Neuroimmunology and cognition

The Vukovic laboratory investigates how brain function is sculpted and influenced by the immune system. Specifically, we examine the role of brain’s main resident immune cell population (i.e. microglia), as well as various peripheral immune cells, on learning and memory in mice. We are interested in defining the contribution of immune cells to such higher cognitive tasks, including for neuroinflammatory conditions where learning and memory deficits can occur, e.g. following traumatic brain injury, cancer treatment, and ageing. We have established an array of genetic and pharmacological tools alongside robust behavioural assays to directly probe the function of these immune cells in both the healthy and diseased brain. The ultimate goal of our work is to link cellular and molecular events to altered behaviour, and to harness the brain’s intrinsic regenerative potential for stimulating optimal cognitive function.

A neuroimmunologist, Associate Professor Vukovic received her PhD in 2008 from The University of Western Australia after working on the repair of injured nerve cell connections. She joined QBI in 2009 to work in Professor Perry Bartlett’s laboratory as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow, before being awarded a Queensland Government Smart Futures Fellowship to continue her research into the importance of adult neurogenesis for behaviour and how microglia influence this process in ageing. Associate Professor Vukovic demonstrated that microglia can exert a dual and opposing influence over adult neurogenesis (the birth of new neurons) in the hippocampus under different physiological conditions, namely exercise and ageing, and that signalling through the chemokine receptor, CX3CR1, critically contributes towards this (Vukovic et al., 2012, J Neurosci). She also generated novel evidence that ongoing neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus is critical for new learning but does not play a role in memory recall (Vukovic et al., 2013, J Neurosci).

Associate Professor Vukovic was awarded an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (2015-2018) and was jointly appointed as a group leader by the UQ School of Biomedical Sciences (SBMS) and QBI in 2015. She heads the Neuroimmunology and Cognition team investigating the interactions between the brain and the immune system in health and disease.

Currently the group is working on three main projects:

  1. Identification of microglia-derived molecules that support neuronal survival and stimulate neural stem/progenitor cell expansion
  2. Characterisation of immune cell contribution to changes in neuronal connectivity
  3. Immune cell responses to cancer treatment, and their effect on learning and memory

Group leader

Dr Jana Vukovic

Associate Professor Jana Vukovic

Senior Research Fellow, Queensland Brain Institute

  +61 7 336 52818
  UQ Researcher Profile


Willis, Emily F.Kim, Seung JaeChen, WeiNyuydzefe, MelanieMacDonald, Kelli P.A.Zanin-Zhorov, AlexandraRuitenberg, Marc J. and Vukovic, Jana (2024).ROCK2 regulates microglia proliferation and neuronal survival after traumatic brain injury. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 117, 181-194. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2024.01.004

Shaikh, Samreen N.Willis, Emily F.Dierich, MaxXu, YiStuart, Samuel J. S.Gobe, Glenda C.Bashaw, Abate A.Rawashdeh, OliverKim, Seung Jae and Vukovic, Jana (2023).CSF-1R inhibitor PLX3397 attenuates peripheral and brain chronic GVHD and improves functional outcomes in mice. Journal of Neuroinflammation, 20 (1) 300, 300. doi: 10.1186/s12974-023-02984-7

Adams, Rachael CCarter-Cusack, DylanLlanes, Genesis THunter, Christopher R.Vinnakota, Janaki ManojaRuitenberg, Marc JVukovic, JanaBertolino, PatrickChand, Kirat K.Wixey, Julie A.Nayler, Samuel P.Hill, Geoffrey RFurlan, Scott NZeiser, Robert and MacDonald, Kelli P.A. (2023).CSF1R inhibition promotes neuroinflammation and behavioural deficits during graft-versus-host disease in mice. Blood Journal, 142 (Supplement 1), 2052-2052. doi: 10.1182/blood.2023022040

Pham, DuyTan, XiaoBalderson, BradXu, JunGrice, Laura F.Yoon, SohyeWillis, Emily F.Tran, MinhLam, Pui YengRaghubar, ArtiKalita-de Croft, PriyakshiLakhani, SunilVukovic, JanaRuitenberg, Marc J. and Nguyen, Quan H. (2023).Robust mapping of spatiotemporal trajectories and cell–cell interactions in healthy and diseased tissues. Nature Communications, 14 (1) 7739, 1-25. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-43120-6

