Profiles

Luke Johnson

UTAS Home Associate Professor Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson

Associate Professor, Psychology

Hobart CBD Campuses

(03) 6226 2999 (phone)

luke.johnson@utas.edu.au

How do fear and stress shape the mind? Dr Luke Johnson seeks answers to this question.

His research program, ‘The Microanatomy of Fear and Stress’, is two-pronged. ‘We investigate fundamental science questions regarding the neurobiology of memory and stress, with the aim of providing vital basic knowledge into the way the brain encodes normal and pathological memories. Using this fundamental science, we also investigate translational pre-clinical problems for the development of new therapies for memory disorders, in particular for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).’

Mental trauma is part of the human condition. Each of us, at some point, will encounter trauma, notes Dr Johnson. The causes are many, including war, natural disasters and interpersonal conflict. About six per cent of the world’s people will suffer PTSD as a result.

In Australia likewise, six per cent of the population will develop PTSD at some time in their lives. Who makes up these numbers? Dr Johnson points to the ongoing trauma suffered by Indigenous Australians; trauma suffered by those involved in offshore wars (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan); the effects of assault; and the impacts of natural catastrophes such as bushfires and floods.

‘I’m motivated by the desire to contribute to new knowledge about PTSD. I began with a broad interest in neuropsychiatric disorders, such as depression, autism, and PTSD, which are prevalent and have a large impact on society but are not very treatable.

‘PTSD is an area that’s not well understood. The treatments are very limited – there’s no cure as yet for PTSD. Current treatments are skirting round the edges of it. I want to understand and help,’ says Dr Johnson.

‘To find solutions to these disorders we need to understand the fundamentals, especially how fear memory works.’ Dr Johnson says an exciting aspect of this research involves observing the brain itself. ‘We are able, using brain imaging or brain slices from rodent models, to look into the brain and identify where a memory has been encoded. You can literally see that different animals have different memories.

‘We’re examining the amygdala, which is the part of the brain where fear memories form. We’re looking to see how these can be changed – to see what the physical manifestation of extinguishing a traumatic memory might be.’

Dr Johnson hopes this work will lead to the ‘holy grail’ of identifying which neurons actually encode memories, allowing us to ‘read specific memories from the brain’. Such understanding would contribute to the development of more effective therapies for PTSD and other memory disorders. ‘To this end, we’re investigating how new and existing pharmacological therapies could be used to treat PTSD.’

Dr Johnson’s academic career has taken him around the globe, from Oxford to New York. However, he considers living in Tasmania to offer ‘an enviable and beautiful lifestyle with a unique landscape and flora and fauna to be investigated and explored’.

Dr Johnson values the University’s emphasis on student excellence, and the unique team of academic staff who are dedicated to a collegial and collaborative environment. The Launceston campus where he’s based is undergoing an exciting period of growth and change as a classic university town, which will further attract excellent students, staff and funding.

‘UTAS has a long history of academic excellence in science (since 1890), and a serious focus on research excellence. It has a strong and growing focus on neuroscience, especially on key neuroanatomical pathologies. UTAS offers a special place to conduct unique life-changing research.’

View more on AssocProf Luke Johnson in WARP

Fields of Research

  • Cellular nervous system (320902)
  • Mental health services (420313)
  • Central nervous system (320903)
  • Health psychology (520304)
  • Rehabilitation (420109)
  • Psychiatry (incl. psychotherapy) (320221)
  • Behavioural neuroscience (520202)
  • Basic pharmacology (321401)
  • Receptors and membrane biology (310110)
  • Neurology and neuromuscular diseases (320905)
  • Clinical pharmacy and pharmacy practice (321403)
  • Health care administration (420306)
  • Psychopharmacology (520205)
  • Pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences (321499)
  • Clinical pharmacology and therapeutics (321402)

Research Objectives

  • Mental health (200409)
  • Clinical health (200199)
  • Efficacy of medications (200102)
  • Human pharmaceutical treatments (240803)
  • Expanding knowledge in psychology (280121)
  • Mental health services (200305)
  • Prevention of human diseases and conditions (200104)

Publications

Total publications

31

Journal Article

(31 outputs)
YearCitationAltmetrics
2020Kerswell NL, Strodl E, Hawkins D, Johnson LR, 'Memory reconsolidation therapy for police officers with post-traumatic stress disorder', Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 36 pp. 112-123. ISSN 0882-0783 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s11896-020-09363-5 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Web of Science - 1

