NEWS | June 9, 2011

Internationally respected neuroscientist Edward G. Jones dies at 72

Led groundbreaking research into the foundations of psychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia

Editor's note:

Click here to view or download a high-resolution photograph of Dr. Jones 


Edward G. “Ted” Jones, an internationally respected neuroscientist, authority on the anatomy of the brain and central nervous system and the foundations of psychiatric disorders, and former director of the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, died suddenly on June 6. He was 72.

Jones will be remembered by friends and colleagues as a consummate scientist and giant in the field of neuroscience research, education and faculty mentorship.

“Dr. Jones’ legacy includes seminal contributions to basic neuroscience, including advancing our understanding of brain disorders, direction of the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience, and remarkable, classic books on the thalamus,” said Cameron Carter, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and psychology at UC Davis who has served as interim director of the Center for Neuroscience since Jones’ retirement in 2009. “Dr. Jones will be deeply missed.”

Dr. Jones © UC Regents
Edward Jones

Jones joined the UC Davis faculty in 1998 as director of the Center for Neuroscience and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine. In the same year, he ascended to the presidency of the international Society for Neuroscience. In 2004, he was elected to membership in National Academy of Sciences. Through these and other leadership positions, he promoted the integration of approaches in cellular and molecular biology to neuroscience research and recruited scientists across multiple disciplines to address fundamental questions about brain function and dysfunction in neurological and psychiatric diseases. After his retirement, Jones continued to conduct research and held a 35 percent appointment as a professor in the Department of Physiology and Membrane Biology.

“Ted Jones will be remembered for his outstanding leadership, innovative research and passionate commitment to advancing knowledge of the underlying biological and genetic basis of psychiatric diseases,” said Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine at UC Davis. “UC Davis’ position as a world leader in neuroscience is a lasting legacy of Ted’s collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to discovery and education.”

During his 11-year tenure as director, the Center for Neuroscience became an internationally recognized center for leading edge research and a model for integrating neuroscience research across multiple UC Davis centers and programs, including the Center for Mind and Brain, the MIND Institute and the Imaging Research Center.
“Ted Jones’ commitment to excellence and his vision for integrating cognitive and molecular approaches through the faculty he hired established the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience as an international leader in exploring the relationship between the mind and the brain,” said Kenneth C. Burtis, dean of the College of Biological Sciences at UC Davis.

An authority on brain anatomy and a leading researcher on the central nervous system, Jones authored more than 20 books and more than 400 scientific publications. He conducted groundbreaking work on schizophrenia, focusing on how changes at the molecular and cellular levels are associated with the disorder. His studies showed that seemingly minute abnormalities in human brains can cause chemical imbalances and lead to schizophrenia and other serious, long-term nervous-system disorders.

He also had a special interest in studying the role of the thalamus in coordinating and regulating cortical function associated with consciousness, perception and arousal. His many investigations on the anatomy and physiology of its circuitry resulted in his developing the matrix-core theory of organization, a major contribution in the field for which he received the Karl Spencer Lashley Award from the American Philosophical Society in 2001.

His studies of activity-dependent plasticity of the somatosensory cortex and thalamus became a basis for understanding recovery of function after peripheral and central neural damage following strokes or cerebral trauma. He also thought that it might be possible to force adaptive changes in an undamaged brain that is in some way compromised, such as in the case of learning disabilities, autism and attention disorders.

Jones belonged to a group of scientists working on the nation's Human Brain Project, which supported the development of databases on the brain and of technologies to manage and share neuroscience information. He was involved in the preparation of atlas-based databases of monkey and human brain anatomy, and in the molecular/genetic analysis of brains from schizophrenic and depressed patients and controls. He was also a historian of neuroscience and an expert on the life and achievements of Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a Spanish pathologist and Nobel laureate considered by many to be the father of modern neuroscience.

Jones was born in Upper Hutt, Wellington, New Zealand in 1939. He received his medical degree in 1962 from the University of Otago Medical School. He earned his doctoral degree in neuroanatomy in 1968 from the University of Oxford, England. After teaching at Oxford and in New Zealand, he joined the faculty of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., in 1972. In 1984, having established his reputation as a pre-eminent neuroanatomist, he became chair of the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at UC Irvine. From 1988 to 1996, he led the Neural Systems Laboratory, Frontier Research Program in Brain Mechanisms of Mind and Behavior, RIKEN, Japan.

Jones’ wife of 48 years, Elizabeth Sue Jones, described him as “a loving father and husband who was devoted to his family and his work.” They had homes in Laguna, Calif., and Winters, Calif., where they had a small vineyard and olive orchard and made their own wine and olive oil. Having lived in New Zealand, England and the United States and having traveled the world extensively over the years, they felt at home in many countries. Jones is survived by his two children, Christopher and Phillipa, and his three grandchildren, Mike, Susannah and Emily.

The family has arranged a memorial service on the UC Davis campus on Friday, June 17 at 11 a.m. at the Buehler Alumni/Visitors Center and another event to celebrate Jones’ life and scientific legacy will be scheduled in the summer to allow colleagues from throughout the world to participate. The UC Davis Center for Neuroscience will also be establishing a blog for faculty, students, colleagues and friends to share their experiences. More information is available by contacting Cameron Carter at or Buck Marcussen at