Faculty Profiles

Peter S. Spencer, PhD, FANA, FRCPath

Professor of Neurology, OHSU School of Medicine
Professor, OHSU Center for Research on Occupational & Environmental Toxicology
Founding Director, OHSU Global Health Center.

Read more about Dr. Spencer's research

PubMed Listing


Dr. Spencer received his doctoral degree from the University of London, Faculty of Medicine (Pathology) and postdoctoral training in neuroscience in the Rose F. Kennedy Center for Research on Mental Retardation and Human Development of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (AECM). One of five national Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Fellows in the Neurosciences (1974-76), he advanced at AECM to professor of Neuroscience, Neurology and Pathology, and founding director of the Institute of Neurotoxicology. In 1988, he joined Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to found the Center for Research on Occupational and Environmental Toxicology (in 2014, renamed Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences), which he directed for 21 years. In 2007, Dr. Spencer was appointed founding director of the (now former) OHSU Global Health Center. He has served as Principal Investigator on numerous federal individual, program project and center grants. In 2016, he completed work on a R01 EUREKA grant from NIH-NINDS and currently has a Fogarty R21.

Dr. Spencer holds seven honorary professorial appointments at foreign institutions, including the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Beijing), Fudan University (Shanghai), Sichuan University (Chengdu) and Gulu University (Uganda). A 25+-year member of the American Society of Toxicology (2011), he gave the 2013 Hooisma Lecture in Neurotoxicology and the 2010 Keynote Lecture for the Society of Toxicologic Pathology and International Federation of Societies of Toxicologic Pathologists (Encomium by B. Bolon, Toxicol. Pathol. 39:15-18, 2011). He is an Honorary Member of the Indian Academy of Neurosciences (2005); recipient of the 2003 Distinguished Service Award, African Society of Toxicological Sciences; the 2002 Distinguished Scientist Award in Neurotoxicology, American Society of Toxicology; the 1998 Alzheimer's Association Brumback Award for Outstanding Achievement in Research; the 1997 Snider Foundation Award for Lifetime Contributions to Toxicology, and the 1997 Silvio O. Conte prize for basic and applied neuroscience contributions relevant to environmental health. Other honors include: Weil Awardee and Moore Awardee of the American Association of Neuropathologists; Member, American Neurological Association, and Fellow, Royal College of Pathologists (UK). National and international named visiting professorships and lectureships include: Alice B. Hamilton Lecturer, George H. Germann Memorial Lecturer, Sibte Hasan Zaidi Orator, Ellerman Lecturer, Hanninen Lecturer, Kugelberg Lecturer, Grass Traveling Neuroscience Lecturer, Sterling Visiting Professor, Sitlington Lecturer in Toxicology, and Tarbox Distinguished Neurosciences Lecturer.


Current Research Interests

Etiology, systems biology and prevention of neurotoxic and neurodegenerative disease.


"The Poison that Waits?", BBC Documentary describing research on western Pacific amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and parkinsonism-dementia syndrome.

Selected Publications

BOOKS (selected from 7)

Spencer and Schaumburg's Experimental and Clinical Neurotoxicology, Williams & Wilkins (1980) & Oxford (2000).

First edition (1980) (temporarily unavailable)
Second edition (1310 p, 2000) Chinese Translation (Ch. 1-3 only)

PAPERS (selected from >400)

Molecular Mechanisms of Neurotoxic Disease

Spencer, P.S., Garner, C.E., Palmer, V.S., and Kisby, G.E. Vervets and macaques: Similarities and differences in their responses to L-BMAA. NeuroToxicology, 2016 Mar 28. pii: S0161-813X(16)30040-7. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2016.03.018.

Spencer, P.S., Gardner, E., Palmer, V.S. and Kisby, G.E. Environmental neurotoxins linked to a prototypical neurodegenerative disease.  In Aschner M., Costa L., eds, Environmental Factors in Neurodevelopment and Neurodegenerative Disorders, Elsevier, 2015, pp. 212-237.

Spencer, P.S., Fry, R.C. and Kisby, G.E. Unraveling 50-year-old clues linking neurodegeneration and cancer to cycad toxins: Are microRNAs common mediators? Frontiers in Genetics 2012;3:192. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2012.00192. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

Spencer P.S. , Fry R.C., Palmer V. and Kisby G.E. Western Pacific ALS=PDC: a prototypical neurodegenerative disorder linked to DNA damage and aberrant proteogenesis?  Frontiers in Neurology 2012;3:180. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2012.00180. Epub 2012 Dec 21.

Field and Epidemiological Studies of Environmental Neurological Disease

Spencer, P.S., Mazumder, R., Palmer, V.S., Lasarev, M.L., Stadnik, R.C.; King, P., Kabahenda, M., Kitara, D.L., Stadler, D. Environmental, dietary and case-control study of Nodding Syndrome in Uganda: A post-measles brain disorder triggered by malnutrition? Journal of Neurological Sciences, 369:191-203, 2016.  http://www.jns-journal.com/article/S0022-510X(16)30511-1/pdf

Spencer, P.S., Palmer, V.S., and Kisby, G.E. Seeking environmental causes of neurodegenerative disease and envisioning primary prevention. NeuroToxicology 2016 Apr 2. pii: S0161-813X(16)30039-0. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2016.03.017

Spencer, P.S., Vandemaele, K., Richer, M., Palmer, V.S., Chungong S., Anker, M., Ayana, Y., Ayana, Y., Opoka, M.L, Klaucke, D.N, Quarello, and Tumwine, J.K. Nodding Syndrome in Mundri County, South Sudan: Environmental, nutritional and infectious factors. African Health Sciences, 13:183-203, 2013.

Spencer, P.S. and Palmer, V.S. Interrelationships of undernutrition and neurotoxicity: food for thought and research attention. Neurotoxicology 22:605-16, 2012.