Academics at the Department of Biology

Kaiser, Sylvia, apl. Prof. Dr. rer. nat.

Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Institut für Neuro- und Verhaltensbiologie, Abteilung für Verhaltensbiologie
Badestrasse 13
D-48149 Münster
Tel: + 49 - 251 - 83 2 4676
Fax: + 49 - 251 - 83 2 3896

Wissenschaftlicher Werdegang
- Studium der Biologie, Hauptfach Tierphysiologie: Universität Bayreuth
- Promotion zur Dr. rer. nat.: WWU Münster
- Post-doc: Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Amsterdam, Niederlande
- Habilitation in Zoologie: WWU Münster

- Verhaltensbiologie/-endokrinologie
- Animal Welfare
- Grundlagenmodul Biologie (Laborbiologie)

- Pränatale Beeinflussung von Physiologie und Verhalten
- Stress, Stressvermeidung und Wohlergehen

Ausgewählte Projekte
The prenatal programming of behaviour in mammals
Stressors acting prenatally and/or during the early postnatal period of life can distinctly influence the offsprings´ physiological and behavioural development as well as their reproductive functions. In most experimental studies on prenatal stress pregnant non-human mammals were exposed to non-social stressors. We are interested in the influence of the social environment, which can be during pregnancy crucial for the development of the offspring. Thus we developed a prenatal stress model in guinea pigs. We could show that the stability of the social environment in which the pregnant females live is critical for the offsprings´ social and sexual behaviour later in life as well as for reproductive functioning, endocrine state and androgen and estrogen receptor distribution in specific parts of the brain. We investigate the neuroendocrine mechanisms mediating the influence of the social environment during pregnancy on the offsprings´ behaviour. Furthermore we are interested in the function of these effects: Can mothers adjust their offspring to the environment in which they live during pregnancy in an efficient way or represent the behavioural effects of prenatal social stress pathological consequences of adverse social conditions?

Animal welfare
Animal welfare is a central topic in modern behavioural biology. Scientific research is needed to answer questions about optimal housing conditions and other welfare issues concerning animals kept by humans. We use different approaches to adress these questions in a variety of mammals. Besides behavioural observations, preference tests are carried out and endocrinological parameters are assessed. Effects of social and non-social factors are elucidated. For example consequences of the presence of a social partner or living in an enriched environment as well as experiences made during ontogeny are investigated.

Ausgewählte Kooperationen

- Prof. Dr. Michael Hennessy, Department of Psychology, Dayton, Ohio, USA
- Dr. Frank P. M. Kruijver, Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Amsterdam, Niederlande
- Prof. Dr. Rainer H. Straub, Institut für Innere Medizin, Universität Regensburg-Klinikum, Deutschland
- Prof. Dr. Dick F. Swaab, Netherlands Institute for Brain Research, Amsterdam, Niederlande