Tweet

2020Kitamura H, Johnston P, Johnson L, Strodl E, 'Boundary conditions of post-retrieval extinction: a direct comparison of low and high partial reinforcement', Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 174 Article 107285. ISSN 1074-7427 (2020) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2020.107285 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2

Tweet

2019Chaaya N, Belmer A, Richard DJ, Bartlett SE, Battle AR, et al., 'Localization of contextual and context removed auditory fear memory within the basolateral amygdala complex', Neuroscience, 398 pp. 231-251. ISSN 0306-4522 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2018.12.004 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 3Web of Science - 3

Tweet

2019Chaaya N, Jacques A, Belmer A, Beecher K, Ali SA, et al., 'Contextual fear conditioning alter microglia number and morphology in the rat dorsal hippocampus', Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13 Article 214. ISSN 1662-5102 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2019.00214 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 8Web of Science - 8

Tweet

2019Hakim M, Battle AR, Belmer A, Bartlett SE, Johnson LR, et al., 'Pavlovian olfactory fear conditioning: Its neural circuity and importance for understanding clinical fear-based disorders', Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience, 12 Article 221. ISSN 1662-5099 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fnmol.2019.00221 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 1Web of Science - 2

Tweet

2019Jacques A, Chaaya N, Carmody M-L, Beecher K, Belmer A, et al., 'Microtopography of fear memory consolidation and extinction retrieval within prefrontal cortex and amygdala', Psychopharmacology, 236, (1) pp. 383-397. ISSN 0033-3158 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s00213-018-5068-4 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 8Web of Science - 8

Tweet

2019Johnson L, Battle AR, Martinac B, 'Remembering mechanosensitivity of NMDA receptors', Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 13 Article 533. ISSN 1662-5102 (2019) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2019.00533 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 5

Tweet

2018Chaaya N, Battle AR, Johnson LR, 'An update on contextual fear memory mechanisms: Transition between amygdala and hippocampus', Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 92 pp. 43-54. ISSN 0149-7634 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.05.013 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 43Web of Science - 40

Tweet

2018Jacques A, Wright A, Chaaya N, Overell A, Bergstrom HC, et al., 'Functional neuronal topography: A statistical approach to micro mapping neuronal location', Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 12, (84) pp. 1-14. ISSN 1662-5110 (2018) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00084 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 2Web of Science - 2

Tweet

2016Castro-Gomes V, Bergstrom HC, McGuire JL, Parker CC, Coyner J, et al., 'A dendritic organization of lateral amygdala neurons in fear susceptible and resistant mice', Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 127 pp. 64-71. ISSN 1074-7427 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2015.11.010 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 7Web of Science - 7

Tweet

2016Johnson LR, 'Editorial: How Fear and Stress Shape the Mind', Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience ISSN 1662-5153 (2016) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00024 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 3

Tweet

2016Johnson LR, 'Editorial: How Fear and Stress Shape the Mind', Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 10 pp. 1-3. ISSN 1662-5153 (2016) [Contribution to Refereed Journal]

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2016.00024 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 4Web of Science - 3

Tweet

2016Russo MF, Loy SRA, Battle AR, Johnson LR, 'Membrane associated synaptic mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors are rapid regulators of dendritic spines', Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 10 Article 161. ISSN 1662-5102 (2016) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fncel.2016.00161 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 7

Tweet

2014Bergstrom HC, Johnson LR, 'An organization of visual and auditory fear conditioning in the lateral amygdala', Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, 116 pp. 1-13. ISSN 1074-7427 (2014) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.nlm.2014.07.008 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 21Web of Science - 19

Tweet

2013Bergstrom HC, McDonald CG, Dey S, Fernandez GM, Johnson LR, 'Neurons activated during fear memory consolidation and reconsolidation are mapped to a common and new topography in the lateral amygdala', Brain Topography, 26, (3) pp. 468-78. ISSN 0896-0267 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s10548-012-0266-6 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 17Web of Science - 14

Tweet

2013Bergstrom HC, McDonald CG, Dey S, Tang H, Selwyn RG, et al., 'The structure of Pavlovian fear conditioning in the amygdala', Brain Structure & Function, 218, (6) pp. 1569-1589. ISSN 1863-2653 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1007/s00429-012-0478-2 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 20Web of Science - 17

