Dr Johan Alsiö


Cognitive flexibility is required to respond to changes in the environment and behavioural inflexibility can reduce functioning in everyday life. Brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Parkinson's disease are linked to impaired cognitive flexibility and current drug treatments for these disorders unfortunately do not alleviate cognitive symptoms. My research at the Department of Psychology therefore aims to increase our understanding of the neurobiological basis of cognitive flexibility. To this end, I combine pharmacology, neuroscientific methods, and - more recently - computational modelling of behaviour. The ultimate aim of this work is to facilitate the development of more effective pharmacological treatment for psychiatric disorders characterised by cognitive deficits.

Research Focus




Orbitofrontal cortex

Preclinical models


Clinical conditions


Cognitive impairment

Eating disorders

Obsessive compulsive disorder



Behavioural analysis



Quantitative RT-PCR



Rudolf Cardinal

Ole Paulsen

Trevor Robbins

Angela Roberts


Åsa Mackenzie Web: http://www.neuro.uu.se/researc...

Associated News Items

Key publications

Sala-Bayo J, Fiddian L, Nilsson SRO, Hervig ME, McKenzie C, Mareschi A, Boulos M, Zhukovsky P, Nicholson J, Dalley JW, Alsiö J, Robbins TW. (2020), “Dorsal and ventral striatal dopamine D1 and D2 receptors differentially modulate distinct phases of serial visual reversal learning” Neuropsychopharmacology 45(5):736-744

Alsiö J, Phillips BU, Sala-Bayo J, Nilsson SRO, Calafat-Pla TC, Rizwand A, Plumbridge JM, López-Cruz L, Dalley JW, Cardinal RN, Mar AC, Robbins TW (2019), “Dopamine D2-like receptor stimulation blocks negative feedback in visual and spatial reversal learning in the rat: behavioural and computational evidence” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 236(8):2307-2323

Phillips BU, Dewan S, Nilsson SRO, Robbins TW, Heath CJ, Saksida LM, Bussey TJ, Alsiö J (2018), “Selective effects of 5-HT2C receptor modulation on performance of a novel valence-probe visual discrimination task and probabilistic reversal learning in mice” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 235(7):2101-2111



Hervig ME, Fiddian L, Piilgaard L, Boži? T, Blanco-Pozo M, Knudsen C, Olesen SF, Alsiö J, Robbins TW. (2020), “Dissociable and Paradoxical Roles of Rat Medial and Lateral Orbitofrontal Cortex in Visual Serial Reversal Learning” Cereb Cortex 30(3):1016-1029


Fredriksson R, Sreedharan S, Nordenankar K, Alsiö J, Lindberg FA, Hutchinson A, Eriksson A, Roshanbin S, Ciuculete DM, Klockars A, Todkar A, Hägglund MG, Hellsten SV, Hindlycke V, Västermark Å, Shevchenko G, Olivo G, K C, Kullander K, Moazzami A, Bergquist J, Olszewski PK, Schiöth HB (2019), “The polyamine transporter Slc18b1(VPAT) is important for both short and long time memory and for regulation of polyamine content in the brain” PLoS Genet 15(12):e1008455

Mantanona CP, Alsiö J, Elson JL, Fisher BM, Dalley JW, Bussey T, Pienaar IS (2019), “Altered motor, anxiety-related and attentional task performance at baseline associate with multiple gene copies of the vesicular acetylcholine transporter and related protein overexpression in ChAT::Cre+ rats” Brain Struct Funct 224(9):3095-3116

Zhukovsky P, Puaud M, Jupp B, Sala-Bayo J, Alsiö J, Xia J, Searle L, Morris Z, Sabir A, Giuliano C, Everitt BJ, Belin D, Robbins TW, Dalley JW. (2019), “Withdrawal from escalated cocaine self-administration impairs reversal learning by disrupting the effects of negative feedback on reward exploitation: a behavioral and computational analysis” Neuropsychopharmacology 44(13):2163-2173


Feltmann K, Giuliano C, Everitt BJ, Steensland P, Alsiö J (2018), “The Effects of the Monoamine Stabilizer (-)-OSU6162 on Binge-Like Eating and Cue-Controlled Food-Seeking Behavior in Rats” Neuropsychopharmacology 43(3):617-626


Mar AC, Nilsson SRO, Gamallo-Lana B, Lei M, Dourado T, Alsiö J, Saksida LM, Bussey TJ, Robbins TW (2017), “MAM-E17 rat model impairments on a novel continuous performance task: effects of potential cognitive enhancing drugs” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2017 Oct;234(19):2837-2857

