John Axelsson's research group

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Sleep, cognition and health

In the rapid development of the modern 24-hour society we increase our demands for continuous services of information, health care, safety, transportation and industry production. Shift workers, parents with young children that also work fulltime, gaming adolescents and evening personalities are examples of individuals where a good 8-hour night sleep is often only a dream.

Our research

John Axelssons groups research aim to increase the knowledge and awareness of how sleep in the modern life affects our biology, cognition and health. A main focus is to investigate how disturbed sleep affects us both acutely and chronically with respect to immune function, metabolism, subjective health and the risk for developing metabolic disorders. Another research area includes how disturbed sleep affects cognitive processes and how we interact with our peers. One of the groups PhD-students, Bianka, is heading projects of how the immune system affects brain activity, subjective health and pain regulation.

John Axelssons groups research is strongly interdisciplinary which is also reflected by our methodology, with methods ranging from the photographing of sleep deprived individuals to injections with (dead) bacteria to investigate brain activity with brain imaging techniques when someone is acutely sick. John Axelssons group aims to answer questions such as: How does the brain work when we get sick? Can more sleep speed up recovery when we are sick? Does beauty sleep exist? The group think it is important to translate fundamental insights into applications to improve sleep, daytime functioning and health. The group has a portfolio of projects well suited for students within the medical and behavioural sciences.

Present research questions

  • How does insufficient sleep affect cognitive functioning and social interactions?
  • How does cognitive functions return to normal in the awakening brain?
  • How do our biological systems adapt to chronic sleep loss?
  • How does sleep affect the susceptibility and recovery from acute infections?
  • How are tired and sick people perceived and treated?
  • How does sickness affect brain activity and behaviour?


Selected publications

Beauty sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people.
Axelsson J, Sundelin T, Ingre M, Van Someren E, Olsson A, Lekander M
BMJ 2010 ;341():c6614

Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance.
Sundelin T, Lekander M, Kecklund G, Van Someren E, Olsson A, Axelsson J
Sleep 2013 Sep;36(9):1355-60

Effects of sustained sleep restriction on mitogen-stimulated cytokines, chemokines and T helper 1/ T helper 2 balance in humans.
Axelsson J, Rehman J, Akerstedt T, Ekman R, Miller G, Höglund C, et al
PLoS ONE 2013 ;8(12):e82291

Modality and sex differences in pain sensitivity during human endotoxemia.
Karshikoff B, Lekander M, Soop A, Lindstedt F, Ingvar M, Kosek E, et al
Brain Behav. Immun. 2015 May;46():35-43

Effect of long-term sleep restriction and subsequent recovery sleep on the diurnal rhythms of white blood cell subpopulations.
Lasselin J, Rehman J, Åkerstedt T, Lekander M, Axelsson J
Brain Behav. Immun. 2015 Jul;47():93-9


Group members

John Axelsson Research team leader & Senior lecturer
Julie Lasselin Postdoc
Lukasz Cybulski Research assistant
Malin Eriksson Research assistant
Bianka Karshikoff PhD student
Tina Sundelin PhD student