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My research interests lie in understanding the complex microbial community of the gut, its bidirectional interactions with the brain and how the gut microbiome can affect behaviour, with a particular interest in emotion, cognition and social behaviour.  My PhD was on the connections between the gut microbiome and the brain and behaviour, combining research in humans, model organisms, wild monkeys and evolutionary biology.  I have a broad knowledge of biology, with my research also spanning fields such as animal behaviour, neuroscience and evolution.

Johnson, K. V.-A. & Foster, K. R. Why does the microbiome affect behaviour? Nature Reviews Microbiology 16, 647-655 (2018)

Selected to be published in special 15th anniversary print issue of Nature Reviews Microbiology and ranked number one out of all articles ever published in this journal by Altmetric impact score (measures amount of attention received).  Notable media coverage including interview on Fun Kids Science Weekly (most popular UK children's podcast) and invited to write an article featured in The Scientist magazine.  Press release

Johnson, K. V.-A. Gut microbiome composition and diversity are related to human personality traits. Human Microbiome 15, 100069 (2019)

First single author paper (invited submission) and considerable media coverage including BBC TV South Today News and BBC Radio Oxford and BBC Radio Berkshire interviews. Press release

Johnson, K. V.-A., Dunbar, R. I. M. et al. Sociability in a non-captive macaque population is associated with beneficial gut bacteria. Frontiers in Microbiology (special collection) 13, 1032495 (2022) ​Worldwide media coverage including Bloomberg and Forbes; BBC TV South Today News and BBC Radio Oxford news bulletins; all main newspapers (e.g. Independent, Evening Standard, Daily Mail) and online magazines like Popular Science.  Altmetric impact score reached over 1,600 and listed as one of the highest impact Frontiers articles of 2022. Press release

Johnson, K. V.-A. & Burnet, P. W. J. Microbiome: Should we diversify from diversity? Gut Microbes 7, 455-458 (2016)

Johnson, K. V.-A. & Burnet, P. W. J. Opposing effects of antibiotics and germ-free status on neuropeptide systems involved in social behaviour and pain regulation. BMC Neuroscience 21, 32 (2020)

Considerable media coverage including featured article in Neuroscience News and ranked number three out of all articles ever published in this journal by Altmetric impact score.  Press release

Sarkar, A., Johnson, K. V.-A. et al. Microbial transmission in animal social networks and the social microbiome. Nature Ecology & Evolution 4, 1020-1035 (2020)

Sarkar, A., Johnson, K. V.-A. et al. The role of the microbiome in the neurobiology of social behaviour. Biological Reviews 95, 1131-1166 (2020)

Johnson, K. V.-A. & Steenbergen, L. Gut feelings: vagal stimulation reduces emotional biases. Neuroscience 494, 119-131 (2022)

Selected as cover image for the journal.  Press release

Johnson, K. V.-A. & Steenbergen, L. Do common antibiotic treatments influence emotional processing? Physiology & Behavior 255, 113900 (2022)

Media coverage including Dutch Radio 1 news channel and in Neuroscience News.  Press release

Greenhough, B., Johnson, K. V.-A. et al. Setting the agenda for social science research on the human microbiome. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications 6, 18 (2020)


Johnson, K. V.-A. & Dunbar, R. I. M. Pain tolerance predicts human social network size. Scientific Reports 6, 25267 (2016)

​Worldwide media coverage including live filming for Sky and CTV News; ITV News feature filming; BBC World Service and international radio interviews; all main newspapers (e.g. The Times, Telegraph, Guardian) and online magazines like Time.  Altmetric impact score reached over 1,400.  Research findings also featured in books including 'The Friendship Cure' and 'Friends: Understanding the Power of Our Most Important Relationships'.  Press release

Johnson, K. V.-A. et al. Male great tits assort by personality during the breeding season. Animal Behaviour 128, 21-32 (2017)

Considerable media coverage, most notably an interview on BBC Radio 4 Inside Science.  Press release



And more articles in publication... so watch this space!

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