Button to scroll to the top of the page.

Daniel Johnston

Professor Emeritus
Department of Neuroscience, College of Natural Sciences

Karl Folkers Chair in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research (Emeritus)

Cellular neurophysiology–information processing and storage in single neurons and small neural networks; memory, epilepsy.


Postal Address
100 E 24TH ST
AUSTIN, TX 78712

Research Summary:

The underlying theme of all of the work from the Johnston lab was to use quantitative, biophysical methods to study cortical neurons and synapses.  The lab made landmark discoveries on synaptic transmission in hippocampus, voltage-gated membrane ion channels in dendrites, and the involvement of dendrites in plasticity, epilepsy and animal behavior. Johnston’s broad expertise in these fields is embedded in the highly regarded textbook with Sam Wu, “Foundations of Cellular Neurophysiology,”

Most recent (last 5 years):

Malik, R. and Johnston, D. Dendritic GIRK channels gate the integration window, plateau potentials and induction of synaptic plasticity in dorsal but not ventral CA1 neurons. J. Neurosci. 37:3940-3955, 2017.

Kalmbach, B.E., Gray, R., Johnston, D., and Cook, E.P. A systems-based analysis of dendritic nonlinearities reveals temporal feature extraction in mouse L5 cortical neurons. J. Neurophysiol. 117:2188-2208, 2017.

Routh, B.M., Rathour, R.K., Baumgardner, M.E., Kalmbach, B.E., Johnston, D., Brager, D.H. Increased transient sodium conductance and action potential output in layer 2/3 prefrontal cortex neurons of the fmr1-/y mouse. J. Physiol.595:4431-4448, 2017.

Siegel, J.J., Chitwood, R.A., Ding, J.M., Payne, C., Taylor, W., Gray, R., Zemelman, B.V., and Johnston, D. Prefrontal cortex dysfunction in Fragile X mice depends on the continued absence of Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein in the adult brain. J. Neurosci. 37:7305-7317, 2017.

Desai, N.S., Gray, R., and Johnston, D. A dynamic clamp on every rig. eNeuro 4:1-17, 2017; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0250-17.2017.

Kim, C.S., Brager, D.H., and Johnston, D. Perisomatic h-channels regulate depressive behaviors following chronic unpredictable stress. Molec. Psych. 23:892-903, 2018.

Arnold, E.C., McMurray, C., Gray, R., and Johnston, D.  Epilepsy-induced reduction in HCN channel expression contributes to an increased excitability in dorsal, but not ventral, hippocampal CA1 neurons. eNeuro 6:1-22, 2019.

Baowang, L., Routh, B.N., Johnston, D., Seidemann, E., and Priebe, N.J.  Voltage-gated intrinsic conductances shape the input-output relationship of cortical neurons in behaving primate V1.  Neuron, 107:185-196, 2020.

Kim, C.S. and Johnston, D. Antidepressant effects of (S)-ketamine through a reduction of hyperpolarization-activated current IhiScience,  https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.isci.2020.101239, 2020. 

Brandalise, F., Kalmbach, B.E., Mehta, P., Thornton, O., Johnston, D., Zemelman, B.V., and Brager, D.H. Fragile X Mental Retardation Protein bidirectionally controls dendritic Ih in a cell-type specific manner between mouse hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.  J. Neurosci., 40:5327-5340, 2020.

Gray, R. and Johnston, D. Sodium sensitivity of KNa channels in mouse CA1 neurons. J. Neurophysiol. 125:1690-1697, 2021. Podcast: https://jneurophysiol.podbean.com/e/sodium-sensitivity-of-kna-channels-in-mouse-ca1-neurons/

Routh, B., Brager, D.H. and Johnston, D. Ionic and morphological contributions to the variable gain of membrane responses in layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons of mouse primary visual cortex. J. Neurophysiol. 128:1040-1050, 2022

Most important publications:

Johnston, D. and Ayala, G.F.  Diphenylhydantoin: The action of a common anticonvulsant on bursting pacemaker cells in Aplysia.  Science 189:1009–1011, 1975.

Johnston, D., Hablitz, J.J., and Wilson, W.A.  Voltage clamp discloses slow inward current in hippocampal burst firing neurons.  Nature  (London) 286:391–393, 1980.

Carnevale, N.T. and Johnston, D.   Electrophysiological characterization of remote chemical synapses.  J. Neurophysiol.  47:606–621, 1982.

Johnston, D. and Brown, T.H.  The giant synaptic potential hypothesis for epileptiform activity.  Science 211:294–297, 1981.

Johnston, D. and Brown, T.H.  Interpretation of voltage-clamp measurements in hippocampal neurons.  J. Neurophysiol.  50:464–486, 1983.

