Dr Victoria Johnstone, Department of Physiology, Monash University, Melbourne.
Dr Johnstone completed her PhD in the Learning and Memory laboratory at The John Curtin School of Medical Research at The Australian National University where she performed electrophysiological recording and optical imaging of synaptic elements in the hippocampus. Her work during this time was directed towards further understanding the strengthening of synapses that occurs in the formation and processing of memories. Dr Johnstone then continued in this field as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, USA. In 2012 she joined Associate Professor Ramesh Rajan’s group at Monash University. Her current work focuses on traumatic brain injury (TBI), and potential therapies that may alleviate cognitive and behavioural deficits following such injuries.
TBI is the leading cause of death for persons aged 1-45 years, and is a major public health concern worldwide. Unfortunately development of successful therapies for the treatment of these injuries is hindered by the complex pathophysiology that characterises TBI. One aspect of the pathophysiology that might be particularly critical in determining patient outcome involves changes to how incoming sensory information is processed in the brain. We therefore perform experiments with the aim of unravelling how these changes develop in the short and long-term following head injury in anesthetised rats. After injury we use a comprehensive battery of behavioural tests to assess injury-induced deficits in motor and cognitive function. We follow these tests by recording sensory evoked cortical neuronal activity in vivo. These recordings allow us to monitor changes in electrophysiological characteristics of sensory cortical neurons after injury, and our results so far have highlighted surprising differences in cortical circuitry at various time points post-injury. Information on how cortical circuitry is altered following concussive injury will be critical in the development of clinically relevant therapies to improve patient outcome following TBI.