Welcome to the web site of Ira Haraldsen's research group


Ira Haraldsen
Ira Haraldsen

NPU II research focus on neuroendocrinology

  • Development of gender differentiation in brain function.
  • Non-reproductive, cognitive functions of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) and its receptors (GnRHR)
  • Healthy aging and neurodegenerative disease
  • Development of new diagnosis and treatment tools

Main research focus/work area:

 The SOBER (Sex on Brain European Research group) is a recently-established research group in the theme of neuroendocrinology, focusing on the intrauterine and post-natal factors involved in gender differentiation of brain. The emphasis is placed on developmental phenomena of synaptic pruning, i.e. the post-natal reduction in synaptic density, in which GnRHR is implicated. We are interested in the developmental trajectory of gender-specific neuronal networks, especially during puberty, and also the reorganization of brain associated with healthy ageing.  

Profiting from my group`s hands-on experience in basic science methods, extending from microscopy and immunohistochemistry to molecular imaging by positron emission tomography (PET) and radiochemistry, we endeavor to bridge the gap between classical molecular biology and cognitive science.

Among the notable findings of this project, in Wojiniusz et al. (2011) we report that gender differences in behavior in sheep are enhanced by blocking puberty using GnRHR agonist treatment. This is in accordance with the earlier hypothesis of de Vries and Søderstrøm linking the hypothalamic-gonadal axis with and morphological and functional differentiation. More recent work in the sheep model (Wojiniusz et al., 2013, Nurrudin et al., 2013) explores sex-specific visuospatial cognitive ability, finding important interactions between gender, performance, and gene expression in brain. This work has important implications for the design of translational gene expression studies. We are also investigation the role of GnRHR in the cellular pathology of gender differences in healthy aging, as may pertain to the greater incidence of Alzheimer`s disease among women.

Download SOBER (Sex on Brain European Research Group) Powerpoint presentation