Professor at Reykjavik University


E-mail: karlsson (at)

Phone: +354 5996467

Biomedical Engineering School of Science and Engineering Reykjavik University Menntavegur 1 101 Reykjavik

Karl joined Reykjavik University in 2006 as an assistant professor and currently heads the RU NEUROLAB. Karl underwent post-doctoral training at UCLA and prior to that had obtained a doctorate degree in behavioral neuroscience  at the University of Iowa. Karl completed a bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Iceland. Since 2012 Karl has been a group leader at the rapidly growing, University of Iceland based, Biomedical Center BMC.



Throughout his career Karl has worked on elucidating the neural substrates of  sleep either using  humans or rodent and zebrafish as models.  Currently members of the RU NEUROLAB work on further establishing the zebrafish as an appropriate model system for studying sleep. The core methods we employ in the lab include automated behavioral analysis, basic genetics, histology and in vivo/in vitro electrophysiology. The core questions revolve on elucidating the neural substrates of sleep in this teleost fish, comparing them to what is known in mammals; revealing the state-dependent genetic expression in zebrafish and to clarify the role of sleep in various aspects of neural plasticity.  Some aspects of our work have practical applications (which we develop further under the aegis of 3Z pharma: In parallel to these core activities we maintain a close collaboration with scientists both domestically and abroad that specialize in fields/methodology allied with thos used at the RU NEUROLAB. This includes medical doctors working in sleep medicine and treating premature humans; physicists working on human fMRI, molecular biologists and bioinformatics experts and former co-workers working on rodent models of sleep.

Please send an email to to inquire about student opportunites.

Selected publications:

Vargas, R., Þorsteinsson, H. & Karlsson, K.Æ. SPONTANEOUS NEURAL ACTIVITY OF THE ANTERODORSAL LOBE AND ENTOPEDUNCULAR NUCLEUS IN ADULT ZEBRAFISH. Behavioural Brain Research (2011), doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2011.12.025

Sigurgeirsson, B., Þorsteinsson, H., Arnardóttir, H., Jóhannesdóttir, I. & Karlsson K.Æ. EFFECTS OF MODAFINIL ON SLEEP-WAKE CYCLES IN LARVAL ZEBRAFISH. Zebrafish (2011) doi:10.1089/zeb.2011.0708

Karlsson, K.Æ., Windischberger, C., Gerstl, F., Mayr, W., Siegel, J.M., Moser, E. (2010) Modulation of hypothalamus and amygdalar activation levels with stimulus valence. Neuroimage. Vol, 51, 324-328

Karlsson, K. Æ., Gall, A. J. Mohns, E. J. & Blumberg, M.S. (2005) The Neural Substrates of Infant Sleep in Rats. Public Library of Science Biology. 3(5): e143

Blumberg, M.S., Seelke, A. M., Lowen, S.B., & Karlsson, K. Æ. (2005) Dynamics of Sleep-Wake Cyclicity in Developing Rats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol, 102, 14860-14864. 

Publications: PubMed

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