Douglas C. Johnson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

8939 Villa La Jolla Rd.
Suite 230
La Jolla, CA 92037
Cell: (858) 999 4287


Dr. Johnson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, and since 2009 has served as a lead scientist in the Warfighter Performance Department of the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC). Dr. Johnson is a member of the OptiBrain consortium, a collaboration of clinical scientists at UCSD, NHRC, and Naval Special Warfare. Dr. Johnson's research specializes in cognitive and clinical neuroscience of stress-related pathology, as well as the underlying neural mechanisms of elite performance in the face of high-magnitude stress. Dr. Johnson's studies are conducted in both field and laboratory settings, and he has worked in military settings that include US Navy Survival School (SERE), US Army 10th Mountain Light Infantry, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, the US Marine Corps Infantry Immersive Trainer (IIT), and with Special Operations Forces (SOF). Dr. Johnson is a nationally recognized subject-matter expert on PTSD and cognitive performance under stress, and has provided briefings for the Pentagon, the National Security Agency (NSA), and the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC).

Dr. Johnson is a 1993 graduate of the US Coast Guard Academy, and spent 10-years on active-duty. Following military service Dr. Johnson obtained his Ph.D. in Psychology from UCLA, followed by 2 years of post-doctoral training at Yale University School of Medicine and the Clinical Neurosciences Division of the VA National Center for PTSD. Dr. Johnson is licensed by the California Board of Psychology (#21975).

Research Focus

Neural mechanisms underlying optimal function under stress, interoceptive models of resilience, modification of psychobiological and neurological stress-recovery systems through training, cognitive function during stressful tactical operations.

Clinical Focus

Neuropsychological and forensic assessment of PTSD and TBI, mindfulness-based interventions for anxiety and mood disorders, exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Selected Publications

• Ozbay, Johnson, Dimoulas et al. (2007). Social support and resilience to stress: From neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry 4(5), 35-40.

• Johnson, Aikins, Craske. (2008). Trait-anxiety and repressors: Suppression of recall for aversive images. Personality and Individual Differences 44, 550-562.

• Aikins, Johnson, Borelli et al. (2009). Thought suppression failures in combat PTSD: A cognitive load hypothesis. Behaviour Research and Therapy 47, 744-751.

• Pietrzak, Johnson, Goldstein et al. (2009). Psychological resilience and post-deployment social support protect against traumatic stress symptoms in soldiers returning from Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Depression and Anxiety 26(8), 745-751.

• Pietrzak, Johnson, Goldstein et al. (2009). Posttraumatic stress disorder mediates the relationship between mild traumatic brain injury and health and psychosocial functioning in veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 197(10), 748-753.

• Johnson. (2009). Key facts on resilience and response to stress for Navy and USMC leaders. Journal of Special Operations Medicine, Fall 9(4), 110-112.

• Johnson, Stein (2010). Assessment of PTSD. In Clinical Manual for Managing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, ed. D. M. Benedek, G. H. Wynn, American Psychiatric Publishing Inc.

• Johnson, Polusny, Erbes, et al. (2011). Development and initial validation of the Response to Stressful Experiences Scale. Military Medicine 176(2), 161-169.

• Paulus, Flagan, Simmons, Gillis, Kotturi, Thom, Johnson, Van Orden, Davenport, Swain. (2012). Subjecting elite athletes to inspiratory breathing load reveals behavioral and neural signatures of optimal performers in extreme environments. PLoS One 7(1).

• Simmons, Fitzpatrick, Strigo, Potterat, Johnson et al. (2012). Altered insula activation in anticipation of changing emotional states: Neural mechanisms underlying cognitive flexibility in special operations forces personnel. Neuroreport 23(4), 234-239.



University of California, San Diego, Department of Psychiatry, 9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0603 La Jolla, CA 92037-0603
Telephone: (858) 534-3684, Fax: (858) 534-7653, Electronic Mail: