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John A. Olschowka, Ph.D.

Contact Information

Phone Numbers

Office: (585) 275-8238

Fax: (585) 756-5334

Research Labs

Faculty Appointments




Models of CNS inflammation.

The inflammatory processes that follow injury (trauma, stroke, seizure, infection, radiation, etc.) to the central nervous system (CNS) dramatically amplify the damage. For example, reduction of the inflammatory process following stroke has been shown to limit the volume of damaged tissue by 2/3's. Our laboratory is currently working to better understand the mechanisms of inflammation within the CNS. Currently we are examining several clinically relevant areas of CNS inflammation, most in collaboration with Dr. Kerry O'Banion. First, we are using a model of damage to the CNS caused by gamma-irradiation. Treatment of brain tumors with radiation leads to long-term damage of the normal brain tissue, damage caused by a massive inflammatory response. This model will be expanded beginning in the fall of 2008 by a NIAID funded pilot project as we examine the effects of combined injuries, radiation and a peripheral injury, on the functioning of both brain and lung. In a related model, we are examining the effect of cosmic radiation (similar to the exposure received in space) on the CNS. Third, using several transgenic mouse models of Alzheimer's disease coupled with a model of chronic inflammation, we are exploring the possible beneficial effects of inflammation in the clearing of Aß plaque pathology. Fourth, in a project begun this year, we are examining the potential brain injuring effects of underwater sound exposure. This project funded by the Office of Naval Research is interested in the use of sound exposure as a non-lethal weapon. Our final and newest area of research examines late appearing cytokines following brain injury. While suppression of acute pro-inflammatory cytokines has worked well in animal models, they have not proven useful clinically. We are now examining the late appearing cytokine HMGB-1 and its receptors (RAGE, TLR4 and TLR2) in a model of traumatic brain injury. With a better understanding, we hope to limit the inflammatory response and thus improve the effectiveness of therapy. Using techniques such as light microscopic immunocytochemistry, in situ hybridization, computerized image analysis, quantitative real time RT-PCR, and the immunohistochemical methods for detection of apoptosis, we have begun to unravel the cell types, cytokines, chemokines, apoptotic genes, and adhesion molecules involved in CNS inflammation.
With the aid of a pilot grant from the Schmitt Foundation, we are now beginning to examine to role of CNS inflammation in the development of seizure activity. Following a variety of inflammation models (radiation-induced, Alzheimer's transgenic mice, peripheral inflammation, etc), we have begun to record EEG's from mice to determine alterations in susceptibility to seizure activity.

Cherry JD; Williams JP; O'Banion MK; Olschowka JA "Thermal injury lowers the threshold for radiation-induced neuroinflammation and cognitive dysfunction." Radiation research. 2013; 180(4):398-406.
Ghosh S; Wu MD; Shaftel SS; Kyrkanides S; Laferla FM; Olschowka JA; O'Banion MK "Sustained interleukin-1ß overexpression exacerbates tau pathology despite reduced amyloid burden in an Alzheimer's mouse model." The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience. 2013; 33(11):5053-64.
Cherry JD; Liu B; Frost JL; Lemere CA; Williams JP; Olschowka JA; O'Banion MK "Galactic cosmic radiation leads to cognitive impairment and increased aß plaque accumulation in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease." PloS one. 2012; 7(12):e53275. .
Hein AM, Stasko, MR, Matousek SB, Scott-McKean JJ, Maier SF, Olschowka JA, Costa AC, O'Banion MK. Sustained hippocampal IL-1ß overexpression impairs contextual and spatial memory in transgenic mice. Brain Behav. Immun. 2009, PMCID: PMC2818290



BS | Univ of Cal Davis

MS | Univ of Cal Davis

PhD | Univ of Cal Davis

Post-doctoral Training & Residency

1979 - 0
John Hopkins University School of Medicine: Research Associate, Department of Neurology.

1978 - 1980
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine: Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy.


Commendation for Excellence in Medical Education
Location: University of Rochester

Commendation for Excellence in Medical Education
Location: University of Rochester

Commendation for Excellence in Medical Education
Sponsor: University of Rochester

Commendation for excellence in medical education
Location: University of Rochester

Commendation for excellence in medical education
Location: University of Rochester

Commendation for excellence in medical education
Location: University of Rochester

Commendation for excellence in medical education
Location: University of Rochester

Commendation for excellence in medical education
Location: University of Rochester

Student (undergraduate) Advisor of the Year
Location: University of Rochester

Alumni Award for Excellence in Graduate Education
Location: University of Rochester

George W. Merck Dean's Teaching Scholar Award
Location: University of Rochester

Outstanding Teaching Award, Graduate Division
Location: University of California

Sigma Xi Honor Society

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Journal Articles

Zablotska LB, Zupunski L, Leuraud K, Lopes J, Hinkle J, Pugeda T, Delgado T, Olschowka J, Williams J, O'Banion MK, Boice JD, Cohen SS, Mumma MT, Dauer LT, Britten RA, Stephenson S. "Radiation and CNS effects: Summary of evidence from a recent symposium of the Radiation Research Society." International journal of radiation biology.. 2022 Nov 1; :1-19. Epub 2022 Nov 01.

Owlett LD, Karaahmet B, Le L, Belcher EK, Dionisio-Santos D, Olschowka JA, Elliott MR, O'Banion MK. "Gas6 induces inflammation and reduces plaque burden but worsens behavior in a sex-dependent manner in the APP/PS1 model of Alzheimer's disease." Journal of neuroinflammation.. 2022 Feb 7; 19(1):38. Epub 2022 Feb 07.

Herr D, Jew K, Wong C, Kennell A, Gelein R, Chalupa D, Raab A, Oberdörster G, Olschowka J, O'Banion MK, Elder A. "Effects of concentrated ambient ultrafine particulate matter on hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease in the 3xTgAD mouse model." Neurotoxicology.. 2021 Mar 29; Epub 2021 Mar 29.

Books & Chapters

Chapter Title: Immune response, stress, and environment: implications for cetaceans.
Book Title: Molecular and Cell Biology of Marine Mammals
Author List: Romano, T.A.; D.L. Felten; S.Y. Stevens; J.A. Olschowka; V. Quanranta; S. H. Ridgway
Edited By: C.J. Pfeiffer
Published By: Krieger Pub. Co. 2002

Chapter Title: Immunocytochemical methods for the localization of cytokines in brain.
Book Title: Neurobiology of Cytokines Part A; A volume of Methods in Neurosciences.
Author List: Olschowka, J.A.
Edited By: E. de Souza
Published By: Academic Press 1993

Chapter Title: Interleukin-1beta Expression in the Rat Brain
Book Title: Peripheral Signaling of the Brain: Neural-Immune and Cognitive Function.
Author List: Olschowka, J.A.; Dopp, J.; Higgins, G.A.
Edited By: R.C.A. Frederickson, J.L. McGaugh and D.L. Felten
Published By: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers 1991 in Toronto