Michael V. Johnston, M.D.

Michael V. Johnston, M.D.'s picture
Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Kennedy Krieger Institute

Kennedy Krieger Institute
707 N. Broadway
Baltimore, MD 21205
Phone: (443) 923-9315
Email: johnston@kennedykrieger.org

Dr. Michael Johnston is a research scientist, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Kennedy Krieger Institute. He is also a professor of neurology and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Biographical Sketch: 

Dr. Johnston attended Franklin and Marshall College before going on to medical school at the University of Pittsburgh, from which he graduated cum laude in 1971. His post-doctoral training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital included work in pediatrics, neurology, pharmacology and pediatric neurology. After teaching positions and research work at the University of Michigan Medical School and University of Michigan Hospitals, Dr. Johnston returned to Baltimore in 1988. Today he is the senior vice president and chief medical officer at Kennedy Krieger Institute, as well as director of both Kennedy Krieger Institute's Division of Neurology and Developmental Medicine and the institute's neuroscience laboratory. Dr. Johnston is an attending physician at both Johns Hopkins Hospital and Kennedy Krieger Children's Hospital.

Research Summary: 

Dr. Johnston and his group, including Drs. Mary BlueMary Ann Wilson and Alec Hoon, perform clinical and basic laboratory research focused on developing therapies to reduce brain injury in infants and children as well as to promote recovery by enhancing brain plasticity. His laboratory was one of the first to describe the mechanisms through which the neurotransmitter glutamate triggers brain injury from lack of oxygen, trauma and other insults. If administered early enough, drugs that block the effects of glutamate on one of its receptors called the NMDA receptor can totally prevent brain injury in infants.

His group also recognized that the major role that glutamate plays in injury during development is related to the important role it plays in normal development. During development, glutamate released from nerve terminals helps to refine the synaptic connections that link neurons into circuits. These mechanisms are enhanced during development to shape circuits in response to environmental stimuli and formation of memories, a process called "neuronal plasticity." When the brain is injured, these circuits can be damaged by too much glutamate, much like a computer's chips can be damaged by a power surge during a thunderstorm.

Because injury and plasticity are two sides of the same processes in brain development, Dr. Johnston's research has grown beyond mechanisms of injury into processes that control brain plasticity. For example, he studies how the cerebral cortex is reassigned in response to injury, which is the major mechanism for recovery of function from stroke and other disorders. Even learning and long-term memory are based on these same mechanisms, since it depends on neurons exciting each other with glutamate and changes in synaptic connections. Numerous disorders associated with intellectual disabilities are caused by genetic flaws in these systems, and Dr. Johnston recently completed a project focused on a defect in a neuronal signaling process involved in a form of X-linked intellectual disability.

Dr. Johnston's initial pursuit of ways to reduce brain injury in infants and children with medications has led to a broader understanding of processes involved in plasticity and recovery from injury. The immature brain's glutamate signaling system, which is enhanced compared to the adult in order to shape its complex neuronal circuitry, proves to be its "Achilles' Heel" when it is injured. Accordingly, Dr. Johnston's research has proved to be relevant to a broad range of neurodevelopmental disabilities including cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, genetic metabolic disorders, and epilepsy as well as brain injury from lack of oxygen and trauma.

Research Publications:

