Department of Psychiatry

Penn Behavioral Health

Alexander C. Stahn, PhD

Alexander C. Stahn, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medical Science in Psychiatry
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
Division of Sleep and Chronobiology, Department of Psychiatry

Alexander C. Stahn is an Assistant Professor of Medical Science in Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He obtained his undergraduate and graduate   degrees from Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, after which her worked as a Research Assistant at the Department of Medical Physiology in Cape Town, South Africa from 2003 to 2005. In 2008 he obtained his doctoral degree at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. He then assumed the position as a Research Associate at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), Germany, where he was awarded a Young Investigator Grant (YIG) to set up an independent research group in studying the effects of exercise on cognition and brain plasticity. In 2009 he returned to Charité to work as a Research Associate at the Center for Space Medicine and Extreme Environments, where he was promoted to Deputy Laboratory Head in 2014. In August 2016 he was appointed Assistant Professor of Medical Science in Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

His primary research focuses on the effects of gravity and extreme environments on circadian rhythms, neurostructural changes and cognition, and the effectiveness of physical activity as a countermeasure. His recent work includes the application of cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques to assess the adaptation of the neural circuitry involved in spatial cognition to various environmental stressors, and particularly isolation and confinement. His ISS experiment on hippocampal plasticity during long-duration spaceflight, currently in the definition phase, has been ranked as one of the top European project by the European Space Agency (ESA). He is also PI oftwo  ESA long-duration bed rest studies, investigating the effect of 60 days of bed rest with and without exercise (i.e. with and without antioxidant supplementation) as a countermeasure on the functional and structural plasticity of the brain and their behavioral significance. Very recently, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the German Aerospace Agency (DLR) have also selected his experiment on studying the effects of cortical changes and cognition for the 45 days HERA campaign in 2017.

For his research he was awarded the Elsa Neumann Neumann Award for highly qualified young investigators and the travel award by the German Research Foundation (DFG) in 2004, the Harry Crossley Award by the University of Stellenbosch in 2005, the BASES Elsevier Oral Presentation Award by the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences in 2006, the Young Investigator Grant by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology for exceptional accomplishments and outstanding career perspectives in 2009, and a scholarship for travelling by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in 2011.

Dr. Stahn serves as an Executive board member of the German Society for Aviation and Space Medicine, a member of the ESA Isolation Steering Committee, supporting the definition of ESA’s strategy for future isolation and confinement studies, and a member of the study Group 2.15 (Immersion Model) of the International Academy of Astronautics (IAA).

Research Interests

Effects of gravity, hypokinesia and extreme environments on cognitive performance and its neural circuitry; effectiveness of countermeasures to mitigate any negative neurobehavioral effects; applying knowledge from space medicine to aging research


Research Projects

ESA/DLR: Impact of Long-Duration Spaceflight on Hippocampal Volume and Visuo-Spatial Memory (PI)

ESA/DLR: Effects of Parabolic Flight on Spatial Cognition and Hippocampal Plasticity (PI)

NASA/DLR: Neuroplasticity in HERA - Structural and Functional Changes in Hippocampal Plasticity after Isolation and Its Behavioral Significance for Long Duration Space Exploration Missions (PI)

ESA/DLR: Executive Control Functions and their Neurophysiologic Mechanisms During Head-Down-Tilt Bed Rest (PI)

ESA/DLR: Impact of Bed Rest on Cognitive Performance and its Mechanisms: Interactions between Central Inflammatory Responses, Autonomic Nervous Control, and Brain Structure and Function (PI)

NASA: Hybrid Training - A Sensory Stimulation Countermeasure for Long Duration Space Exploration Missions (Co-I)

NASA: Bed Rest Combined with 0.5% CO2 as a Spaceflight Analog to Study Neurocognitive Changes: Extent, Longevity, and Neural Bases (Co-I)

NASA: Behavioral Core Measures (Consultant)

NASA: Sleep Electroencephalography and Near-Infrared Spectroscopy Measurements for Spaceflight and Analogs (Collaborator)

ESA/DLR: Circadian Rhythms: Core Temperature and Circadian Rhythms in Humans During Long-term Spaceflights (Co-PI)

NASA/DLR: Effects on Circadian Rhythm in Humans During Long-term Isolation and Confinement (Co-I)


Selected Bibliography

Mendt, S., Maggioni, M.A., Nordine, M., Steinach, M., Opatz, O., Belavý, D., Felsenberg, D., Koch, J., Shang, P., Gunga, H.C., and Stahn, A. Circadian rhythms in bed rest: Monitoring core body temperature via heat-flux approach is superior to skin surface temperature. Chronobiology International. In Press, 2016,

Trippel, T.D., Lenk, J., Gunga, H.C., Doehner, W., von Haehling, S., Loncar, G., Edelmann, F., Pieske, B., Stahn, A., Duengen, H.D. Estimating fat mass in heart failure patient. Arch Med Sci Atheroscler Dis 2016; 1: e1–e12.