Tweet

2013McGuire JL, Bergstrom HC, Parker CC, Le T, Morgan M, et al., 'Traits of fear resistance and susceptibility in an advanced intercross line', European Journal of Neuroscience, 38, (9) pp. 3314-3324. ISSN 0953-816X (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/ejn.12337 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 13Web of Science - 13

Tweet

2013de Castro Gomes V, Hassan W, Maisonnette S, Johnson LR, Ramos A, et al., 'Behavioral evaluation of eight rat lines selected for high and low anxiety-related responses', Behavioural Brain Research, 257 pp. 39-48. ISSN 0166-4328 (2013) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.09.028 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 12Web of Science - 11

Tweet

2012Choi K, Le T, McGuire J, Xing G, Zhang L, et al., 'Expression pattern of the cannabinoid receptor genes in the frontal cortex of mood disorder patients and mice selectively bred for high and low fear', Journal of Psychiatric Research, 46, (7) pp. 882-889. ISSN 0022-3956 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2012.03.021 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 48Web of Science - 40

Tweet

2012Choi KH, Le T, McGuire J, Coyner J, Higgs BW, et al., 'Expression profiles of mitochondrial genes in the frontal cortex and the caudate nucleus of developing humans and mice selectively bred for high and low fear', PloS One, 7, (11) Article e49183. ISSN 1932-6203 (2012) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049183 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 6Web of Science - 7

Tweet

2011Bergstrom HC, McDonald CG, Johnson LR, 'Pavlovian fear conditioning activates a common pattern of neurons in the lateral amygdala of individual brains', PloS One, 6, (1) Article e15698. ISSN 1932-6203 (2011) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015698 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 22Web of Science - 23

Tweet

2011Johnson LR, Hou M, Prager EM, LeDoux JE, 'Regulation of the fear network by mediators of stress: norepinephrine alters the balance between cortical and subcortical afferent excitation of the lateral amygdala', Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 5 Article 23. ISSN 1662-5153 (2011) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00023 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 35Web of Science - 33

Tweet

2011Prager EM, Bergstrom HC, Grunberg NE, Johnson LR, 'The importance of reporting housing and husbandry in rat research', Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 5 pp. 1-4. ISSN 1662-5153 (2011) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/fnbeh.2011.00038 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 53Web of Science - 41

Tweet

2010Prager EM, Brielmaier J, Bergstrom HC, McGuire J, Johnson LR, 'Localization of mineralocorticoid receptors at mammalian synapses', PLoS One, 5, (12) pp. 1-10. ISSN 1932-6203 (2010) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014344 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 49Web of Science - 47

Tweet

2010Ursano RJ, Goldenberg M, Zhang L, Carlton J, Fullerton CS, et al., 'Posttraumatic stress disorder and traumatic stress: from bench to bedside, from war to disaster', Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences pp. 72-81. ISSN 0077-8923 (2010) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2010.05721.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 29Web of Science - 26

Tweet

2009Johnson LR, LeDoux JE, Doyere V, 'Hebbian reverberations in emotional memory micro circuits', Frontiers in Neuroscience, 3, (2) pp. 198-205. ISSN 1662-453X (2009) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/neuro.01.027.2009 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 23Web of Science - 22

Tweet

2008Johnson LR, Hou M, Ponce-Alvarez A, Gribelyuk LM, Alphs HH, et al., 'A recurrent network in the lateral amygdala: a mechanism for coincidence detection', Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 2 pp. 1-19. ISSN 1662-5110 (2008) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.3389/neuro.04.003.2008 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 29Web of Science - 28

Tweet

2006Lamprecht R, Margulies DS, Farb CR, Hou M, Johnson LR, et al., 'Myosin light chain kinase regulates synaptic plasticity and fear learning in the lateral amygdala', Neuroscience, 139, (3) pp. 821-829. ISSN 0306-4522 (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.12.055 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 19Web of Science - 20

Tweet

2006Radley JJ, Johnson LR, Janssen WGM, Martino J, Lamprecht R, et al., 'Associative Pavlovian conditioning leads to an increase in spinophilin-immunoreactive dendritic spines in the lateral amygdala', European Journal of Neuroscience, 24, (3) pp. 876-884. ISSN 0953-816X (2006) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.04962.x [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 39Web of Science - 38

Tweet

2005Johnson LR, Farb C, Morrison JH, LeDoux JE, 'Localization of glucocorticoid receptors at postsynaptic membranes in the lateral amygdala', Neuroscience, 136, (1) pp. 289-99. ISSN 0306-4522 (2005) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2005.06.050 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 163Web of Science - 147

