Associate Professor Ian Johnson

Associate Professor Ian Johnson
  • Biography/ Background

    Ian is the head of the Discipline of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Adelaide. He obtained a BSc (hons) in anatomy from the University of Birmingham and a PhD in neuroanatomy from the Institute of Neurology, University of London (now University College London). His postdoctoral work at the Institute of Neurology, London was concerned with the target-dependence of motoneurones. He was appointed senior lecturer in anatomy at the Royal Free and University College Medical School (UCL), London in 2000 where he co-ordinated medical anatomy and worked on developing a strategy for neuronal rescue through gene transfer of IGF-1 isoforms. Ian joined the University of Adelaide in 2009 where he continues his work on mechanisms underlying neuronal injury and repair, with particular reference to Motor Neurone Disease. His team are defining differences in the neurotrophic rescue of motoneurones at different ages, and the roles of inflammation in the peripheral and the CNS on such survival. Ian coordinates several courses and teaches anatomy, neuroanatomy, neuroscience and pathophysiology to science, medical and paramedical students as well medical graduates studying for surgical and radiological fellowship examinations.

  • Qualifications

    B.Sc. hons (anatomy), PhD (neuroanatomy)

    Chartered Biologist, Institute of Biology, UK 

    Registered Practitioner, Higher Education Academy, UK

    Licensed Teacher of Anatomy, UK (1993-2006)

  • Teaching Interests

    Ian teaches and coordinates MBBS anatomy and has a specific interest in neuroanatomy. He teaches into MBBS years 1-4 and several B.Health Science courses, including postgraduate courses. He has about 30 years’ experience of neuroscience and teaching and also teaches embryology. In the UK he taught histology to medical and dental students for 10 years and was the licensed teacher of human anatomy at University College London.
    Ian runs external course for surgical/radiology trainees. Details below.

    EXTERNAL COURSES: Applied anatomy for surgical/radiology trainees. Evening workshops including lectures and practicals run with A/Prof Ghabriel and Dr Kumaratilake during the year. Please email any of the organisers for course dates.

    Applied Anatomy for Surgical/Radiology Trainees
    Module 1: Upper limb, Lower limb and Spine (A/Prof Mounir Ghabriel)
    March  – May, each year and December, each year, 5d intensive course
    Module 2: Head and Neck, Spine, Cranial Nerves and CNS (Dr. Ian Johnson)
    June – August, each year
    Module 3: Thorax, abdomen and pelvis (Dr. Jaliya Kumaratilake)
    September – November, each year


    For further information and registration forms contact:
    Module 2: ian.johnson@adelaide,
    Module 3: jaliya.kumaratilake@adelaide,



  • Research Interests

    Ian is the head of the Motor Neurone Laboratory. With colleagues, he was the first to describe the response of gamma motoneurones to injury and through collaborations in the London and Munich provided the first descriptions of neurotrophic factor changes in Motor Neurone Disease. He has a longstanding research interest in the role of the peripheral target in motor and sensory neuronal survival and provided the first description of adult motoneuron rescue by transfer of functional copies of the gene for a muscle-derived isoform of IGF-1 called MGF. The current main focus of research is on mechanisms underlying age-related differences in motoneuronal survival, with particular reference to the roles of neurotrophic factors including MGF and neuroinflammation in Motor Neurone Disease. The techinques used include microneurosurgery, confocal and electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, in-situ hybridisation and cytokine assays using multiplex technology. He is review editor for Frontiers in Neuroscience, Neurology and Psychiatry. 

    Ian is recognised as a teaching expert in anatomy by the University of Adelaide and is a member of the Adelaide Academy which promotes excellence in learning and teaching. He has a research interest in the assessment of the utility of electronic resources in anatomy teaching, with specific reference to whether the resources improve learning outcomes rather than just being well-received in opinion polls. As a member of the Council of the Australian and New Zealand Association of Clinical Anatomists, he is creating a National syllabus for anatomy for medical students. He regularly meets with other anatomists to share best practice as part of the tri-university Adelaide Anatomy Community of Practice.



  • Publications

    Johnson, I.P. 2015. Age-related neurodegenerative disease research needs aging models. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 7, 168. doi:10.3389/fnagi.2015.00168.

    Johnson, I.P. & Sears, T.A. (2013). Target-dependence of sensory neurones; An ultrastructural comparison of dorsal root ganglion neurones with allowed or denied reinnervation of peripheral targets. Neuroscience 228: 163-178.

    Johnson, I.P. Palmer, E., Burton, J., & Brockhouse, M. (2013). Online resources in anatomy: what do students think? Clinical Anatomy 26: 556-563.

    More publications can be found via this link:

    Google Scholar:

  • Professional Associations

    Fellow, Royal Microscopical Society                          
    Fellow, Royal Society of Biology
    Fellow, Higher Education Academy
    Fellow, Royal Society of Medicine 
    Member, Society for Neuroscience 
    Member, Australian and New Zealand Association of Clinical Anatomists
    Member, Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia

  • Media Expertise

    CategoriesEducation, Medicine & Medical Research
    ExpertiseMotor Neurone Disease;Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis; Neurotrophic factors;Neuroinflammation; Motor Neurones;Nerve injury;Nerve repair;Human anatomy.

The information in this directory is provided to support the academic, administrative and business activities of the University of Adelaide. To facilitate these activities, entries in the University Phone Directory are not limited to University employees. The use of information provided here for any other purpose, including the sending of unsolicited commercial material via email or any other electronic format, is strictly prohibited. The University reserves the right to recover all costs incurred in the event of breach of this policy.

Entry last updated: Sunday, 24 Jan 2021