Ijuin, ShinichiLiu, KeibunGill, DenzilKyun Ro, SunVukovic, JanaIshihara, SatoshiBelohlavek, JanLi Bassi, GianluigiSuen, Jacky Y. and Fraser, John F. (2023).Current animal models of extracorporeal cardiopulmonary resuscitation: a scoping review. Resuscitation Plus, 15 100426, 1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resplu.2023.100426

Willis, Emily F.Gillespie, Ellen R.Guse, KirstenZuercher, Adrian W.Käsermann, FabianRuitenberg, Marc J. and Vukovic, Jana (2023).Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) promotes brain repair and improves cognitive outcomes after traumatic brain injury in a FcγRIIB receptor-dependent manner. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 109, 37-50. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2022.12.018

Adams, Rachael CCarter-Cusack, DylanShaikh, Samreen NLlanes, Genesis TJohnston, Rebecca LQuaife-Ryan, GregoryBoyle, Glen MKoufariotis, Lambros TMöller, AndreasBlazar, Bruce R.Vukovic, Jana and MacDonald, Kelli PA (2022).Donor bone marrow-derived macrophage MHC II drives neuroinflammation and altered behaviour during chronic GVHD in mice. Blood, 139 (9), 1389-1408. doi: 10.1182/blood.2021011671

Blackmore, Daniel G.Steyn, Frederik J.Carlisle, AlisonO’Keeffe, ImogenVien, King-YearZhou, XiaoqingLeiter, OdetteJhaveri, DhanishaVukovic, JanaWaters, Michael J. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2021).An exercise ‘sweet spot’ reverses cognitive deficits of ageing by growth hormone-induced neurogenesis. iScience, 24 (11) 103275, 1-25. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2021.103275

Harley, Samuel B. R.Willis, Emily F.Shaikh, Samreen N.Blackmore, Daniel G.Sah, PankajRuitenberg, Marc J.Bartlett, Perry F. and Vukovic, Jana (2021).Selective ablation of BDNF from microglia reveals novel roles in self-renewal and hippocampal neurogenesis. The Journal of Neuroscience, 41 (19), 4172-4186. doi: 10.1523/jneurosci.2539-20.2021

Willis, Emily F. and Vukovic, Jana (2020).Protocol for brain-wide or region-specific microglia depletion and repopulation in adult mice. STAR protocols, 1 (3) 100211, 100211. doi: 10.1016/j.xpro.2020.100211

Codd, Lavinia N.Blackmore, Daniel G.Vukovic, Jana and Bartlett, Perry F. (2020).Exercise reverses learning deficits induced by hippocampal injury by promoting neurogenesis. Scientific Reports, 10 (1) 19269, 19269. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-76176-1

Pham, DuyTan, XiaoXu, JunGrice, Laura F.Lam, Pui YengRaghubar, ArtiVukovic, JanaRuitenberg, Marc J. and Nguyen, Quan (2020).stLearn integrating spatial location, tissue morphology and gene expression to find cell types, cell-cell interactions and spatial trajectories within undissociated tissues. Biorxiv, 1-18. doi: 10.1101/2020.05.31.125658v1

Willis, Emily F.MacDonald, Kelli P. A.Nguyen, Quan H.Garrido, Adahir LabradorGillespie, Ellen R.Harley, Samuel B. R.Bartlett, Perry F.Schroder, Wayne A.Yates, Abi G.Anthony, Daniel C.Rose-John, StefanRuitenberg, Marc J. and Vukovic, Jana (2020).Repopulating Microglia Promote Brain Repair in an IL-6-Dependent Manner. Cell, 180 (5), 833-846.e16. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.02.013

Cleland, J. P.Willis, E. F.Bartlett, P. F. and Vukovic, J. (2017).Somatic Arc protein expression in hippocampal granule cells is increased in response to environmental change but independent of task-specific learning. Scientific Reports, 7 (1) 12477, 12477. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-12583-1

Willis, Emily F.Bartlett, Perry F. and Vukovic, Jana (2017).Protocol for Short- and Longer-term Spatial Learning and Memory in Mice. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 11 197, 1-8. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2017.00197

Ruitenberg, Marc J.Wells, JuliaBartlett, Perry F.Harvey, Alan R. and Vukovic, Jana (2017).Enrichment increases hippocampal neurogenesis independent of blood monocyte-derived microglia presence following high-dose total body irradiation. Brain Research Bulletin, 132, 150-159. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2017.05.013

