Diaz Heijtz Laboratory

Our research interests are centered on understanding the biological basis of neurodevelopmental disorders, with a focus on attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

GF mice show altered expression of synaptic plasticity-related genes
GF mice show altered expression of synaptic plasticity-related genes. Photo: Rochellys Diaz Heijtz.

Research focus

We use different animal model systems to understand the contribution of genetic factors, impact of early adverse life experience (e.g., stress, infections), and gene-environment interactions on the development of motor, affective and cognitive functions, which are impaired in ADHD and ASD. We are also interested in exploring the potential clinical utility of cognitive enhancers in combination with motor/cognitive training for the treatment of these disorders.

Our work is performed in collaboration with clinicians and psychologists at the Astrid Lindgren Children's Hospital and Karolinska Institutet Center of Neurodevelopmental
Disorders (KIND). This optimizes the opportunities for iterative translation from basic to clinical research and back to more fundamental mechanistic studies.

Key subjects of interest:

  1. Impact of normal gut microbiota on brain development and behavior.
  2. Clinical studies of young children at high risk for developing ASD, with special focus on the potential role of the gut microbiota.
  3. Molecular and epigenetic mechanisms underlying motor/cognitive training-induced plasticity and modulation by cognitive enhancers.

Group members

Selected publications

Bacterial Peptidoglycans from Microbiota in Neurodevelopment and Behavior.
Gonzalez-Santana A, Diaz Heijtz R
Trends Mol Med 2020 08;26(8):729-743

Developmental Signatures of Microbiota-Derived Metabolites in the Mouse Brain.
Swann JR, Spitzer SO, Diaz Heijtz R
Metabolites 2020 Apr;10(5):

Toll-like receptor-4 regulates anxiety-like behavior and DARPP-32 phosphorylation.
Femenia T, Qian Y, Arentsen T, Forssberg H, Diaz Heijtz R
Brain Behav Immun 2018 03;69():273-282

Sex-dependent alterations in motor and anxiety-like behavior of aged bacterial peptidoglycan sensing molecule 2 knockout mice.
Arentsen T, Khalid R, Qian Y, Diaz Heijtz R
Brain Behav Immun 2018 Jan;67():345-354

Brief Report: Association Between Autism Spectrum Disorder, Gastrointestinal Problems and Perinatal Risk Factors Within Sibling Pairs.
Isaksson J, Pettersson E, Kostrzewa E, Diaz Heijtz R, Bölte S
J Autism Dev Disord 2017 08;47(8):2621-2627

Genetic Variation in the Dopamine System Influences Intervention Outcome in Children with Cerebral Palsy.
Diaz Heijtz R, Almeida R, Eliasson AC, Forssberg H
EBioMedicine 2018 Feb;28():162-167

The bacterial peptidoglycan-sensing molecule Pglyrp2 modulates brain development and behavior.
Arentsen T, Qian Y, Gkotzis S, Femenia T, Wang T, Udekwu K, Forssberg H, Diaz Heijtz R
Mol Psychiatry 2017 02;22(2):257-266

Fetal, neonatal, and infant microbiome: Perturbations and subsequent effects on brain development and behavior.
Diaz Heijtz R
Semin Fetal Neonatal Med 2016 12;21(6):410-417

Host microbiota modulates development of social preference in mice.
Arentsen T, Raith H, Qian Y, Forssberg H, Diaz Heijtz R
Microb Ecol Health Dis 2015 ;26():29719

Normal gut microbiota modulates brain development and behavior.
Diaz Heijtz R, Wang S, Anuar F, Qian Y, Björkholm B, Samuelsson A, Hibberd ML, Forssberg H, Pettersson S
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2011 Feb;108(7):3047-52


C4 Department of Neuroscience