  • Siegeler K, Lewejohann L, Failing K., Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘Start early! Does social instability during the pre- and early postnatal development prepare male wild cavies for social challenge later in life?Frontiers in Zoology 14:2.
  • Zimmermann T., Kaiser S., Hennessy M., Sachser N. . ‘Adaptive shaping of the behavioural and neuroendocrine phenotype during adolescence.’ Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284, No. 1849. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2016.2784.
  • Meyer N, Richter SH, Schreiber RS, Kloke V, Kaiser S, Lesch KP, Sachser N. . ‘The unexpected effects of beneficial and adverse social experiences during adolescence on anxiety and aggression and their modulation by genotype.’ Front. Behav. Neurosci. 10:97.
  • Richter S., Kästner N., Kriwet M., Kaiser S., Sachser N. . ‘Play matters: the surprising relationship between juvenile playfulness and anxiety in later life.’ Animal Behaviour 114, No. null: 261-271. doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2016.02.003.
  • Richter S., Kästner N., Loddenkemper D., Kaiser S., Sachser N. . ‘A time to wean? Impact of weaning age on anxiety-like behaviour and stability of behavioural traits in full adulthood.’ PLoS ONE 11, No. 12. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0167652.
  • Graulich DM, Kaiser S, Sachser N, Richter SH. . ‘Looking on the bright side of bias - validation of an affective bias test for laboratory mice.’ Applied Animal Behaviour Science 181: 173-181.
  • Kästner, Niklas, Richter,S. Helene, Lesch, Klaus Peter, Schreiber, Rebecca S., Kaiser, Sylvia, Sachser, Norbert. . ‘Benefits of a "vulnerability gene"? A study in serotonin transporter knockout mice.’ Behavioural Brain Research 283: 116-120. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2015.01.031.
  • Kaiser S, Hennessy MB, Sachser N. . ‘Domestication affects the structure, development and stability of biobehavioural profiles.’ Frontiers in Zoology 12 (Suppl1): 19.
  • Kaiser,S; Siegeler, K; Schwerdt, B; Sachser N. . ‘Social instability during pregnancy and lactation alters female wild cavy offsprings endocrine status and behaviour later in life.Behaviour 152, No. 7-8: 837-859.
  • Bodden, C; Richter, SH; Schreiber, RS; Kloke, V; Gerss, J; Palme, R; Lesch, KP; Lewejohann, L; Kaiser, S; Sacher, N. . ‘Benefits of adversity?! How life history affects the behavioral profile of mice varying in serotonin transporter genotype.’ Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 9, No. 47. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2015.00047.
  • Guenther A, Palme R, Dersen M, Kaiser S, Trillmich F. . ‘Photoperiodic effects on reproductive development in male cavies (Cavia aperea).’ Physiology and Behaviour 123: 142-147.
  • Zipser B, Schleking A, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Effects of domestication on biobehavioural profiles: a comparison of domestic guinea pigs and wild cavies from early to late adolescence.’ Frontiers in Zoology 11.
  • Kloke V., Schreiber R., Bodden C., Möllers J., Ruhmann H., Kaiser S., Lesch K., Sachser N., Lewejohann L. . ‘Hope for the best or prepare for the worst? Towards a spatial cognitive bias test for mice.’ PLoS ONE 9, No. 8. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0105431.
  • Siegeler K, Wistuba J, Damm OS, von Engelhardt N, Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘Early social instability affects plasma testosterone during adolescence but does not alter reproductive capacity or measures of stress later in life.Physiology & behavior 120C: 143-149. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2013.08.008.
  • Kloke V, Heiming RS, Bölting S, Kaiser S, Lewejohann L, Lesch KP, Sachser N. . ‘Unexpected effects of early-life adversity and social enrichment on the anxiety profile of mice varying in serotonin transporter genotype.Behavioural brain research 247C: 248-258. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2013.03.039.
  • Karabeg MM, Grauthoff S, Kollert SY, Weidner M, Heiming RS, Jansen F, Popp S, Kaiser S, Lesch KP, Sachser N, Schmitt AG, Lewejohann L. . ‘5-HTT Deficiency Affects Neuroplasticity and Increases Stress Sensitivity Resulting in Altered Spatial Learning Performance in the Morris Water Maze but Not in the Barnes Maze.PLoS One 8, No. 10: e78238.
