Abdul H Mohammed Group

The role of gene-environment interactions in behavioural and neural plasticity

Research focus

  • The main focus of our research is behavioural and neural plasticity in the context of gene-environment interactions.
  •  We are interested especially on the impact of environmental factors on cognition and brain neurotrophins during adulthood and aging and neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Our work involves the use of normal and genetically modified rodents used as models of aging and neurodegenerative disease, with a focus on Alzheimer disease.
  •  We are also seeking to develop novel behavioural methods or improve existing ones, in order to acquire reproducible and relevant data for our research.
  •  We have collaborated nationally and internationally with groups having expertise in mouse EEG, cellular and molecular neurobiology and neurochemistry. We welcome new collaborations with groups having expertise in these and related areas.
  • In the field of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer disease, there are significant unmet needs for treatments. Specific questions, for example related to the role of biochemical pathways in disease or the effects of chemical or environmental interventions in vivo can be addressed in animal models. However the ultimate question remains how effective are these manipulations in humans?

Ongoing research projects

Human studies: Effects of environmental stimulation on cognitive health and neural plasticity

In a research project led by A.H. Mohammed and involving collaboration with researchers at Linnaeus University, Karolinska Institutet and Harvard Medical School, we examine effects of different types of structured stimulation on cognitive performance as well as biochemical markers of neuronal function and inflammatory status, such as BDNF and interleukin levels, in individuals of ages between 65 and 85. The environmental stimulation includes a physical exercise program, an intellectual exercise program and mindfulness training. The computerized cognitive testing methods employed include the CANTAB test and Cogmed. The project received a grant of 10.5 million SEK from The Kamprad Family Foundation.

Animal studies: KI-ADRC Animal Behaviour Platform for Alzheimer Disease Research

We aim to develop a modern center for animal behavioural research within the field of Neurodegenerative diseases. The center will provide various types of resources (behavioural equipment; protocol library; electronic data-base, know-how) to support behavioural characterization of novel models (especially mice) and/or run drug development studies.

The project is running under the StratNeuro programme at Karolinska Institutet, and received founding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

The platform is under development, which implies acquisition of novel equipment enabling us to widen our test battery, improve the quality of the data and/or increase the through-put of currently available methods.

Under the same initiative a protocol data-base as well as a model database & pre-clinical data are created. We have also started an electronic-databank where experimental data and meta-data are stored. Finally, these developments will enable us to create pipe-lines dedicated to drug development and/or novel model characterization (figure below).

Most of the new equipments/upgrades have already been purchased or ordered. Throughout the year we drafted protocols for the most widely used methods in the lab, and during ongoing experiments we are currently refining these protocols. We are also developing novel protocols and interested to combine classical methods with novel ones, such as the IntelliCage® to deepen our understanding of the behaviour of our experimental animals.

During the past year the laboratory was accessed by several groups at our department in projects where novel models are characterized and novel interventions are tested (ongoing work).

EEC-financed projects

The Governance and Regulation work package in the Ethics and Society Division of the Human Brain Project (HBP) 

We are working closely together across both Karolinska Institutet and Linnaeus University and included in our work package are 5 personnel from various universities - Linnaeus, Harvard and Cambridge - in addition to KI.

Work Package Leader: Abdul H Mohammed

Task Leaders for REC: Abdul H Mohemamed and Task Leaders for ELSA: Kevin Grimes

Group members

Name Position Email
Abdul H Mohammed PhD, FLS, Professor, group leader abdul.mohammed@ki.se
Alina Codita MD, PhD, Postdoc alina.codita@ki.se
Kevin Grimes PhD, research coordinator  kevin.grimes@ki.se
Krister Håkansson Lecturer, Doctoral Student  krister.håkansson@ki.se


Therese M Pham, 2000: Effects of Neonatal Handling and Enriched Environment on Neurotrophins and Cognitive Function.

Zhu Shun-Wei, 2006: Brain neurotrophin levels and mouse behavior: relationship to environmental influences.

Alina Codita, 2011: Automated behavioral phenotyping of inbred mouse strains and mouse models of Alzheimer disease.


Localization of cholesterol, amyloid and glia in Alzheimer's disease transgenic mouse brain tissue using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectrometry (ToF-SIMS) and immunofluorescence imaging.
Solé-Domènech S, Sjövall P, Vukojević V, Fernando R, Codita A, Salve S, et al
Acta Neuropathol. 2013 Jan;125(1):145-57

Effects of spatial and cognitive enrichment on activity pattern and learning performance in three strains of mice in the IntelliMaze.
Codita A, Mohammed A, Willuweit A, Reichelt A, Alleva E, Branchi I, et al
Behav. Genet. 2012 May;42(3):449-60

Reduced fear memory and anxiety-like behavior in mice lacking formylpeptide receptor 1.
Gao J, Schneider E, Dimitrov E, Haun F, Pham T, Mohammed A, et al
Behav. Genet. 2011 Sep;41(5):724-33

Impaired behavior of female tg-ArcSwe APP mice in the IntelliCage: A longitudinal study.
Codita A, Gumucio A, Lannfelt L, Gellerfors P, Winblad B, Mohammed A, et al
Behav. Brain Res. 2010 Dec;215(1):83-94

Association between mid-life marital status and cognitive function in later life: population based cohort study.
Håkansson K, Rovio S, Helkala E, Vilska A, Winblad B, Soininen H, et al
BMJ 2009 Jul;339():b2462

Influence of environmental manipulation on exploratory behaviour in male BDNF knockout mice.
Zhu S, Codita A, Bogdanovic N, Hjerling-Leffler J, Ernfors P, Winblad B, et al
Behav. Brain Res. 2009 Feb;197(2):339-46

Stimulation of D2 receptors in the prefrontal cortex reduces PCP-induced hyperactivity, acetylcholine release and dopamine metabolism in the nucleus accumbens.
Del Arco A, Mora F, Mohammed A, Fuxe K
J Neural Transm (Vienna) 2007 Feb;114(2):185-93

Influence of differential housing on emotional behaviour and neurotrophin levels in mice.
Zhu S, Yee B, Nyffeler M, Winblad B, Feldon J, Mohammed A
Behav. Brain Res. 2006 Apr;169(1):10-20

Mice carrying a R142C Notch 3 knock-in mutation do not develop a CADASIL-like phenotype.
Lundkvist J, Zhu S, Hansson E, Schweinhardt P, Miao Q, Beatus P, et al
Genesis 2005 Jan;41(1):13-22

Environmental enrichment and the brain.
Mohammed A, Zhu S, Darmopil S, Hjerling-Leffler J, Ernfors P, Winblad B, et al
Prog. Brain Res. 2002 ;138():109-33

Long-term environmental enrichment leads to regional increases in neurotrophin levels in rat brain.
Ickes B, Pham T, Sanders L, Albeck D, Mohammed A, Granholm A
Exp. Neurol. 2000 Jul;164(1):45-52