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Biography

.Katharina Wulff is the University Research Lecturer in chronobiology and sleep at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience, University of Oxford. She studied biology at the Free University of Berlin and completed her PhD at the Charite, Humboldt University Berlin. She is a neurobiologist, who works on questions dedicated to deciphering the role of circadian rhythms and their disturbances in humans: the biological timing system that internally represents the external day. Her work in recent years employs multidisciplinary and collaborative approaches to map phenotypic abnormalities in sleep and circadian function by placing individuals on a continuum from healthy to mentally ill. Earlier works include ultradian and circadian time patterns of families with infants (PhD 2001); and effects of ocular pathologies on sleep and circadian entrainment. Her current work concerns questions about light exposure, photoreception, sleep/wake and the neurobiological similarities of intermediate cases and those of prototype disorders of the brain such as psychosis and dementia. She has a long standing interest in communicating science, including links with architecture: ‘Living by the light of a glass house’ (2016/17) and school projects: BBC Terrific Scientific:Time Investigation (2016/17); Sleeping Sense : Composing Sleep (2015/16); Brain Awareness Weeks: Explore your Senses (2014/15); Museum Exhibition: ‘Sleeping Brain’ (2011); and Artlink: ‘Sun Dial : Night Watch’ 3 enormous, colourful tapestries highlighting seasonal and daily rhythms of behaviour and light exposure over an entire year, captured by wrist-worn sensors tracking light and activity every minute (2010-12).

Katharina Wulff

BSc, MSc, PhD


University Research Lecturer in Chronobiology and Sleep

Research Summary

Periods of sleep and activity are timed to occur at specific phases of the day: We are active during the day and sleep during the night. Inappropriately timed periods of sleep and activity can greatly compromise our well-being and quality of life. In our field studies on sleep disturbances in patients with mental problems, we found striking timing abnormalities in physiology and sleep-wake behaviour.

The aims of our research are to elucidate the links between light exposure, circadian processes, sleep and emotions, to understand the function of timed light and sleep for mental well-being, and to define how such insight can be used for therapeutic interventions and application in LED lighting designs and architecture. We are developing experimental approaches aimed at identifying objective markers predicting the effects of light on perceptual and emotional processing.