  • Zipser B, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Dimensions of Animal Personalities in Guinea Pigs.’ Ethology 119, No. 11: 970-982.
  • Hohoff C, Gorji A, Kaiser S, Willscher E, Korsching E, Ambree O, Arolt V, Lesch KP, Sachser N, Deckert J, Lewejohann L. . ‘Effect of acute stressor and serotonin transporter genotype on amygdala first wave transcriptome in mice.’ PLoS ONE 8, No. 3: e58880.
  • Albert FW, Somel M, Carneiro M, Aximu-Petri A, Halbwax M, Thalmann O, Blanco-Aguiar JA, Plyusnina IZ, Trut L, Villafuerte R, Ferrand N, Kaiser S, Jensen P, Pääbo S. . ‘A Comparison of Brain Gene Expression Levels in Domesticated and Wild Animals.PLoS Genetics 8(9): e1002962.
  • Stock C, Kaiser S. . „Humanbiologische Grundlagen der Gesundheitswissenschaften.In Handbuch Gesundheitswissenschaften., herausgegeben von Hurrelmann K, Razum O (Hrsg.): , 99-122. Weinheim, München: Juventa.
  • Lürzel S, Kaiser S, Krüger, C., Sachser N. . ‘Inhibiting influence of testosterone on stress responsiveness during adolescence.Hormones and Behavior 60, No. 5: 691-698.
  • Lürzel S, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Social interaction decreases stress responsiveness during adolescence.Psychoneuroendocrinology 36, No. 9: 1370-7. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.03.010.
  • Jansen F, Heiming RS, Kloke V, Kaiser S, Palme R, Lesch KP, Sachser N. . ‘Away game or home match: The influence of venue and serotonin transporter genotype on the display of offensive aggression.’ BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH 219, No. 2: 291-301. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2011.01.029.
  • Sachser N, Hennessy MB, Kaiser S. . ‘Adaptive Modulation of Behavioural Profiles by Social Stress During Early Phase of Life and Adolescence.’ NEUROSCIENCE AND BIOBEHAVIORAL REVIEWS 35, No. 7: 1518-1533. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.09.002.
  • Siegeler K, Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘The social environment during pregnancy and lactation shapes the behavioural and hormonal profile of male offspring in wild cavies.Developmental Psychobiology 53: 575-584.
  • Heiming RS, Bodden C, Jansen F, Lewejohann L, Kaiser S, Lesch KP, Palme R, Sachser N. . ‘Living in a dangerous world decreases maternal care: A study in serotonin transporter knockout mice.Hormones and Behavior Volume 60, No. 4: 397–407. doi:
  • Lewejohann L, Kloke V, Heiming RS, Jansen F, Kaiser S, Schmitt A, Lesch KP, Sachser N. . ‘Social Status and Day-to-Day Behaviour of Male Serotonin Transporter Knockout Mice.’ BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH 211, No. 2: 220-228. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2010.03.035.
  • Lurzel S, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Social Interaction, Testosterone, and Stress Responsiveness During Adolescence.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 99, No. 1: 40-46. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2009.10.005.
  • Kaiser S., Sachser N. . ‘Sex-Specific Effects of Early Social Stress in Mammals: A Study in Guinea Pigs.’ In Encyclopedia of Stress, edited by Fink, G (Eds.): , 479-484.: Elsevier Inc. doi: 10.1016/B978-012373947-6.00478-5.
  • Sachser N., Kaiser S. . ‘The social modulation of behavioural development.’ In Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms, edited by Kappeler P. (Ed.): , 505-536.: Springer Berlin Heidelberg. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-02624-9_17.
  • Lewejohann L., Pickel T., Sachser N., Kaiser S. . ‘Wild genius - domestic fool? Spatial learning abilities of wild and domestic guinea pigs.’ Frontiers in Zoology 7, No. null. doi: 10.1186/1742-9994-7-9.
  • Kaiser S, Krüger C, Sachser N. . ‘The guinea pig.’ In The care and management of laboratory and other research animals, edited by Hubrecht R, Kirkwood J. (Eds.): , 380-398. Chichester UK: Wiley-Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781444318777.ch27.
  • Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘The social modulation of behavioural development.’ In Animal Behavior: Evolution and Mechanisms, edited by Kappeler P. (Ed.): , 505-536. Berlin: Springer Verlag. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-02624-9_17.
  • Kemme K, Kaiser S, von Engelhardt N, Wewers D, Groothuis T, Sachser N. . ‘An Unstable Social Environment Affects Sex Ratio in Guinea Pigs: An Adaptive Maternal Effect?BEHAVIOUR 146, No. 11: 1513-1529. doi: 10.1163/156853909X445579.