Brennan, Faith H.Kurniawan, Nyoman D.Vukovic, JanaBartlett, Perry F.Käsermann, FabianArumugam, Thiruman V.Basta, Milan and Ruitenberg, Marc J. (2016).IVIg attenuates complement and improves spinal cord injury outcomes in mice. Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, 3 (7), 495-511. doi: 10.1002/acn3.318

Ortega, Francisco J.Vukovic, JanaRodriguez, Manuel J. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2014).Blockade of microglial KATP-channel abrogates suppression of inflammatory-mediated inhibition of neural precursor cells. GLIA, 62 (2), 247-258. doi: 10.1002/glia.22603

Vukovic, JanaBedin, Anne-SophieBartlett, Perry F. and Osborne, Geoffrey W. (2013).A novel fluorescent reporter CDy1 enriches for neural stem cells derived from the murine brain. Stem Cells and Development, 22 (16), 2341-2345. doi: 10.1089/scd.2012.0660

Vukovic, JanaBorlikova, Gilyana G.Ruitenberg, Marc J.Robinson, Gregory J.Sullivan, Robert K. P.Walker, Tara L. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2013).Immature doublecortin-positive hippocampal neurons are important for learning but not for remembering. Journal of Neuroscience, 33 (15), 6603-6613. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3064-12.2013

Blackmore, Daniel G.Vukovic, JanaWaters, Michael J. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2012).GH mediates exercise-dependent activation of SVZ neural precursor cells in aged mice. PLoS One, 7 (11) e49912, e49912.1-e49912.7. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049912

Walker, Tara L.Vukovic, JanaKoudijs, Margaretha M.Blackmore, Daniel G.Mackay, Eirinn W.Sykes, Alex M.Overall, Rupert W.Hamlin, Adam S. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2012).Prolactin stimulates precursor cells in the adult mouse hippocampus. PLoS One, 7 (9 Article No. e44371) e44371, 41-51. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0044371

Vukovic, JanaColditz, Michael J.Blackmore, Daniel G.Ruitenberg, Marc J. and Bartlett, Perry F. (2012).Microglia modulate hippocampal neural precursor activity in response to exercise and aging. Journal of Neuroscience, 32 (19), 6435-6443. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5925-11.2012

Chai, Ruth JinfenVukovic, JanaDunlop, SarahGrounds, Miranda D. and Shavlakadze, Thea (2011).Striking denervation of neuromuscular junctions without lumbar motoneuron loss in geriatric mouse muscle. PLoS One, 6 (12) e28090, e28090.1-e28090.11. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0028090

Blomster, LindaVukovic, JanaHendrickx, Debbie A.E.Jung, SteffenHarvey, Alan R.Filgueira, Luis and Ruitenberg, Marc J. (2011).CX(3)CR1 deficiency exacerbates neuronal loss and impairs early regenerative responses in the target-ablated olfactory epithelium. Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, 48 (3), 236-245. doi: 10.1016/j.mcn.2011.08.004

Vukovic, JanaBlackmore, DanielJhaveri, Dhanisha and Bartlett, Perry F. (2011).Activation of neural precursors in the adult neurogenic niches. Neurochemistry International, 59 (3), 341-346. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2011.04.003

Vukovic, JBlomster, LVChinnery, HRWeninger, WJung, SMcMenamin, PG and Ruitenberg, MJ (2010).Bone marrow chimeric mice reveal a role for CX3CR1 in maintenance of the monocyte-derived cell population in the olfactory neuroepithelium. Journal of Leukocyte Biology, 88 (4), 645-654. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0410194

Vukovic, JanaMarmorstein, Lihua Y.McLaughlin, Precious J.Sasaki, TakakoPlant, Giles W.Harvey, Alan R. and Ruitenberg, Marc J. (2009).Lack of fibulin-3 alters regenerative tissue responses in the primary olfactory pathway. Matrix Biology, 28 (7), 406-415. doi: 10.1016/j.matbio.2009.06.001

Vukovic, JanaRuitenberg, Marc J.Roet, KasperFranssen, ElskeArulpragasam, AjanthySasaki, TakakoVerhaagen, JoostHarvey, Alan R.Busfield, Samantha J. and Plant, Giles W. (2009).The glycoprotein fibulin-3 regulates morphology and motility of olfactory ensheathing cells in vitro. Glia, 57 (4), 424-443. doi: 10.1002/glia.20771

Ruitenberg, Marc J.Vukovic, JanaBlomster, LindaHall, Jarrad MJung, SteffenFilgueira, LuisMcMenamin, Paul G. and Plant, Giles W. (2008).CX3CL1/fractalkine regulates branching and migration of monocyte-derived cells in the mouse olfactory epithelium. Journal of Neuroimmunology, 205 (1-2), 80-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jneuroim.2008.09.010

Ruitenberg, Marc J. and Vukovic, Jana (2008).Promoting central nervous system regeneration: Lessons from cranial nerve I. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 26 (2-3), 183-196.