Brown, T.H. and Johnston, D.   Voltage-clamp analysis of the mossy fiber synaptic input to hippocampal pyramidal  neurons.  J. Neurophysiol.  50:487–507, 1983.

Gray, R. and Johnston, D. Noradrenaline and β-adrenoceptor agonists increase the activity of voltage-dependent calcium channels in hippocampal neurones. Nature (London) 327:620–622, 1987.

Jaffe, D.B., Johnston, D., Lasser-Ross, N., Lisman, J.E., Miyakawa, H., Ross, W.N. The spread of Na+  spikes determines the pattern of dendritic Ca2+ entry into hippocampal neurons.  Nature  (London) 357:244–246, 1992.

Spruston, N., Jaffe, D.B., Williams, S.H., and Johnston, D. Voltage- and space-clamp errors associated with the measurement of electrotonically remote synaptic events.  J. Neurophysiol.  70:781–802, 1993.

Magee, J.C.  and  Johnston, D.  Synaptic activation of voltage-gated channels in dendrites of hippocampal pyramidal neurons.  Science 268:301–304, 1995.

Johnston, D., Magee, J.C., Colbert, C.M, and Christie, B.R. Active properties of neuronal dendrites. Annu.  Rev. Neurosci. 19:165–186, 1996.

Magee, J.C. and Johnston, D. A synaptically-controlled, associative signal for Hebbian plasticity in hippocampal neurons. Science 275:209–213, 1997.

Hoffman, D., Magee, J.C., Colbert, C.M., and Johnston, D. Potassium channel regulation of signal propagation in dendrites of hippocampal pyramidal neurons. Nature 387:869–875, 1997.

Poolos, N.P., Migliore, M., and Johnston, D. Pharmacological upregulation of h-channels reduces the excitability of pyramidal neuron dendrites. Nature  Neurosci. 5:767–774, 2002.

Frick, A., Magee, J.C., and Johnston, D.  LTP is accompanied by an enhanced local excitability of pyramidal neuron dendrites. Nature Neurosci.  7:126–135, 2004.

Bernard, C., Anderson, A.E. Poolos, N.P., and Johnston, D. Acquired dendritic channelopathy in temporal lobe epilepsy.  Science 305:532–535, 2004.

Shah, M.M., Anderson, A.E., Leung, V., and Johnston, D. Seizure-induced plasticity of h-channels in entorhinal cortical layer III neurons. Neuron 44:495–508, 2004.

Fan, Y, Fricker, D., Brager, D., Chen, X, Lu, H.C, Chitwood,  R, and  Johnston,  D.  Activity-dependent decrease of excitability in hippocampal neurons through increases in Ih.  Nature Neurosci. 8:1542–1551, 2005.

Narayanan, R. and Johnston, D. Long-term potentiation in rat hippocampal neurons is accompanied by spatially widespread changes in intrinsic oscillatory dynamics and excitability.  Neuron 56:1061–1075, 2007.

Kim, C.S., Chang, P.Y., and Johnston, D. Knockdown of HCN1 channels in dorsal hippocampus enhances network activity and leads to anxiolytic- and antidepressant-like effects. Neuron 75:503–516, 2012.

Vaidya, S.P. and Johnston, D. Temporal synchrony and gamma to theta power conversion in the dendrites of CA1 pyramidal neurons. Nature Neurosci. 16:1812-1820, 2013.

Desai, N.S., Gray, R., and Johnston, D. A dynamic clamp on every rig. eNeuro 4:1-17, 2017; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/ENEURO.0250-17.2017.

Kim, C.S., Brager, D.H., and Johnston, D. Perisomatic h-channels regulate depressive behaviors following chronic unpredictable stress. Molec. Psych. 23:892-903, 2018.

  • Graduate with Distinction, School of Engineering, University of Virginia (1970)
  • Elected to Tau Beta Pi and Eta Kappa Nu (1970)
  • GrassFoundationFellowship in Neurobiology, Marine Biology Laboratory, Woods Hole, MA (1976)
  • McKnightFoundationNeuroscience Development Award (1982-1985)
  • MichaelDeBakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award, Baylor College of Medicine (1997)
  • MarcDresden Excellencein Graduate Education Award, Baylor College of Medicine (1999)
  • BarbaraandCorbin J. Robertson, , Presidential Award for Excellence in Education, Baylor (2001)
  • MERIT Award, National Institute of Mental Health (1989-2009)
  • Dart FoundationScholarin Learning  & Memory, Marine Biology Laboratory (2004-2006)
  • Endowed Chair, Karl Folkers Chair in Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research, UT Austin (2004-2022)
  • GillCenter DistinguishedNeuroscience Investigator, The Gill Foundation (2009)
  • Memory and Cognitive Disorders Award, McKnight Endowment Fund (2011-2013)
  • Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (2016)