Hugo Lagercrantz was appointed professor of pediatrics at Karolinska Institutet 1989. He was director of the Neonatal Programme at the Astrid Lindgren Children´s Hospital until 2004. He has been president of the Swedish Pediatric Society and the European Society for Pediatric Research. He has also been European chief editor for Pediatric Research and is presently editor-in-chief for Acta Paediatrica. He has been a member of the Nobel Assembly and the Nobel Committee.
He found that the fetus mobilizes very high levels of catecholamines during normal birth and coined the expression “The stress of being born” (Scientific American 1986). This stress seems to be of vital importance for neonatal adaptation. He has also been interested of apnea of prematurity and the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). He demonstrated in animal experiments that the therapeutic effects of theophylline or caffeine is probably due to their antagonizing effect of adenosine, which may trigger apnea. During the last years he has been mainly interested of brain development particularly of children who are born too early. By studying how children process stimulation of the senses, such as smell, pain or the vision of a face, he tries to understand how consciousness emerges and what happens when there is an abnormal development of the brain. He has also been involved in the finding of a spontaneuous resting activity in the newborn brain – showing that it is not “a blank slate”. He is the main editor of the book the “Newborn Brain – neuroscience and clinical applications (Cambridge University Press 2002 and 2010). Since 2012 he is senior professor.