Zhukovsky P, Alsiö J, Jupp B, Xia J, Giuliano C, Jenner L, Griffiths J, Riley E, Ali S, Roberts AC, Robbins TW, Dalley JW. (2017), “Perseveration in a spatial-discrimination serial reversal learning task is differentially affected by MAO-A and MAO-B inhibition and associated with reduced anxiety and peripheral serotonin levels” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 234(9-10):1557-1571


Alsiö J, Nilsson SR, Gastambide F, Wang RA, Dam SA, Mar AC, Tricklebank M, Robbins TW (2015), “The role of 5-HT2C receptors in touchscreen visual reversal learning in the rat: a cross-site study.” Psychopharmacology (Berl) Details

Barlow RL, Alsiö J, Jupp B, Rabinovich R, Shrestha S, Roberts AC, Robbins TW, Dalley JW (2015), “Markers of Serotonergic Function in the Orbitofrontal Cortex and Dorsal Raphé Nucleus Predict Individual Variation in Spatial-Discrimination Serial Reversal Learning.” Neuropsychopharmacology Details

Caruso V, Le Grevés M, Shirazi Fard S, Haitina T, Olszewski PK, Alsiö J, Schiöth HB, Fredriksson R (2015), “The Orphan G Protein-Coupled Receptor Gene GPR178 Is Evolutionary Conserved and Altered in Response to Acute Changes in Food Intake.” PLoS One 10(6):e0122061 Details

Nilsson SR, Alsiö J, Somerville EM, Clifton PG (2015), “The rat's not for turning: Dissociating the psychological components of cognitive inflexibility.” Neurosci Biobehav Rev Details

Pickering C, Alsiö J, Morud J, Ericson M, Robbins TW, Söderpalm B (2015), “Ethanol impairment of spontaneous alternation behaviour and associated changes in medial prefrontal glutamatergic gene expression precede putative markers of dependence.” Pharmacol Biochem Behav 132:63-70 Details


Alsiö J, Rask-Andersen M, Chavan RA, Olszewski PK, Levine AS, Fredriksson R, Schiöth HB (2014), “Exposure to a high-fat high-sugar diet causes strong up-regulation of proopiomelanocortin and differentially affects dopamine D1 and D2 receptor gene expression in the brainstem of rats.” Neurosci Lett 559:18-23 Details


Cedernaes J, Alsiö J, Västermark A, Risérus U, Schiöth HB (2013), “Adipose tissue stearoyl-CoA desaturase 1 index is increased and linoleic acid is decreased in obesity-prone rats fed a high-fat diet.” Lipids Health Dis 12:2 Details

Horner AE, Heath CJ, Hvoslef-Eide M, Kent BA, Kim CH, Nilsson SR, Alsiö J, Oomen CA, Holmes A, Saksida LM, Bussey TJ (2013), “The touchscreen operant platform for testing learning and memory in rats and mice.” Nat Protoc 8(10):1961-84 Details

Mar AC, Horner AE, Nilsson SR, Alsiö J, Kent BA, Kim CH, Holmes A, Saksida LM, Bussey TJ (2013), “The touchscreen operant platform for assessing executive function in rats and mice.” Nat Protoc 8(10):1985-2005 Details


Alsiö J, Olszewski PK, Levine AS, Schiöth HB (2012), “Feed-forward mechanisms: addiction-like behavioral and molecular adaptations in overeating.” Front Neuroendocrinol 33(2):127-39 Details

Olszewski PK, Rozman J, Jacobsson JA, Rathkolb B, Strömberg S, Hans W, Klockars A, Alsiö J, Risérus U, Becker L, Hölter SM, Elvert R, Ehrhardt N, Gailus-Durner V, Fuchs H, Fredriksson R, Wolf E, Klopstock T, Wurst W, Levine AS, Marcus C, de Angelis MH, Klingenspor M, Schiöth HB, Kilimann MW (2012), “Neurobeachin, a regulator of synaptic protein targeting, is associated with body fat mass and feeding behavior in mice and body-mass index in humans.” PLoS Genet 8(3):e1002568 Details

Rask-Andersen M, Jacobsson JA, Moschonis G, Chavan RA, Sikder MA, Allzén E, Alsiö J, Chrousos GP, Manios Y, Fredriksson R, Schiöth HB (2012), “Association of TMEM18 variants with BMI and waist circumference in children and correlation of mRNA expression in the PFC with body weight in rats.” Eur J Hum Genet 20(2):192-7 Details