Tweet

2004Sullivan GM, Apergis J, Bush DEA, Johnson LR, Hou M, et al., 'Lesions in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis disrupt corticosterone and freezing responses elicited by a contextual but not by a specific cue-conditioned fear stimulus', Neuroscience, 128, (1) pp. 7-14. ISSN 0306-4522 (2004) [Refereed Article]

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2004.06.015 [eCite] [Details]

Citations: Scopus - 247Web of Science - 239

Tweet

Grants & Funding

Funding Summary

Number of grants

3

Total funding

$150,409

Projects

Effects of ketamine on post-traumatic stress: emergency department experience and patient perceptions (2022 - 2023)$72,726
Description
The central hypothesis to be tested by this series of clinical research is that post-traumatic stress disorder can be regulated with ketamine. The study has two parts, Part A investigates effects of Emergency Department administration of ketamine following trauma on subsequent mental health outcomes. It is hypothesised that trauma patients treated with ketamine will have better outcomes. Part B investigates patients knowledge and attitudes to future mental health treatments with ketamine. It is hypothesised that community perceptions of ketamine treatments may be negative.Test the following aims:Aim 1: Determine the effects of ketamine on scores for PTSD, depression and anxiety in ED patients treated with ketamine as part of trauma treatments (LGH Emergency Department)Aim 2: Establish if patients perceptions of ketamine treatments for mental health are positive or negative (North west Tasmania Psychiatry outpatients).
Funding
Clifford Craig Foundation ($72,726)
Scheme
Grant
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Johnson OL; Murtagh L; Ravindran MA; Eri RD; Raut SB
Period
2022 - 2023
Cognition in multiple sclerosis: Associations with gut-brain biomarkers and exploration of cognitive symptom change in response to a nutrition intervention (2021 - 2022)$57,683
Description
Cognitive dysfunction is common in people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and can cause significant disruption to everyday functioning and quality of life. Peculiarities in gut microbial composition and function have also been found in people with MS and there is now a recognised link between the gut microbiome and kynurenine pathway (KP) regulation, as well as KP dysregulation, increased inflammation and neuronal death. This research aims to examine whether cognitive dysfunction and cognitive changes over time (approximately a 4-year period, time 1 data was collected in 2016/2017) are associated with increased pro-inflammatory KP biomarkers and an aberrant gut microbiota among individuals with MS. We will also conduct a pilot study investigating whether and to what extent a nutrition intervention (e.g., probiotics) may influence cognitive impairment in MS, by modulating KP function via the gut microbiome.
Funding
Clifford Craig Foundation ($57,683)
Scheme
Grant
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Honan CA; Eri RD; Giles L; Johnson OL; Marx W; Lim E; Ahuja KDK
Period
2021 - 2022
Brain Strain - the neuromechanical axis of memory (2021 - 2022)$20,000
Description
This project established an international collaboration between Germany and Australia. It combines teams from behavioural neuroscience (Johnson UTAS) and Biotechnology (Friedrich FAU). Traumatic experiences, either acute severe traumatic or sustained chronic, does have marked impacts on the brain and its plasticity. Post-traumatic stress Disorder (PTSD) or chronic stress lead to memory-related deficits (fear memory, stress-related effects on recall memory, etc.). How do fear and stress shape the mind? Prof. Johnson (Australia) seeks to answer this question. How do mechanical stresses shape cellular signalling and Ca2+ homeostasis? Prof. Friedrich (Germany) develops novel technologies to study mechanical-chemical signalling in excitable tissues.
Funding
Universities Australia / Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (German Academic Exchange Service) ($20,000)
Scheme
Grant
Administered By
University of Tasmania
Research Team
Johnson OL
Period
2021 - 2022

Research Supervision

Current

5

Current

DegreeTitleCommenced
PhDTargeting Serotoninergic Systems for Modulation of Fear Associated Memories2018
PhDThe Relationship Between the Gut Microbiome, Pro-Inflammatory Biomarkers and Cognitive Dysfunction in Multiple Sclerosis2019
PhDThe Convergence between Gaming and Gambling Disorder: Exploring their psychological and neurophysiological mechanisms2021
PhDDrug Discovery in Obesity Research: asperuloside a new compound for weight loss2021
PhDMemory Consolidation and Reconsolidation of Aversive and Pleasurable Memories in Planaria2021