, 6(3).
Brady ES, Griffiths J, Andrianova L, Bielska MH, Saito T, Saido TC, Randall AD, Tamagnini F, Witton J, Craig MT, et al (2023). Alterations to parvalbumin-expressing interneuron function and associated network oscillations in the hippocampal - medial prefrontal cortex circuit during natural sleep in AppNL-G-F/NL-G-F mice. Neurobiol Dis, 182 Abstract.  Author URL.
Ridler T, Witton J, Phillips KG, Randall A, Brown JT (2023). Correction: Impaired speed encoding and grid cell periodicity in a mouse model of tauopathy. Elife, 12  Author URL.
Witton J, Brady ES, Craig MT (2023). Sleep-based neuronal oscillations as a physiological biomarker for Alzheimer's disease: is night time the right time?. Neural Regeneration Research, 19(7), 1417-1418.
Craig MT, Witton J (2022). A cellular switchboard in memory circuits. Science, 377(6603), 262-263. Abstract.  Author URL.
Walsh C, Ridler T, Margetts-Smith G, Garcia Garrido M, Witton J, Randall AD, Brown JT (2022). β Bursting in the Retrosplenial Cortex is a Neurophysiological Correlate of Environmental Novelty Which is Disrupted in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer's Disease. The Journal of Neuroscience, 42(37), 7094-7109.
Walsh C, Ridler T, Garrido MG, Witton J, Randall AD, Brown JT (2021). Beta bursting in the retrosplenial cortex is a neurophysiological correlate of environmental novelty which is disrupted in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Abstract.
Meftah S, Witton J, Cavallini A, Murray TK, Jankowski L, Bose S, Ashby M, Brown JT (2020). Identifying early markers of synaptic dysfunction in a mouse model of tauopathy. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 16(S3).
Ridler T, Witton J, Phillips KG, Randall AD, Brown JT (2020). Impaired speed encoding and grid cell periodicity in a mouse model of tauopathy. eLife, 9 Abstract.
Ridler T, Witton J, Phillips KG, Randall AD, Brown JT (2019). Impaired speed encoding is associated with reduced grid cell periodicity in a mouse model of tauopathy. Abstract.
Booth CA, Witton J, Nowacki J, Tsaneva-Atanasova K, Jones MW, Randall AD, Brown JT (2016). Altered Intrinsic Pyramidal Neuron Properties and Pathway-Specific Synaptic Dysfunction Underlie Aberrant Hippocampal Network Function in a Mouse Model of Tauopathy. J Neurosci, 36(2), 350-363. Abstract.  Author URL.
Witton J, Staniaszek L, Bartsch U, Randall AD, Jones MW, Brown JT (2015). Disrupted hippocampal sharp-wave ripple-associated spike dynamics in a transgenic mouse model of dementia. Journal of Physiology, In press Abstract.
Witton J, Padmashri R, Zinyuk LE, Popov VI, Kraev I, Line SJ, Jensen TP, Tedoldi A, Cummings DM, Tybulewicz VLJ, et al (2015). Hippocampal circuit dysfunction in the Tc1 mouse model of Down syndrome. Nat Neurosci, 18(9), 1291-1298. Abstract.  Author URL.
Rodríguez JJ, Noristani HN, Hilditch T, Olabarria M, Yeh CY, Witton J, Verkhratsky A (2013). Increased densities of resting and activated microglia in the dentate gyrus follow senile plaque formation in the CA1 subfield of the hippocampus in the triple transgenic model of Alzheimer's disease. Neurosci Lett, 552, 129-134. Abstract.  Author URL.
Forsyth LH, Witton J, Brown JT, Randall AD, Jones MW (2012). In Vitro and in Vivo Recording of Local Field Potential Oscillations in Mouse Hippocampus. Curr Protoc Mouse Biol, 2(3), 273-294. Abstract.  Author URL.
Witton J, Brown JT, Jones MW, Randall AD (2010). Altered synaptic plasticity in the mossy fibre pathway of transgenic mice expressing mutant amyloid precursor protein. Mol Brain, 3 Abstract.  Author URL.
Rodríguez JJ, Witton J, Olabarria M, Noristani HN, Verkhratsky A (2010). Increase in the density of resting microglia precedes neuritic plaque formation and microglial activation in a transgenic model of Alzheimer's disease. Cell Death Dis, 1(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Randall AD, Witton J, Booth C, Hynes-Allen A, Brown JT (2010). The functional neurophysiology of the amyloid precursor protein (APP) processing pathway. Neuropharmacology, 59(4-5), 243-267. Abstract.  Author URL.

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External Engagement and Impact


  • Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Bridging Fellowship (2019)
  • Alzheimer’s Research UK Fellowship (2016-2019)
  • UoB-MRC Centenary Fellowship (2013-2014)

Invited lectures

  • Alzheimer’s Research UK
  • University College Cork
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Bristol

Media Coverage

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Teaching responsibilities: (Undergraduate, Postgraduate)

  • Coding for Medical Scientists (CSC2020): Lecturer
  • Neural Circuits (CSC2018): Lecturer
  • Foundations in Neuroscience (CSC2006): Facilitator
  • Principles in Medical Research (CSC2014): Small group facilitator
  • Academic Tutor: Year 1 BSc Neuroscience 



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