Alsiö J, Nordenankar K, Arvidsson E, Birgner C, Mahmoudi S, Halbout B, Smith C, Fortin GM, Olson L, Descarries L, Trudeau LÉ, Kullander K, Lévesque D, Wallén-Mackenzie A (2011), “Enhanced sucrose and cocaine self-administration and cue-induced drug seeking after loss of VGLUT2 in midbrain dopamine neurons in mice.” J Neurosci 31(35):12593-603 Details

Mirza MA, Alsiö J, Hammarstedt A, Erben RG, Michaëlsson K, Tivesten A, Marsell R, Orwoll E, Karlsson MK, Ljunggren O, Mellström D, Lind L, Ohlsson C, Larsson TE (2011), “Circulating fibroblast growth factor-23 is associated with fat mass and dyslipidemia in two independent cohorts of elderly individuals.” Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 31(1):219-27 Details

Olszewski PK, Alsiö J, Schiöth HB, Levine AS (2011), “Opioids as facilitators of feeding: can any food be rewarding?” Physiol Behav 104(1):105-10 Details


Almén MS, Jacobsson JA, Shaik JH, Olszewski PK, Cedernaes J, Alsiö J, Sreedharan S, Levine AS, Fredriksson R, Marcus C, Schiöth HB (2010), “The obesity gene, TMEM18, is of ancient origin, found in majority of neuronal cells in all major brain regions and associated with obesity in severely obese children.” BMC Med Genet 11:58 Details

Alsiö J, Olszewski PK, Norbäck AH, Gunnarsson ZE, Levine AS, Pickering C, Schiöth HB (2010), “Dopamine D1 receptor gene expression decreases in the nucleus accumbens upon long-term exposure to palatable food and differs depending on diet-induced obesity phenotype in rats.” Neuroscience 171(3):779-87 Details


Alsiö J, Birgner C, Björkblom L, Isaksson P, Bergström L, Schiöth HB, Lindblom J (2009), “Impact of nandrolone decanoate on gene expression in endocrine systems related to the adverse effects of anabolic androgenic steroids.” Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol 105(5):307-14 Details

Alsiö J, Pickering C, Roman E, Hulting AL, Lindblom J, Schiöth HB (2009), “Motivation for sucrose in sated rats is predicted by low anxiety-like behavior.” Neurosci Lett 454(3):193-7 Details

Alsiö J, Roman E, Olszewski PK, Jonsson P, Fredriksson R, Levine AS, Meyerson BJ, Hulting AL, Lindblom J, Schiöth HB (2009), “Inverse association of high-fat diet preference and anxiety-like behavior: a putative role for urocortin 2.” Genes Brain Behav 8(2):193-202 Details

Olszewski PK, Fredriksson R, Olszewska AM, Stephansson O, Alsiö J, Radomska KJ, Levine AS, Schiöth HB (2009), “Hypothalamic FTO is associated with the regulation of energy intake not feeding reward.” BMC Neurosci 10:129 Details

Pickering C, Alsiö J, Hulting AL, Schiöth HB (2009), “Withdrawal from free-choice high-fat high-sugar diet induces craving only in obesity-prone animals.” Psychopharmacology (Berl) 204(3):431-43 Details


Birgner C, Kindlundh-Högberg AM, Alsiö J, Lindblom J, Schiöth HB, Bergström L (2008), “The anabolic androgenic steroid nandrolone decanoate affects mRNA expression of dopaminergic but not serotonergic receptors.” Brain Res 1240:221-8 Details

Birgner C, Kindlundh-Högberg AM, Oreland L, Alsiö J, Lindblom J, Schiöth HB, Bergström L (2008), “Reduced activity of monoamine oxidase in the rat brain following repeated nandrolone decanoate administration.” Brain Res 1219:103-10 Details

Haitina T, Olsson F, Stephansson O, Alsiö J, Roman E, Ebendal T, Schiöth HB, Fredriksson R (2008), “Expression profile of the entire family of Adhesion G protein-coupled receptors in mouse and rat.” BMC Neurosci 9:43 Details

Sundberg BE, Wååg E, Jacobsson JA, Stephansson O, Rumaks J, Svirskis S, Alsiö J, Roman E, Ebendal T, Klusa V, Fredriksson R (2008), “The evolutionary history and tissue mapping of amino acid transporters belonging to solute carrier families SLC32, SLC36, and SLC38.” J Mol Neurosci 35(2):179-93 Details