Circuits of Affective Neuroscience (CAN) group

The CAN-group

How does the immune-system influence our mood? Why are people with inflammatory conditions or neurodegenerative diseases much more prone to develop depression? These are some of the questions we are trying to answer in the CAN-group, in the hope to uncover better treatments and tools for early diagnosis of affective disorders and neurodegenerative disease.

Our research evolves around deciphering the neural circuits and immune-to-brain signalling mechanisms involved in regulating affective state during disease. For this we are exploring the function of several brain circuits and neural populations (such as microglia); and are specialized in striato-nigral and mesolimbic connectivity. We are particularly focused on exploring the mechanisms underlying major depressive disorder and Parkinson's Disease, using state-of-the-art neurocircuitry techniques.

Our lab is technically specialized in: in vivo neurocircuitry techniques such as Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs (DREADDS) and Optogenetics in combination with various affective, motivational and motoric behaviours; Viral tracing strategies; methods for identifying active neuronal ensembles during specific behaviors; fluorescent immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy.

We are a young and dynamic team that works hard to find new ways for improving the diagnosis and treatment of affective diseases - We believe we CAN solve the problems of affective neuroscience

Dr. Anna M. Klawonn,

Research leader

Anna Klawonn laboratory University of Copenhagen
optogenetics social interaction
fluorescent Immunohistochemistry
Sofie Let Frandsen Marco Moura Nielsen confocal microscopy analysis
mouse brain substantia nigra microglia dopamine neurons


The CAN-group is a part of the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology at University of Copenhagen, Denmark

For further information please visit the University of Copenhagen Web-page

  • Klawonn AM, Fritz M, Pignatelli M, Similä F, Levinsson J, Jaarola M, Hidalgo J, Jakobsson J, Heilig M, Bonci A, Engblom D. Microglial activation elicits a negative affective state through prostaglandin-mediated modulation of striatal neurons. 2021. Immunity.

  • Klawonn AM and Fritz M. Immune-to-brain signaling effects on the neural substrate for reward - Behavioral models of aversion, anhedonia and despair. Book-chapter in “The brain reward system - Neuromethods Book”. 2020. Springer Nature.

  • Fritz M, Klawonn AM, Zhao Q, Sullivan EV, Zahr NM, Pfefferbaum A. Structural and biochemical imaging reveals systemic LPS-induced changes in the rat brain. 2020. Journal of Neuroimmunology.

  • Klawonn AM and Malenka RC. Nucleus accumbens modulation in reward and aversion. 2019. Cold Spring Harbor Symposia on Quantitative Biology: Brains and Behavior: Orders and Disorder in the Nervous System, Volume 83.

  • Fritz M, Klawonn AM, Zahr NM. Neuroimaging in alcohol use disorder: From mouse to man. 2019. Journal of Neuroscience Research.


  • Klawonn AM, Fritz M, Nilsson A, Shionoya K, Mirrasekhian E, Karlsson U, Jaarola M, Granseth B, Blomqvist A, Michaelides M, Engblom D. Motivational valence is determined by striatal melanocortin 4 receptors. 2018. The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

  • Fritz M*, Klawonn AM*, Jaarola M, Engblom D. Interferon-ɣ mediated signaling in the brain endothelium is critical for inflammation-induced aversion. 2018. Brain Behavior and Immunity 67: 54-58. *The authors contributed equally to the manuscrip

  • Klawonn AM, Björk-Wilhelms D, Lindström SH, Singh AK, Jaarola M, Wess J, Fritz M, Engblom D. Muscarinic M4 receptors on Cholinergic and dopamine D1R-expressing neurons have opposing functionality for positive reinforcement and influence impulsivity. 2018. Frontiers in Molecular Neuroscience.

  • Klawonn AM, Nilsson A, Rådberg CF, Lindström SH, Ericson M, Granseth B, Engblom D, Fritz M. The sigma-2 receptor selective agonist siramesine (Lu 28-179) decreases cocaine-reinforced pavlovian learning and alters glutamatergic and dopaminergic input to the striatum. 2017. Frontiers in Pharmacology 8(714): 1-11.

  • Singh AK, Zajdel J, Mirrasekhian E, Almoosawi N, Frisch I, Klawonn AM, Jaarola M, Fritz M, Engblom D. Prostaglandin-mediated inhibition of serotonin signaling controls the affective component of inflammatory pain. 2017. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, April; 127(4): 1370-1374.