  • Hennessy MB, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Social Buffering of the Stress Response: Diversity, Mechanisms, and Functions.’ FRONTIERS IN NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY 30, No. 4: 470-482. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2009.06.001.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Effects of Prenatal Social Stress on Offspring Development: Pathology or Adaptation?CURRENT DIRECTIONS IN PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE 18, No. 2: 118-121. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01620.x.
  • Trillmich F, Mueller B, Kaiser S, Krause J. . ‘Puberty in female cavies (Cavia aperea) is affected by photoperiod and social conditions.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 96, No. 3: 476-480. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.11.014.
  • Heiming RS, Jansen F, Lewejohann L, Kaiser S, Schmitt A, Lesch KP and Sachser N. . ‘Living in a dangerous world: the shaping of behavioral profile by early environment and 5-HTT genotype.’ frontiers in BEHAVIORAL NEUROSCIENCE 3, No. 26. doi: 10.3389/neuro.08.026.2009.
  • Trillmich F, Mueller B, Kaiser S, Krause J. . ‘Puberty in female cavies (Cavia aperea) is affected by photoperiod and social conditions.PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 96, No. 3: 476-480. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.11.014.
  • Adrian O, Kaiser S, Sachser N, Jandewerth P, Lottker P, Epplen JT, Hennessy MB. . ‘Female Influences on Pair Formation, Reproduction and Male Stress Responses in a Monogamous Cavy (Galea Monasteriensis).’ HORMONES AND BEHAVIOR 53, No. 3: 403-412. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.009.
  • Kemme K, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Prenatal Stress Does Not Impair Coping with Challenge Later in Life.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 93, No. 1-2: 68-75. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.07.013.
  • Kaiser S, Touma C, Galert T, Würbel H. . ‘Animal Suffering - Fact or Fiction?’ In Theology meets biology. Anthropological perspectives on animals and human beings, edited by Müller K, Sachser N. (Eds.): , 14. Regensburg: Pustet-Verlag.
  • Kemme K, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Prenatal Maternal Programming Determines Testosterone Response During Social Challenge.’ HORMONES AND BEHAVIOR 51, No. 3: 387-394. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2006.12.009.
  • Kaiser S, Harderthauer S, Sachser N, Hennessy MB. . ‘Social Housing Conditions Around Puberty Determine Later Changes in Plasma Cortisol Levels and Behavior.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 90, No. 2-3: 405-411. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.10.002.
  • Hennessy MB, Hornschuh G, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Cortisol Responses and Social Buffering: A Study Throughout the Life Span.’ HORMONES AND BEHAVIOR 49, No. 3: 383-390. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2005.08.006.
  • Hennessy MB, Bullinger KL, Neisen G, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Social Organization Predicts Nature of Infant-Adult Interactions in Two Species of Wild Guinea Pigs (Cavia aperea and Galea Monasteriensis).’ JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE PSYCHOLOGY 120, No. 1: 12-18. doi: 10.1037/0735-7036.120.1.12.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘The Effects of Prenatal Social Stress on Behaviour: Mechanisms and Function.’ NEUROSCIENCE AND BIOBEHAVIORAL REVIEWS 29, No. 2: 283-294. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2004.09.015.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘The effects of prenatal social stress on behaviour: mechanisms and function.Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews 29, No. 2: 283-94. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2004.09.015.
  • Wewers D, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Application of an Antiandrogen During Pregnancy Infantilizes the Male Offsprings' Behaviour.’ BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH 158, No. 1: 89-95. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2004.08.009.
