John van Geest Centre for Brain Repair

School of Clinical Medicine



In this section


Caroline Williams-Gray

Junior Research Group Leader, John Van Geest Centre for Brain Repair

Clinical Lecturer, Department of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Cambridge


Biography Screen shot 2013-10-28 at 09.44.42

Caroline Williams-Gray trained in medicine at Cambridge University, and then Oxford Clinical School, graduating in 2001. After completing general medical training and gaining the MRCP, she was awarded a Patrick Berthoud Clinical Research Fellowship and gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2008. Her thesis explored cognitive dysfunction in early Parkinson’s disease and this work helped to establish the heterogeneous nature of these deficits in PD and to uncover their genetic basis. Following her PhD, she returned to Clinical Neurology training as a specialist registrar. In 2013, she gained a Clinical Lectureship in Neurology to support her research into the mechanistic basis of cognitive problems and dementia in Parkinson’s disease.


My research 

My work focuses on cognitive dysfunction in Parkinson’s disease. This is a common feature of the disease, with around half of patients developing dementia within the first 10 years from diagnosis, which has a devastating impact on quality of life of both the patients and their families. My research to date has used epidemiological methods to describe how cognitive problems evolve over time in a large community-based cohort of newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease patients (the CamPaIGN study); explored the neurobiological basis of working memory and planning deficits through functional MRI studies; and identified key clinical and genetic predictors of dementia in Parkinson’s disease. We are now investigating the mechanistic basis of dementia in PD. We are particularly interested in the role that inflammation and the immune response might play, and we are exploring this through a number of approaches including examination of post-mortem brains as well as in vivo studies in patients.

People Screen shot 2013-10-28 at 09.47.12

I work closely with the following people within Roger Barker’s group:

Gemma Cummins, Clinical Research Fellow/PhD student

Stevan Wing, Clinical Research Fellow/PhD student

Sarah Moore, Clinical Research Associate

Danielle Daft, Clinical Trials Manager

Patricia Vasquez-Rodriguez, Clinical Trials Co-ordinator


The COMT val/met (158) polymorphism influences fMRI activation in a fronto-parietal network during a planned task in early Parkinson’s disease
Top panel: BOLD activation during planning vs control task. Areas of signal change above threshold (p=0.05) after FDR correction for whole brain rendered onto canonical brain atlas.
Lower panel: activity in these key regions stratified by COMT genotype. Significant under-activation of frontoparietal network by task in met vs. val homozygotes. There was also impairment in performing the task (not shown)

Anna Gerritz, Clinical Trials Co-ordinator

Natalie Valle Guzman, Neuropsychologist

Ruwani Wijeyekoon



Trevor Robbins

Carol Brayne

John Xuereb

Alasdair Coles

Joanne Jones

V Hugh Perry





Key publications

Williams-Gray CH, Barker RA. The genetics of behaviour and cognition in Parkinson’s disease. In: Aarsland D, Weintraub D, Cummings J and Chaudhuri R, editors. Behavioral Problems in Parkinson’s Disease & Related Movement Disorders. Cambridge University Press 2013: 25-39.

Williams-Gray CH, Mason SL, Evans JR, Foltynie T, Brayne C, Robbins TW, Barker RA. The CamPaIGN study of Parkinson’s disease: 10 year outlook in an incident population-based cohort. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2013; 84(11):1258-64.

Williams-Gray CH, Mason SL. Neuropsychological features of early cognitive impairment in Parkinson’s disease. In: Ebmeier KP, O’Brien J, Taylor JP, editors. Psychiatry of Parkinson’s disease. Advances in Biological Psychiatry. Vol 27. Basel: Karger, 2012: 84-102.

Williams-Gray CH, Evans JR, Goris A, Foltynie T, Ban M, Robbins TW, Brayne C, Kolachana BS, Weinberger DR, Sawcer SJ, Barker RA. The distinct cognitive syndromes of Parkinson’s disease: 5 year follow-up of the CamPaIGN cohort. Brain 2009; 132: 2958-69.

Williams-Gray CH, Hampshire A, Barker RA, Owen AM. Attentional control in Parkinson’s disease is dependent on COMT val 158 met genotype. Brain. 2008; 131: 397-408.

Williams-Gray CH, Hampshire A, Robbins TW, Owen AM, Barker RA. COMT val158met genotype influences frontoparietal activity during planning in patients with Parkinson’s disease. J Neurosci 2007;27:4832-8.

Goris A,* Williams-Gray CH,* Clark GR, Foltynie T, Lewis SJ, Brown J, Ban M, Spillantini MG, Compston A, Burn DJ, Chinnery PF, Barker RA, Sawcer SJ. Tau and alpha-synuclein in susceptibility to, and dementia in, Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol 2007; 62:145-153 (* Joint first authors).

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