Head: Ewelina Knapska



2013 DSc Habil, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS

2006 PhD in Biology, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS

2001 MSc in Biology, University of Warsaw


Research trainings:

2006-2008 Postdoctoral Research Training in the Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA

2004 Research Training, Division of Neuroanatomy and Behavior, Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Switzerland


Professional employments:

2013-present Associate Professor, Head of Neurobiology of Emotions Laboratory,

2008-2013 Adjunct, Nencki Institute of Experimental Biology, PAS


Honors and fellowships:

2016 ERC Starting grant

2016 member of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI)

2015 AcademiaNet member

2014 ENINET member

2014 member of European Brain and Behaviour Society committee

2014 Polish Prime Minister Award for Habilitation

2013 Burgen Scholarship (for outstanding scientific achievements), Academia Europea

2010-2012 Fellowship for Outstanding Young Researchers awarded by Ministry of Science and Higher Education

2007 Polish Prime Minister Award for the PhD thesis

2006-2007 Foundation for Polish Science fellowship (KOLUMB), for postdoctoral research training

2005 Young investigator award of Polish Neuroscience Society

Staff: Zuzanna Borzymowska (PhD student), Jerzy Bukowczan (PhD student), Patrycja Dzianok (PhD student), Anna Goncerzewicz (PhD student), Tomasz Górkiewicz, Kacper Kondrakiewicz (PhD student), Mateusz Kostecki (PhD student), Ewa Kublik, Tomasz Lebitko (PhD student), Magdalena Majkowska, Ksenia Meyza, Tomasz Nikolaev (PhD student), Michał Pasierski, Karolina Rojek-Sito, Karolina Rokosz (PhD student), Joanna Sadowska, Aleksandra Składowska (PhD student), Weronika Szadzińska (PhD student), Maciej Winiarski, Jakub Wojciechowski (PhD student), Karolina Ziegart-Sadowska (PhD student)

Research profile

Research activities of our laboratory are focused on the neurobiological basis of emo- tions. We are particularly interested in the mechanisms of socially transferred emotions (in rodent models of emotional contagion). Emotional contagion, i.e., the capacity to be affected by and/or share the emotional state of another individual, is considered to be the simplest form of empathy. In our laboratory we study neuronal circuits in the amygdala underlying social transfer of positive and negative emotions. In order to understand how the systems underlying social communication operate we employ rat and mouse mod- els, as well as neuronal tracing and optogenetic techniques. The two main questions our research is focused on are: (1) Are the neural circuits underlying positive and negative so- cial emotions distinct? (2) Does the social brain exist, i.e., are there neural circuits spe- cialized in social emotions? We also investigate the brain circuits and cellular mechanisms underlying impaired social interactions and the possibilities of therapeutic intervention in mouse genetic and idiopathic models of autism spectrum disorder. Using state-of- the-art automatic systems for assessing social behavior and neurobiology tools we try to explain why some individuals suffer from autism. Thalamo-Cortical Processing Group focuses on the effect emotional and cognitive state of the brain has on information processing within first and higher order thalamo-corti- cal pathways as well as the salience and valence of sensory stimuli.

Current research activities

  • Socially transferred emotions – the neural basis of empathy. We investigate neural representations of emotional states in interacting animals using  behavioral  models of socially transferred positive and negative emotions designed in our laboratory
  • Neural mechanisms of impaired social behaviors. Using high-throughput behavioral measures of social interactions we have developed (Eco-HAB system) we characterize neuronal circuits and cellular mechanisms underlying social interactions and validate tissue-specific therapeutic interventions using mouse models of synaptopathies rele- vant to autism spectrum disorders
  • Social buffering. We are interested in the functional interplay between the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus, and amygdala resulting in fear contagion or social buffering effects
  • Fear related activation of higher order thalamic pathways. We investigate whether overexcitation of the neural circuitry including cortex and amygdala underlies sensory related pathologies such as hypersensitivity in  autism or hallucinations in schizophrenia
  • EEG fingerprint of attention and executive control. By combining fMRI, EEG and novel analytical algorithms we search for distinct spatio-temporo-frequency patterns that specifically represent the level of activation of nodes of brain attentional networks in humans.


Selected publications


Meyza K.Z., Bartal I.B., Monfils M.H., Panksepp J.B., Knapska E. (2016) The roots of empathy: Through the lens of rodent models. Neurosci Biobehav Rev, pii: S0149-7634(15)30343-2. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.10.028.


Puścian A., Łęski S., Kasprowicz G., Winiarski M., Borowska J., Nikolaev T., Boguszewski P.M., Lipp H.P., Knapska E. (2016) Eco-HAB as a fully automated  and  ecologically  relevant  assessment  of  social  impairments  in  mouse  models  of  autism.  Elife,  5.  pii:  e19532.  doi: 10.7554/eLife.19532.


Mikosz M., Nowak A., Werka T., Knapska E. (2015) Sex differences in social modulation of learning in rats. Sci Rep, 5: 18114. Knapska E., Lioudyno V., Kiryk A., Mikosz M., Górkiewicz T., Michaluk P., Gawlak M., Chaturvedi M., Mochol G., Balcerzyk M., Wojcik D.K., Wilczynski G.M., Kaczmarek L. (2013) Reward learning requires activity of matrix metalloproteinase-9 in the central amygdala. J Neurosci, 33(36): 14591-14600.


Knapska E., Macias M., Mikosz M., Nowak A., Owczarek D., Wawrzyniak M., Pieprzyk M., Cymerman I.A., Werka T., Sheng M., Maren S., Jaworski J., Kaczmarek L. (2012) Functional anatomy of neural circuits regulating fear and extinction. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 109(42): 17093-17098.


Sobolewski A., Kublik E., Świejkowski D.A., Kamiński J., Wróbel A. (2015) Alertness opens the effective flow of sensory information through rat thalamic posterior nucleus. Eur J Neurosci, 41: 1321-1331.