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Targeting abnormal immune function in the central nervous system to treat cognitive disorders.


There is a growing body of evidence that most neurocognitive disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and neuropathic pain states involve abnormal immune activity within the central nervous system. Treatments that target these abnormal immune functions can serve as low-risk, non-toxic interventions with minimal side-effects on normal functions.

We will investigate the role of abnormal immune activity within the central nervous system in disease, and whether treatments that target these processes can accelerate recovery of cognitive function in these diseases. The general aim will be to translate these findings to clinical studies.


Dr Ian Johnston.

Research location

School of Psychology

Program type



I am interested in the effect of a broad range of diseases on neurological function, such as cancer and cancer treatment, neuropathic pain, diabetes (and related metabolic diseases), and ageing. However, it will be possible to investigate the role of abnormal immune activity in the CNS in other neurological diseases.

Initially, you will use animal models to investigate the role of abnormal immune activity in the CNS using a range of techniques: Immunohistochemistry, analysis of gene activity, small animal neuroimaging, pharmacological interventions, and behavioural testing. There are a range of safe and non-toxic drugs in clinical use for other inflammatory conditions that are potential inhibitors of these abnormal immune processes in the CNS. We will examine the efficacy of these safe treatments on cognitive function and neurobiology in these diseases in animal models first. Because these drugs are already in clinical use, we will then translate our findings to clinical studies quickly.

Additional information

HDR Inherent Requirements

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

- Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
- Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
- Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
- Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
- Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
- Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
- Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
- Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
- Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence;
- Hold a current scuba diving license;
- Hold a current Working with Children Check;
- Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

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Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 1615

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