Katharina Wulff

Katharina Wulff

Umeå University, Sweden

Katharina Wulff


Katharina Wulff is an associate professor at Wallenberg Centre for Molecular Medicine at Umeå University (Sweden). In 2001, she completed her PhD at the Charite, Humboldt University Berlin in the field of human behavior, chronobiology and sleep. She then went on to become a University Research Lecturer in chronobiology and sleep at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oxford (UK). Her research concerns the study of how the human brain uses environmental information to adapt the body to daily changes. 

The KatLab studies the physiological mechanisms of mammalian and human timing behavior from infancy to adulthood, and how biological clocks and the endocrine systems exploit daylight and other environmental cues to adjust to daily, seasonal and annual rhythms. The lab spans across several faculties and forms a holistic expertise center of Eco-Chronobiology and Sleep Research at the Departments of Molecular Biology and Radiation Sciences.  

Not only does the research take place in strictly academic settings, but it also has its own designated Photon Spacewhere individuals are studied during long twilight, weeks without darkness and periods with a fast rate of change in day length. The tools utilized in such research range from indoor climate, daylight and electrical light to actigraphy, EEG, ESM, microdialysis and eye tracking. 

Interestingly, prof. Wulff has a longstanding interest in science outreach and communication. Her projects include a variety of in-person and television talks and workshops on the topics of chronobiology and sleep as well as museum exhibitions. 

Talk: "Habitats and human physiology on multiple time scales"

Time is crucial. It is one of those, often very dynamic or very complicated (or both), elements that ranges from action potentials to sleep span to be inherited in a myriad of biological processes, yet temporal relationships are easily missed. Everyone appreciates time being important when confronted with serious disasters or medical errors due to shortened sleep and we lament poor treatment response in which physiological timing was seemingly ignored. It is not unusual to employ unconventional techniques to try to recognise expressions in time patterns, because time demands a high level of precision and endurance to trace sequences such as bodily states.
Time manifests at multiple scales in physiology – and at the interface with the environmental time. Environmental time itself differs with your position on Earth. For example daylight length conveys particular information on seasonal changes predictably from the equator to the poles. Physiology of all living organisms is preoccupied with natural light and time, increasingly also with man-made electrical light. When we consider the human habitats, we think of very contrasting places filled with different qualities of natural light, visible and thermal, and man-made illumination. In this illustrated presentation, particular examples of environmental, physiological and behavioural time series will be used for recognising time expressions in human phenotypes. Data collected from adults and children living under different conditions will enrich our management of foreseeable health problems arising from universally imposed timetables. The interpretability of time patterns and the physiological adjustability makes time expressions a valuable method  in the context of human adapted and maladapted behaviour, calling attention to human habitats corresponding to biogeographic regions.

Selected Publications

Wulff, K., Gatti, S., Wettstein, J. et al. Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disease. Nat Rev Neurosci 11, 589–599 (2010).

Phenotypic divergence in sleep and circadian cycles linked by affective state and environmental risk related to psychosis. Purple RJ, Cosgrave J, Alexander I, Middleton B, Foster RG, Porcheret K, Wulff K.Sleep. 2023 Mar 9;46(3):zsac311. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsac311.

Extracting Circadian and Sleep Parameters from Longitudinal Data in Schizophrenia for the Design of Pragmatic Light Interventions. Skeldon AC, Dijk DJ, Meyer N, Wulff K.Schizophr Bull. 2022 Mar 1;48(2):447-456. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbab124.

Do environmental risk factors for the development of psychosis distribute differently across dimensionally assessed psychotic experiences? Cosgrave J, Purple RJ, Haines R, Porcheret K, van Heugten-van der Kloet D, Johns L, Alexander I, Goodwin GM, Foster RG, Wulff K.Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Apr 19;11(1):226. doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01265-2.

Validation of 'Somnivore', a Machine Learning Algorithm for Automated Scoring and Analysis of Polysomnography Data. Allocca G, Ma S, Martelli D, Cerri M, Del Vecchio F, Bastianini S, Zoccoli G, Amici R, Morairty SR, Aulsebrook AE, Blackburn S, Lesku JA, Rattenborg NC, Vyssotski AL, Wams E, Porcheret K, Wulff K, Foster R, Chan JKM, Nicholas CL, Freestone DR, Johnston LA, Gundlach AL. Front Neurosci. 2019 Mar 18;13:207. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00207. eCollection 2019.

More information

Wallenberg Centre for Molecular Medicine

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