  • Sachser N, Künzl C, Kaiser S. . ‘The welfare of laboratory guinea pigs.’ In The welfare of laboratory animals, edited by Kalista E (Ed.): , 181-209. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  • Kaiser S, Nubold T, Rohlmann I, Sachser N. . ‘Pregnant Female Guinea Pigs Adapt Easily to a New Social Environment Irrespective of their Hearing Conditions.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 80, No. 1: 147-153. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9384(03)00228-2.
  • Kaiser S, Nübold T, Rohlmann I, Sachser N. . ‘Pregnant female guinea pigs adapt easily to a new social environment irrespective of their rearing conditions.Physiology & behavior 80, No. 1: 147-53. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9384(03)00228-2.
  • Kaiser S, Kruijver FPM, Swaab DF, Sachser N. . ‘Early Social Stress in Female Guinea Pigs Induces a Masculinization of Adult Behavior and Corresponding Changes in Brain and Neuroendocrine Function.’ BEHAVIOURAL BRAIN RESEARCH 144, No. 1-2: 199-210. doi: 10.1016/S0166-4328(03)00077-9.
  • Kaiser S, Kruijver FPM, Straub RH, Sachser N, Swaab DF. . ‘Early Social Stress in Male Guinea-Pigs Changes Social Behaviour, and Autonomic and Neuroendocrine Functions.’ JOURNAL OF NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY 15, No. 8: 761-769. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2826.2003.01055.x.
  • Kaiser S, Kirtzeck M, Hornschuh G, Sachser N. . ‘Sex-Specific Difference in Social Support - a Study in Female Guinea Pigs.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 79, No. 2: 297-303. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9384(03)00091-X.
  • Wewers D, Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Maternal Separation in Guinea-Pigs: A Study in Behavioural Endocrinology.’ ETHOLOGY 109, No. 5: 443-453. doi: 10.1046/j.1439-0310.2003.00888.x.
  • Kaiser S, Heemann K, Straub RH, Sachser N. . ‘The Social Environment Affects Behaviour and Androgens, But Not Cortisol in Pregnant Female Guinea Pigs.’ PSYCHONEUROENDOCRINOLOGY 28, No. 1: 67-83. doi: 10.1016/S0306-4530(02)00010-0.
  • Kunzl C, Kaiser S, Meier E, Sachser N. . ‘Is A Wild Mammal Kept and Reared in Captivity Still a Wild Animal?HORMONES AND BEHAVIOR 43, No. 1: 187-196. doi: 10.1016/S0018-506X(02)00017-X.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Social Stress During Pregnancy and Lactation Affects in Guinea Pigs the Male Offsprings' Endocrine Status and Infantilizes their Behaviour.PSYCHONEUROENDOCRINOLOGY 26, No. 5: 503-519. doi: 10.1016/S0306-4530(01)00009-9.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘Social stress during pregnancy and lactation affects in guinea pigs the male offsprings ' endocrine status and infantilizes their behaviour.’ PSYCHONEUROENDOCRINOLOGY 26, No. 5: 503-519. doi: 10.1016/S0306-4530(01)00009-9.
  • Forkmann B, Blokhuis HJ, Broom DM, Kaiser S, Koolhaas JM, Levine S, Mendl M, Plotsky PM, Schedlowski M. . ‘Key sources of variability in coping.’ In Coping with challenge: welfare in animals including humans, edited by Broom DM. (Ed.): , 22. Berlin: Dahlem Workshop Report 87. Dahlem University Press.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . „Stress und Wohlergehen.“ Praxis der Naturwissenschaften: Biologie in der Schule 50, No. 5: 15-20.
  • Kaiser S, Brendel H, Sachser N. . ‘Effects of ACTH Applications During Pregnancy on the Female Offsprings' Endocrine Status and Behavior in Guinea Pigs.’ PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 70, No. 1-2: 157-162. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9384(00)00248-1.
  • Kaiser S, Sachser N. . ‘The Social Environment During Pregnancy and Lactation Affects the Female Offsprings' Endocrine Status and Behaviour in Guinea Pigs.PHYSIOLOGY & BEHAVIOR 63, No. 3: 361-366. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9384(97)00435-6.
  • Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘The Social Environment, Behaviour and Stress--a Case Study in Guinea Pigs.ACTA PHYSIOLOGICA SCANDINAVICA 161 640: 83-87.
  • Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘The social environment, behaviour and stress - a case study in guinea pigs.’ Acta Physiologica Scandinavica 161, No. Supplement 640: 5.
  • Sachser N, Kaiser S. . ‘Prenatal Social Stress Masculinizes the Females' Behaviour in Guinea Pigs.Physiology & behavior 60, No. 2: 589-94. doi: 10.1016/S0031-9384(96)80036-9.