Sun LR, Huisman TA, Yeshokumar AK, Johnston MV (2015). Ongoing Cerebral Vasculitis During Treatment of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Pediatr Neurol. 53(5), 434-8. Abstract
Marschik PB, Kaufmann WE, Sigafoos J, Wolin T, Zhang D, Bartl-Pokorny KD, Pini G, Zappella M, Tager-Flusberg H, Einspieler C, Johnston MV (2013). Changing the perspective on early development of Rett syndrome. Res Dev Disabil. 34(4), 1236-9. Abstract
Massaro AN, Jeromin A, Kadom N, Vezina G, Hayes RL, Wang KK, Streeter J, Johnston MV (2013). Serum biomarkers of MRI brain injury in neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy treated with whole-body hypothermia: a pilot study. Pediatr Crit Care Med. 14(3), 310-7. Abstract
Kim JJ, Buchbinder N, Ammanuel S, Kim R, Moore E, O'Donnell N, Lee JK, Kulikowicz E, Acharya S, Allen RH, Lee RW, Johnston MV (2013). Cost-effective therapeutic hypothermia treatment device for hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Med Devices (Auckl). 6, 1-10. Abstract
Falahati S, Breu M, Waickman AT, Phillips AW, Arauz EJ, Snyder S, Porambo M, Goeral K, Comi AM, Wilson MA, Johnston MV, Fatemi A (2013). Ischemia-induced neuroinflammation is associated with disrupted development of oligodendrocyte progenitors in a model of periventricular leukomalacia. Dev Neurosci. 35(2-3), 182-96. Abstract
Phillips AW, Falahati S, DeSilva R, Shats I, Marx J, Arauz E, Kerr DA, Rothstein JD, Johnston MV, Fatemi A (2012). Derivation of glial restricted precursors from E13 mice. J Vis Exp. (64), . Abstract
Arnaoutakis GJ, George TJ, Wang KK, Wilson MA, Allen JG, Robinson CW, Haggerty KA, Weiss ES, Blue ME, Talbot CC Jr, Troncoso JC, Johnston MV, Baumgartner WA (2011). Serum levels of neuron-specific ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase-L1 predict brain injury in a canine model of hypothermic circulatory arrest. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 142(4), 902-910.e1. Abstract
Blue ME, Kaufmann WE, Bressler J, Eyring C, O'driscoll C, Naidu S, Johnston MV (2011). Temporal and regional alterations in NMDA receptor expression in Mecp2-null mice. Anat Rec (Hoboken). 294(10), 1624-34. Abstract
Fatemi A, Wilson MA, Phillips AW, McMahon MT, Zhang J, Smith SA, Arauz EJ, Falahati S, Gummadavelli A, Bodagala H, Mori S, Johnston MV (2011). In vivo magnetization transfer MRI shows dysmyelination in an ischemic mouse model of periventricular leukomalacia. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 31(10), 2009-18. Abstract
Allen JG, Weiss ES, Wilson MA, Arnaoutakis GJ, Blue ME, Talbot CC Jr, Jie C, Lange MS, Troncoso JC, Johnston MV, Baumgartner WA (2010). Hawley H. Seiler Resident Award. Transcriptional profile of brain injury in hypothermic circulatory arrest and cardiopulmonary bypass. Ann Thorac Surg. 89(6), 1965-71. Abstract
Tseng EE, Brock MV, Lange MS, Troncoso JC, Blue ME, Lowenstein CJ, Johnston MV, Baumgartner WA (2010). Glutamate excitotoxicity mediates neuronal apoptosis after hypothermic circulatory arrest. Ann Thorac Surg. 89(2), 440-5. Abstract
Muthugovindan D, Kossoff EH, Sakonju A, Johnston MV (2009). Aicardi syndrome mimicking intrauterine hydrocephalus. Brain Dev. 31(8), 638-40. Abstract
Weiss ES, Wang KK, Allen JG, Blue ME, Nwakanma LU, Liu MC, Lange MS, Berrong J, Wilson MA, Gott VL, Troncoso JC, Hayes RL, Johnston MV, Baumgartner WA (2009). Alpha II-spectrin breakdown products serve as novel markers of brain injury severity in a canine model of hypothermic circulatory arrest. Ann Thorac Surg. 88(2), 543-50. Abstract
Johnston MV, Ishida A, Ishida WN, Matsushita HB, Nishimura A, Tsuji M (2009). Plasticity and injury in the developing brain. Brain Dev. 31(1), 1-10. Abstract
Connors SL, Levitt P, Matthews SG, Slotkin TA, Johnston MV, Kinney HC, Johnson WG, Dailey RM, Zimmerman AW (2008). Fetal mechanisms in neurodevelopmental disorders. Pediatr Neurol. 38(3), 163-76. Abstract
Comi AM, Cho E, Mulholland JD, Hooper A, Li Q, Qu Y, Gary DS, McDonald JW, Johnston MV (2008). Neural stem cells reduce brain injury after unilateral carotid ligation. Pediatr Neurol. 38(2), 86-92. Abstract
Curran LK, Newschaffer CJ, Lee LC, Crawford SO, Johnston MV, Zimmerman AW (2007). Behaviors associated with fever in children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics. 120(6), e1386-92. Abstract
Jordan LC, van Beek JG, Gottesman RF, Kossoff EH, Johnston MV (2007). Ischemic stroke in children with critical illness: a poor prognostic sign. Pediatr Neurol. 36(4), 244-6. Abstract
Johnston MV, Hagberg H (2007). Sex and the pathogenesis of cerebral palsy. Dev Med Child Neurol. 49(1), 74-8. Abstract
Comi AM, Highet BH, Mehta P, Hana Chong T, Johnston MV, Wilson MA (2006). Dextromethorphan protects male but not female mice with brain ischemia. Neuroreport. 17(12), 1319-22. Abstract
Williams JA, Barreiro CJ, Nwakanma LU, Lange MS, Kratz LE, Blue ME, Berrong J, Patel ND, Gott VL, Troncoso JC, Johnston MV, Baumgartner WA (2006). Valproic acid prevents brain injury in a canine model of hypothermic circulatory arrest: a promising new approach to neuroprotection during cardiac surgery. Ann Thorac Surg. 81(6), 2235-41; discussion 2241-2. Abstract
Barreiro CJ, Williams JA, Fitton TP, Lange MS, Blue ME, Kratz L, Barker PB, Degaonkar M, Gott VL, Troncoso JC, Johnston MV, Baumgartner WA (2006). Noninvasive assessment of brain injury in a canine model of hypothermic circulatory arrest using magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Ann Thorac Surg. 81(5), 1593-8. Abstract
Johnston MV, Hoon AH Jr (2006). Cerebral palsy. Neuromolecular Med. 8(4), 435-50. Abstract
Johnston MV, Ferriero DM, Vannucci SJ, Hagberg H (2005). Models of cerebral palsy: which ones are best? J Child Neurol. 20(12), 984-7. Abstract
Johnston MV (2005). Excitotoxicity in perinatal brain injury. Brain Pathol. 15(3), 234-40. Abstract

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