Rodney Johnson

Professor, Animal Sciences
B.S., Truman State University
M.S., PhD., University of Illinois

Integrative Immunology and Behavior

Dr. Rodney Johnson is a professor of integrative immunology and behavior in the University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences and Director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences. His research in animal models investigates how infection, nutrient deficiencies, and birth weight affect brain and cognitive development; and how aging results in neuroinflammation and deterioration of brain health. A special focus is on how diet influences the communication between the immune system and brain. Johnson earned a B.S. from Truman State University and a M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois. After postdoctorate training at Iowa State University, he joined the University of Illinois faculty in 1993. Johnson has published over 130 peer reviewed papers, is past president of the Psychoneuroimmunology Research Society, and is a University Scholar.

Research Areas

Representative Publications

Selected from more than 125 peer-reviewed papers

Dantzer, R., J. C. O’Connor, G. G. Freund, R. W. Johnson, and K. W. Kelley. 2008. From inflammation to sickness and depression: When the immune system subjugates the brain. Nature Rev. Neurosci. 9:46-56.

Chen, J., J. B. Buchanan, N. L. Sparkman, J. P. Godbout, G. G. Freund, and R. W. Johnson. 2008. Neuroinflammation and disruption in working memory in aged mice after acute stimulation of the peripheral innate immune system. Brain Behav. Immun.22:301-311.

Jang, S. K. W. Kelley, and R. W. Johnson. 2008. Luteolin reduces interleukin-6 production in microglia by inhibiting c-Jun N-terminal kinase phosphorylation and activation of AP-1. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 105:7534-7539.

Buchanan, J. B., N. L. Sparkman, J. Chen, and R. W. Johnson. 2008. Cognitive and neuroinflammatory consequences of mild repeated stress are exacerbated in aged mice. Psychoneuroendocrinolgy 33:755-765.

Rosczyk, H., N. L. Sparkman, and R. W. Johnson. 2008 Neuroinflammation and cognitive function in aged mice following minor surgery. Exp. Gerontology 43:840-846. 86.

Dilger, R. N. and R. W. Johnson. 2008. Aging, microglial cell priming, and the discordant central inflammatory response to signals from the peripheral immune system. J. Leukocyte Biol. 84:932-939.

Krzyszton, C. P. N. L. Sparkman, R. W. Grant, J. B. Buchanan, S. R. Broussard, J. Woods, and R. W. Johnson 2008. Exacerbated fatigue and motor deficits in interleukin-10 deficient mice after peripheral immune stimulation. Am. J. Physiol.295:R1109-R1114.

Richwine, A. F., A. O. Parkin, J. B. Buchanan, J. Chen, J. A. Markham, J. M. Juraska, and R. W. Johnson. 2008. Architectural changes to CA1 pyramidal neurons in adult and aged mice after peripheral immune stimulation. Psychoneurendocrinology 33:1369-1377.

Abraham, J. and R. W. Johnson. 2009. Central inhibition of interleukin-1? ameliorates sickness behavior in aged mice. Brain Behav. Immun. 23:396-401.

Richwine, A. F., N. L. Sparkman, R. N. Dilger, J. B. Buchanan, and R.W. Johnson. 2009. Cognitive deficits in interleukin-10-deficient mice after peripheral injection of lipopolysaccharide. Brain Behav. Immun.23:794-802.

Abraham, J. and R. W. Johnson. 2009. Consuming a diet supplemented with resveratrol reduced infection-related neuroinflammation and deficits in working memory in aged mice. Rejuvenation Research 12:445-453.

Dilger, R. N. and R. W. Johnson. 2010. Behavioral assessment of cognitive function using a translational neonatal piglet model. Brain Behav. Immun. 24:1156-1165.

Jang, S., R. N. Dilger, and R. W. Johnson. 2010. Luteolin inhibits microglia and alters hippocampal-dependent spatial working memory in aged mice. J. Nutr. 140:1892-1898.

Burton, M. D., N. L. Sparkman and R. W. Johnson. 2011. Inhibition of interleukin-6 receptor trans signaling in the brain facilitates recovery from lipopolysaccharide-induced sickness behavior. J. Neuroinflamm. 8:54-67.

Conrad, M. S., R. N. Dilger, A. Nickolls, and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Magnetic resonance imaging of the neonatal piglet brain. Pediatric Res. 71:179-184.

Jurgens, H. A. and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Dysregulated neuronal-microglial cross-talk during aging, stress and inflammation. Exp. Neurology. 233:40-48.

Jurgens, H. A., K. Amancherla, and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Influenza infection induces neuroinflammation, alters hippocampal neuron morphology and impairs cognition in adult mice. J. Neurosci. 32:3958-3968.

Burton, M. D. and R. W. Johnson 2012. Interleukin-6 trans-signaling in the senescent mouse brain is involved in infection-related deficits in contextual fear conditioning. Brain Behav. Immun. 26:732-738.

Lynch, M. A. and R. W. Johnson. 2012. The impact of aging on the brain—risk, resilience and repair. Brain Behav. Immun. 26:714-716.

Elmore, M. R., R. N. Dilger, and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Direction learning in a spatial T-maze task by neonatal piglets. Anim. Cognition 15:667-676.

Jurgens, H. A. and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Environmental enrichment attenuates hippocampal neuroinflammation and improves cognitive function during influenza infection. Brain Behav. Immun. 26:1006-1016.