Villa, F., Magnani, A., Maggioni, M.A., Stahn, A., Rampichini, S., Merati, G., Castiglioni, P. Wearable Multi-Frequency and Multi-Segment Bioelectrical Impedance Spectroscopy for Unobtrusively Tracking Body Fluid Shifts during Physical Activity in Real-Field Applications: A Preliminary Study. Sensors 16(5), 673, 2016.

Steinach, M., Kohlberg, E.; Maggioni, M.A.; Mendt, S., Opatz, O., Stahn, A., Tiedemann, J., Gunga, H.C. Sleep Quality Changes during Overwintering at the German Antarctic Stations Neumayer II and III: the Gender Factor. Plos One. 11(2): e0150099. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150099.

Steinach, M., Kohlberg, E.; Maggioni, M.A.; Mendt, S., Opatz, O., Stahn, A., Tiedemann, J., Gunga, H.C. Changes of 25-OH-Vitamin D during Overwintering at the German Antarctic Stations Neumayer II and III. Plos One. 10(12):e0144130. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.014413

Habazettl, H., Stahn, A., Nitsche, A., Nordine, M., Pries, A., Gunga, H.C., Opatz, O. Microvascular responses to (hyper-)gravitational stress by short-arm human centrifuge: arteriolar vasoconstriction and venous pooling. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 116(1):57-65, 2016. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3241-6

Nordine M., Maggioni, M.A., Stahn, A., Mendt, S. Brauns, K., Gunga. H.C., Habazettl, H. Nitsche, A., Opatz, O. Form influences function: anthropometry and orthostatic stability during sustained acceleration in a short arm human centrifuge. Acta Astronautica 115: 138-146, 2015.

Stahn, A., Gunga. H.-C. Methodology. In: Human Physiology in Extreme Environments. New York: Elsevier, pp. 39-75, 2014.

Schmidt, S.C.E., Krell, J., Bös, K., Stahn, A. General sports participation rather than amount or intensity is related to body composition among healthy adolescents. International Journal of Sports Science, 3(6): 217-223, 2013.

Stahn, A., Terblanche, E., Gunga, H.C. Selected Applications of Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis: Body Fluids, Blood Volume, Cell and Fat Mass. The Handbook of Anthropometry: Physical Measures of Human Form in Health and Disease. New York: Springer, pp. 415-440, 2013.

Schlabs, T., Rosales-Velderrain, A., Ruckstuhl. H., Stahn, A., Hargens, A.R. Comparison of cardiovascular and biomechanical parameters of supine lower body negative pressure and upright lower body positive pressure to simulate activity in 1/6 G and 3/8 G. Journal of Applied Physiology 115(2): 275-84, 2013.

Stahn, A., Terblanche, E., Gunga, H.C. Use of Bioelectrical Impedance: General Overview and Principles. In: Preedy VR, editor. Handbook of Anthropometry: Physical Measures of Human Form in Health and Disease. New York: Springer, pp. 49-90, 2013.

Opatz, O., Trippel T., Lochner, A., Werner, A., Stahn, A., Steinach, M., Lenk, J., Kuppe, H., Gunga, H.C. Temporal and spatial dispersion of human body temperature during deep hypothermia. British Journal of Anaesthesia 111(5): 768-75, 2013.

Gunga, H.C., Steinach, M., Kirsch, K., Stahn, A., Werner, A. Weltraummedizin und -Biologie. In: Ley W, Wittmann K, Hallmann W, editors. Handbuch Der Raumfahrttechnik. München: Hanser Verlag, pp. 583-597, 2011.

Ganse, B., Stahn, A., Stoinski, S., Suthau, T., and Gunga, H.C. Chapter 7, Body mass, thermoregulation and cardiovascular of large sauropods. In: Sander M, editors. The Life of Giants. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010, pp. 105-115.

Gunga, H.C., Werner, A., Stahn, A., Steinach, M., Schlabs, T., Koralewski, E., Kunz, D., Belavy, D.L., Felsenberg, D., Sattler, F., Koch, J. The Double Sensor-a Non-Invasive Device to Continuously Monitor Core Temperature in Humans on Earth and in Space. Respiratory Physiology & Neurobiology 169: S63-S68, 2009.

Stahn, A., Strobel, G., Terblanche, E. VO2max Prediction from Multi-Frequency Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. Physiological Measurement 29: 193-203, 2008.

Stahn, A., Terblanche, E., Strobel, G. Modeling Upper and Lower Limb Muscle Volume by Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. Journal of Applied Physiology 103: 1428-1435, 2007.

Stahn, A., Terblanche, E., Grunert, S., Strobel, G. Estimation of Maximal Oxygen Uptake by Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. European Journal of Applied Physiology 96: 265-273, 2006.

Stahn, A., Terblanche, E., Strobel, G. Monitoring Exercise-Induced Fluid Shifts by Segmental Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis. In: Marfell-Jones M, Stewart A, Olds T, editors. Kinanthropometry IX. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 65-94, 2006.


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