  • Fritz M*, Klawonn AM*, Nilsson A, Singh A, Zajdel J, Wilhelms DB, Lazarus M., Löfberg A, Jaarola M, Kugelberg UÖ, Billiar TR, Hackam DJ, Sodhi CP, Breyer MD, Jakobsson J, Schwaninger M, Schütz G, Parkitna JR, Saper CB, Blomqvist A & Engblom D. Prostaglandin-dependent modulation of dopaminergic neurotransmission elicits inflammation-induced aversion in mice. 2016. The Journal of Clinical Investigation. *These authors contributed equally to the manuscrip


  • Skytt D*, Klawonn AM*, Stridh MH, Pajecka K, Patruss Y, Quintana-Cabrera R, Bolanos JP, Schousboe A, Waagepetersen HS.

    siRNA knock down of glutamate dehydrogenase in astrocytes affects glutamate metabolism leading to extensive accumulation of the neuroactive amino acids glutamate and aspartate. 2012. Neurochemistry International. *These authors contributed equally to the manuscrip

Group members

Anna Mathia Klawonn University of Copenhagen Stanford University Linköping University
Marco Moura Nielsen University of Copenhagen Contera Pharma A/S
Marco Moura Nielsen University of Copenhagen Contera Pharma A/S
Sofie Let Frandsen University of Copenhagen Contera Pharma A/S
Sofie Let Frandsen University of Copenhagen Contera Pharma A/S
Beatriz Cruz Luzon University of Copenhagen
Mihai Atudorei University of Copenhagen
Mihai Atudorei University of Copenhagen
Mihai Atudorei University of Copenhagen
Anders Asbjørn Jensen University of Copenhagen

Assistant professor Anna Mathia Klawonn, group leader

Assistant professor and PI for the CAN-group, at University of Copenhagen

Postdoc with professor Robert C. Malenka, Stanford University, USA

PhD in Medical Science, Linköping University, Sweden

BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Southern Denmark

Interest: Neurocircuits of motivation and affective state, Immune-to-Brain Signalling, Gut-to-Brain Axis, Major Depressive Disorder, Treatment Resistant Depression, Parkinson's Disease

Postdoc Ourania Tzortzi

PhD in Neurocience, Karolinska Institutet

MSc in Neuroscience, University of Crete

BSc in Biology, University of Crete


PhD-student Marco Moura Nielsen

MSc in Pharmaceutical Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Interests: Parkinson's disease, Affective state, Microglia, Dopamine, DREADDs, mouse behavior

PhD-student Sofie Let Frandsen

MSc in Pharmaceutical Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Interests: neurocircuits of affective state, Parkinson's disease, depression, immune-to-brain signalling, mouse behavioral assays, finding potential targets for new treatments for depression and motor disturbance

PhD-student Camilla Trang Vo

Neuroscience Academy Denmark student, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Interests: astrocyte-neuron communication, cAMP, plasticity, neurocircuits of affective state, in vivo 2-photon imaging, behavioral neuroscience

Master-student Beatriz Cruz Luzón

BSc in Biochemistry, University of Granada, Spain

Interests: Microglia, Fluorescent Immunohistochemistry, Confocal microscopy

Master-student Collin A. Shampine

BA of arts, Neuroscience, University of Colorado Boulder

BA of arts, Psychology, University of Colorado Boulder

Interests: finding new treatments for treatment resistant depression and anxiety, 5-HT signalling, psychoplastogenic compounds - psychedelics, optogenetics and DREADDs, affective behaviors

Master-student Shamica Jaiswal

Bachelor of Pharmacy, Manipal Academy of Higher Education

Interests: Affective states, depression and anxiety, Optogenetics, and Mouse behavioural assays

Master-student Elisa Pfannenmueller

BSc in Biotechnology, University of Pavia

Interests: Dopamine transmission, affective states and depression

Laboratory Technician Heidi Marie Nielsen

University of Copenhagen

Interests: transgenic mouselines, genotyping, behavior, primary neural cell cultures

Advisor Professor Anders A. Jensen

University of Copenhagen -

Interests: Receptor Pharmacology (5-HT)

Our research is funded by

Contera Pharma A/S
Inge Lehmann Danmarks Frie Forskningsfond