Chiu, G., D. Chatterjee, P. Darmody, J. Walsh, D. Meling, R. Johnson, and G. Freund. 2012. Hypoxia/reoxygenation impairs memory formation via adenosine-dependent activation of caspase-1. J. Neurosci. 32:13945-13955.

Conrad, M. S., R. N. Dilger, and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Brain growth in the domestic pig (Sus scrofa) from 2 to 24 weeks of age: A longitudinal magnetic resonance imaging study. Dev. Neurosci. 34:291-298.

Rytych, J., M. R. P. Elmore, M. D. Burton, M. S. Conrad, S. M. Donovan, R. N. Dilger, and R. W. Johnson. 2012. Early life iron deficiency impairs spatial cognition in neonatal piglets. J. Nutr. 142:2050-2056.

Burton, M. D., J. L. Rytych, G. G. Freund, and R. W. Johnson. 2013. Central inhibition of interleukin-6 trans-signaling during peripheral infection reduced neuroinflammation and sickness in aged mice. Brain Behav. Immun. 30:66-72.

Radlowski, E. C. and R. W. Johnson. 2013. Perinatal iron deficiency and neurocognitive development. Front. Neurosci. 7:1-11.

Elmore, M. R. P., M. D. Burton, M. S. Conrad, J. L. Rytych, W. Van Alstine, and R. W. Johnson. 2014. Respiratory infection in neonatal piglets causes marked microglia activation in the hippocampus and deficits in spatial learning. J. Neurosci. 34:2120-2129.

Radlowski, E. C., M. S. Conrad, R. N. Dilger, B. S. Sutton, R. Larsen, R. W. Johnson. 2014. A neonatal piglet model for investigating brain and cognitive development in small for gestational age human infants. PLOS ONE 9(3): e91951. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091951.

Gibbons, T. E., B. D. Pence, G. Petr, J. M. Ossyra, H. C. Mach, T. K. Battacharya, S. Perez, S. A. Martin, R. H. McCusker, K. W. Kelley, J. S. Rhodes, R. W. Johnson, and J. Woods (2014). Voluntary wheel running, but not a diet containing (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate and beta-alanine, improves learning, memory and hippocampal neurogenesis in aged mice. Behav. Brain Res. 272:131-140.

Conrad, M. S., B. P. Sutton, R. N. Dilger, R. W. Johnson. 2014. An in vivo three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging-based averaged brain collection of the neonatal piglet (Sus scrofa). PLOS ONE 9:e107650. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107650.

Liu, H., Radlowski, E. C., M. S. Conrad, Y. Li, R. N. Dilger, R. W. Johnson. 2014. Early supplementation of phospholipids and gangliosides affects brain and cognitive development in neonatal piglets. J. Nutr. 144:1903-1909.

Townsend, B. E., Y. Chen, E. H. Jeffery, and R. W. Johnson.2014. Dietary broccoli mildly improves neuroinflammation in aged mice but does not reduce lipopolysaccharide-induced sickness. Nut. Res. 34:990-999.

Conrad, M. S., S. Harasim, J. S. Rhodes, W. G. Van Alstine, and R. W. Johnson. 2015. Early postnatal respiratory viral infection alters hippocampal neurogenesis, cell fate, and neuron morphology in the neonatal piglet. Brain. Behav. Immun. 44:82-90.

Conrad, M.S. and R. W. Johnson. 2015. The domestic piglet: An important model for investigating the neurodevelopmental consequences of early life insults. Ann. Rev. Anim. Biosci. 3:245-264..

Johnson, R. W. 2015. Feeding the beast: Can microglia in the senescent brain be regulated by diet? Brain Behav. Immun. 43:1-8.

Bhattacharya, T. K., B. D. Pence, J. M. Ossyra, T. E. Gibbons, S. Perez, R. H. McCusker, K. W. Kelley, R. W. Johnson, J. A. Woods, and J. S. Rhodes. 2015. Exercise but not (-)-Epigallocatechin-3-gallate or ?-Alanine enhances physical fitness, brain plasticity, and behavioral performance in mice. Physiol. Behav. 145:29-37.

Conrad, M.S., B. P. Sutton, R. Larsen, W. G. Van Alstine, and R. W. Johnson. 2015. Early postnatal respiratory viral infection induces structural and neurochemical changes in the neonatal piglet brain. Brain Behav. Immun. 48:326-335.

Townsend, B. E. and R. W. Johnson. 2016. Sulforaphane induces Nrf2 target genes and attenuates inflammatory gene expression in microglia from brain of young adult and aged mice. Exp. Gerontol. 73:42-48.

Matt, S. M. and R. W. Johnson. 2016. Neuro-immune dysregulation during brain aging: New insights in microglia regulation. Curr. Opin. Pharmacol. 26:96-101.

Townsend, B. E. and R. W. Johnson. 2016. Sulforaphane reduces lipopolysaccharide-induced proinflammatory markers in hippocampus and liver but does not improve sickness behavior. Nut. Neurosci. (In press).

Pence, B., Gibbons, T., Bhattacharya, T., Mach, H., Ossyra, J., Petr, G., Martin, S., Wang, L., Rubakhin, S., Sweelder, J., McCusker, R., Kelley, K., Rhodes, J. Johnson, R., Woods, J. A. 2016. Effects of exercise and dietary EGCG and ?-alanine on skeletal muscle in aged mice. Appl. Physiol. Nutr. Met. (in press).

Burton, M. D., J. L. Rytych, R. Amin, and R. W. Johnson. 2016. Dietary luteolin reduces pro-inflammatory microglia in the brain of senescent mice. Rejuvenation Res. (In press).

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