Vukovic, JanaPlant, Giles W.Ruitenberg, Marc J. and Harvey, Alan R. (2007).Influence of adult Schwann cells and olfactory ensheathing glia on axontarget cell interactions in the CNS a comparative analysis using a retinotectal cograft model. Neuron Glia Biology, 3 (2), 105-117. doi: 10.1017/S1740925X07000671

Ruitenberg, Marc J.Vukovic, JanaSarich, JulijanaBusfield, Samantha J. and Plant, Giles W. (2006).Olfactory ensheathing cells: Characteristics, genetic engineering, and therapeutic potential. Journal of Neurotrauma, 23 (3-4), 468-478. doi: 10.1089/neu.2006.23.468

Conference Papers

Codd, L.Blackmore, D.Vukovic, J. and Bartlett, P. (2017).Exercise-induced neurogenesis improves recovery in learning after an endothelin-1-induced hippocampal stroke in adult mouse27th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Stroke Society of Australasia, Queenstown, New Zealand, 23 – 25 August 2017. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications. doi: 10.1177/1747493017720548

Codd, L.Blackmore, DanielVukovic, Jana and Bartlett, Perry F. (2016).Exercise improves learning and increases neurogenesis after an endothelin-1-induced hippocampal stroke in adult mouseAsia Pacific Stroke Conference, Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, 14-17 July 2016. BASEL: Karger. doi: 10.1159/000447732

Codd, L. N.Vukovic, J.Blackmore, D. G. and Bartlett, P. F. (2015).Exercise improves learning and increases neurogenesis after an endothelin-1-induced hippocampal stroke in adult mouseUnknown, Unknown, Unknown. London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications.

Vukovic, J. and Bartlett, P. (2015).Role of microglia in mediating exercise-induced neurogenesis25th Biennial Meeting of the International-Society-for-Neurochemistry Jointly with the 13th Meeting of the Asian-Pacific-Society-for-Neurochemistry in Conjunction with the 35th Meeting of the Australasian-Neuroscience-Society, Cairns Australia, Aug 23-27, 2015. West Sussex United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

Codd, L.Vukovic, J.Blackmore, D. and Bartlett, P. (2015).Learning and neurogenesis are improved with exercise after an endothelin-1-induced hippocampal stroke in adult mouse25th Biennial Meeting of the International-Society-for-Neurochemistry Jointly with the 13th Meeting of the Asian-Pacific-Society-for-Neurochemistry in Conjunction with the 35th Meeting of the Australasian-Neuroscience-Society, Cairns Australia, Aug 23-27, 2015. West Sussex United Kingdom: Wiley-Blackwell.

Bartlett, PerryBeare, RichardBuckley, Rachel F.Egan, GaryFaggian, NathanGalloway, GrahamKeller, Marianne DorotheaKurniawan, Nyoman D.Paxinos, GeorgePetrou, StevenReutens, DavidRichards, KayVukovic, JanaWang, DemingWatson, CharlesYang, Steven and Zhao, Peter (2010).A new approach to mouse brain mappingISMRM, Stockholm, Sweden, 1-7 May, 2010. New York, NY, U.S.A.: International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.

Grounds, M. D.Shavlakadze, T. and Vukovic, J. (2009).Expression of fibulins 1-5 during myogenesis in vitro and in skeletal muscle regenerating in vivo, and in dystrophic mdx muscles14th International Congress of the World-Muscle-Society, Geneva Switzerland, Sep 09-12, 2009. OXFORD: PERGAMON-ELSEVIER SCIENCE LTD. doi: 10.1016/j.nmd.2009.06.102


  • Identification of microglia-derived molecules that support neuronal survival and stimulate neural stem/progenitor cell expansion.
  • Characterisation of immune cell contribution to changes in neuronal connectivity.
  • Immune cell responses to cancer treatment, and their effect on learning and memory.

Research Areas

  • Adult neurogenesis
  • Microglial function
  • Exercise and ageing

Our team

Group Leader