Neuroscience in Denmark

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General information

Name (center, department, group or other)
Neurobiology Research Unit, Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet
Contact name
Gitte Moos Knudsen
Contact email
Contact title
Professor, Chief Neurologist, DMSc, Center Director
8. July 2015
(Last edited: 7. March 2017)

Brief description of research activities

The mission of Neurobiology Research Unit (NRU) is to conduct translational neuroscience research on brain neurotransmission at an internationally competitive level with the aim to promote preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic advances. We make use of in vivo molecular, structural, and functional brain imaging to uncover disease mechanisms and risk correlates as well as to determine drug effects. Also, we make use of animal and cell models as well as human brain tissue to investigate drug effects and diagnostic value in the clinic. We bring discoveries from cells and animals into healthy volunteers and patients as early as possible.

Apart from Gitte Moos Knudsen. the NRU faculty consists of Professor Jens Mikkelsen (basic neuroscience), Chief Engineer Claus Svarer (data analysis), Professor Olaf B. Paulson (clinical neurology), Associate Professor Lars Pinborg (clinical neurology), PhD, MD Vibe G. Frøkjær (clinical psychiatry), and PhD Patrick Fisher (multimodality neuroimaging). Chief Technologist is Gerda Thomsen.

The activities within NRU fall in nine different categories:
1) Basic neurobiological and translational neuroscience research
2) Development and validation of new in vivo imaging probes
3) Neuropharmacological imaging research
4) Development and optimization of data analysis methods
5) Neuroimaging research studies of patients with neurological or psychiatric disorders
6) Diagnostic brain imaging of neurological patients
7) Neuropsychology research and neuropsychological testing
8) Education and training
9) Dissemination of results

We see our role at Copenhagen University Hospital, Rigshospitalet and in the Capital Region of Copenhagen as a key unit to conduct innovative diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive neuropharmacological research. This takes place in close interaction with the hospital clinics, academia and industry enabling immediate subsequent implementation of prevention strategies, diagnostics and innovative drugs as well as non-pharmacological treatments of patients with brain disorders. NRU collaborates with many other national and international research institutes.

NRU has a large scientific output and is mainly funded by external grants. Our most important form of dissemination is through publications in high impact peer-reviewed journals. We also communicate our results at national and international meetings and contribute to textbooks within brain-related topics. Broader public dissemination is also prioritized.

NRU is a major training site for pre- and postgraduate students. We aim to attract physicians and people with other relevant educations to the neuroscience field and to educate and train research staff. We organize PhD courses and regular meetings and seminars.


Neurobiology, Neuroimaging, Experimental biology, Data analysis, Radioligand development, Neuropsychology, Brain disorders, Psychiatry, Neurology

Research tools and techniques

PET (HRRT), MR, MR-PET, and SPECT scanner facilities for molecular, structural, and functional brain imaging.
Well-equipped experimental laboratory facilities for basic neuroscience work (in vitro and in vivo).
PET and Cyclotron radiochemistry and PET nuclear pharmacy facilities for production of PET radiopharmaceuticals for use in humans.
Two sound-insulated rooms with facilities for neuropsychological and -physiological testing.
Access to facilities for animal housing, preparation and surgery at the Panum Institute, University of Copenhagen.

Scientific Personnel

No of Associate Professors/Postdocs: 14
No of PhD students: 10
Other: 29

Key references from within the last 5 years

Sander CY, Hooker JM, Catana C, Normandin MD, Alpert NM, Knudsen GM, Vanduffel W, Rosen BR, Mandeville JB. Neurovascular coupling to D2/D3 dopamine receptor occupancy using simultaneous PET/functional MRI. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013;110:11169-74

Haahr ME, Fisher PM, Jensen CG, Frokjaer VG, Mc Mahon B, Madsen K, Baaré WFC, Lehel S, Norremolle A, Rabiner EA, Knudsen GM. Central 5-HT4 receptor binding as biomarker of serotonergic tonus in humans: a [11C]SB207145 PET study. Mol Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;19(4):427-32

Fisher PM, Madsen MK, Mc Mahon B, Holst KK, Andersen SB, Laursen HR, Hasholt LF, Siebner HR, Knudsen GM. Three-week bright-light intervention has dose-related effects on threat-related corticolimbic reactivity and functional coupling. Biol Psychiatry. 2014 Aug 15;76(4):332-9

Ettrup A, da Cunha-Bang S, McMahon B, Lehel S, Dyssegaard A, Skibsted AW, Jørgensen LM, Hansen M, Baandrup AO, Bache S, Svarer C, Kristensen JL, Gillings N, Madsen J, Knudsen GM.
J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2014 Jul;34(7):1188-96.

Fisher PM, Ewers Haahr M, Jensen CG, Frokjaer VG, Siebner HR, Knudsen GM. Fluctuations in [11C]SB207145 PET Binding Associated with Change in Threat-Related Amygdala Reactivity in Humans. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2015 May;40(6):1510-8

Knudsen GM, Jensen PS, Erritzoe D, Baaré WFC, Ettrup A, Fisher PM, Gillings N, Hansen HD, Hansen LK, Hasselbalch SG, Henningsson S, Herth MM, Holst KK, Iversen P, Kessing LV, Macoveanu J, Madsen KS, Mortensen EL, Nielsen FÅ, Paulson OB, Siebner HR, Stenbæk DS, Svarer C, Jernigan TL, Strother SC, Frokjaer VG. The Center for Integrated Molecular Brain Imaging (Cimbi) Database. NeuroImage. 2016 Jan 1;124(Pt B):1213-1219

Mc Mahon B, Andersen SB, Madsen MK, Hjordt LV, Hageman I, Dam H, Svarer C, da Cunha-Bang S, Baaré W, Madsen J, Hasholt L, Holst K, Frokjaer VG, Knudsen GM. Seasonal difference in brain serotonin transporter binding predicts symptom severity in patients with seasonal affective disorder. Brain. 2016 May;139(Pt 5):1605-14

Beliveau V, Ganz M, Feng L, Ozenne B, Højgaard L, Fisher PM, Svarer C, Greve DN, Knudsen GM. A High-Resolution In Vivo Atlas of the Human Brain's Serotonin System. J Neurosci. 2017 Jan 4;37(1):120-128

Blomster LV, Strøbaek D, Hougaard C, Klein J, Pinborg LH, Mikkelsen JD, Christophersen P. Quantification of the functional expression of the Ca2+ -activated K+ channel KCa 3.1 on microglia from adult human neocortical tissue. Glia. 2016 Dec;64(12):2065-2078.

da Cunha-Bang S, Hjordt LV, Perfalk E, Beliveau V, Bock C, Lehel S, Thomsen C, Sestoft D, Svarer C, Knudsen GM. Serotonin 1B receptor binding is associated with trait anger and level of psychopathy in violent offenders. Biol Psychiatry 2016 [Epub ahead of print]

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