Disorders of the Nervous System

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  Prof. Dr. Adriano Aguzzi
Institute of Neuropathology, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: We have devoted the past 20 years to studying the immunological and molecular basis of prion pathogenesis. Currently, the primary focus of the lab lies on elucidating mechanisms underlying a) replication of prions and prion-like proteins such as alpha-synuclein and b) neurotoxicity in prion diseases. We approach these objectives from different directions. On one hand, we have established highly automated platforms for cell-based assays in order to screen for genes that are important for either prion replication or toxicity. On the other hand, we use a variety of model systems for genetic and infectious prion disease including cell culture models such as human IPS-cell derived neurons, ex vivo brain slice cultures and various transgenic and knockout mouse models in order to investigate molecular pathways underlying prion toxicity and pathogenesis.

Keywords: Neurodegeneration, neurotoxicity, prion disease, organotypic brain slice cultures, generation of transgenic and knock-out mouse models, high-throughput screenings

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System



Website: http://www.en.neuropathologie.usz.ch/


Bachmann Ruxandra


Dr. med. Ruxandra Bachmann-Gagescu
Institute for Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our research focuses on a group of human Mendelian disorders called ciliopathies which are unified by shared genetic causes resulting in primary cilium dysfunction. Primary cilia are small non-motile organelles present on the surface of most vertebrate cells where they are involved in transduction of sensory, mechanical or chemical signals and in regulation of signalling pathways during development and cell homeostasis. Typical clinical presentations of ciliopathies include neurological involvement, retinal degeneration and renal fibrocystic disease, as illustrated by Joubert syndrome (JS), an iconic ciliopathy which is the main focus of our research. To understand the consequences of mutations in JS-associated genes at the molecular level, we combine observations from human genetics studies on JS-patients with modelling in the zebrafish system using state-of-the-art techniques such as crispr/Cas9 genome editing or live imaging of transgenically-tagged ciliary proteins.

Keywords: ciliopathies, primary cilia, Joubert syndrome, zebrafish

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Disorders of the nervous system

Website: http://www.medgen.uzh.ch/en/forschung/Research-Group-Bachmann-Gagescu.html




Dr. Giovanni Bertolini
Department of Neurology, University of Zurich


Research Focus: The aim of the Swiss Space Travel and AiR Sickness (SSTARS) group is to investigate the mechanism of habituation and learning of self-motion perception in novel motion environments. A novel motion environment is any condition in which our brain fails to correctly interpret the motion stimuli. Such environments (from cars and ships to virtual reality and artificial gravity environments) cause motion sickness, spatial disorientation and other syndromes affecting performance and social interaction (sopite syndrome, mal de débarquement). Within our research activity, we develop non-invasive habituation protocols to counteract these conditions. The applications range from vestibular rehabilitation, acceptance of novel emerging technology (self-driving cars, virtual reality systems), quality of life and safety in transport systems. An important focus is on vestibular physiology for aviation and space flight (in flight, micro- and artificial gravity) in collaboration with the German Aerospace Center – DLR and the Swiss Aeromedical Institute.

Keywords: Motion sickness, vestibular space physiology, artificial gravity, virtual reality sickness, self-motion perception, sensory habituation

Topics: Sensory systems, Disorder of the nervous system, Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: scholar.google.ch

Burkhard Becher


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Burkhard Becher
Institute of experimental Immunology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Neuro- and Tumorimmunology

Our research aims to understand the development of tissue-specific autoimmunity in particular in the context of interactions of the nervous system with the immune system. Our main research interests can be categorized as such:

  • Cytokine networks in autoimmune inflammatory disease with a focus on in vivo modeling of multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, graft-versus host disease
  • Immune tolerance and lymphoid development
  • Tumorimmunology: specifically the interaction of immune cells with cancer cells and therapeutic interventions to mount immune responses against tumors

Keywords: Transgenic mice, cytokines, immunity

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed

Website: http://www.immunology.uzh.ch/en/researchunit/inflammationresearch/team/becher.html


Johannes Bohacek


Dr. Johannes Bohacek, Junior Group Leader 
Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich 

Research Focus: We are interested in understanding the organism-wide consequences of stress, and how the complex stress-response leads to changes in behavior and increases the risk for neuropsychiatric disease. We use mice as a model organism to study stress-induced effects in the CNS, but also in the germline. We use optogenetic, transcriptomic, pharmacologic, epigenetic and behavioral approaches combined with assisted reproductive techniques.

Keywords: stress, anxiety, transcriptome, hippocampus, transgenerational non-genetic inheritance, epigenetics

Topics: Neural Basis of Behavior, Disorders of the Nervous System, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Publications: pubmed       

Website:  http://www.hifo.uzh.ch/en/research/mansuy/bohacek.html

Daniel Brandeis


Prof. Dr. Daniel Brandeis 
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Zurich, University of Zurich

Research Focus: We focus on mapping brain functions and plasticity in typical development, neurodevelopmental disorders, and treatment with electrical and multimodal imaging (EEG-fMRI, MRS, with S. Brem). Clinical projects cover longitudinal brain mapping in common neurodevelopmental disorders like Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), aggression and Dyslexia. We characterize timing, localization and genetics (with E.  Grünblatt) of compromised networks as endophenotypes as state dependent deficits during rest, attention, inhibition, reward processing, or print tuning etc.  For clinical translation we focus on neurofeedback and biofeedback training (with R. Drechsler), and evaluate potential biomarkers using multimodal approaches.

Keywords: ADHD, dyslexia, OCD, conduct disorder, development, plasticity, functional brain mapping, EEG, ERP, fMRI, MRS,  neurofeedback, biofeedback, longitudinal studies, reading, attention, genetics, gene x environment interactions.

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Development and Regeneration, Cognitive Neuroscience, Biomedical Technology and Imaging

Publications: pubmed

Website: http://www.kjpd.uzh.ch/multimod/bm.html


Silvia Brem


Dr. sc. nat. Silvia Brem
University Clinic for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (UCCAP), University of Zürich

Research Focus: Current research interests are the use of multimodal imaging techniques (EEG, MRI) to examine i) typical and atypical reading development (developmental dyslexia), ii) prediction and intervention in dyslexia and iii) dysfunctional brain networks in child psychiatric populations such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and juvenile obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Keywords: EEG, MRI, simultaneous EEG-fMRI, reading, developmental dyslexia, ADHD, OCD

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed

Website: http://www.kjpd.uzh.ch


Peter Brugger


Prof. Dr. phil. Peter Brugger 
Neuropsychology Unit, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich 

Research Focus: One focus is on space representation in healthy individuals and patients with hemispatial neglect. The “space” we are interested in is not confined to physical space, but comprises imagined locations, number space and the spatial representation of time. A very special, private part of space is our body. We are interested in the relations between corporeal awareness and the construction and experience of the self. This experience can change after brain damage, but can also drastically deviate from the norm in a minority of apparently healthy individuals. Cognitive dysfunction in a demyelinating disorder, multiple sclerosis, represents a further focus of interest. Here we are specifically interested in the relative contributions of white matter and gray matter lesions to cognitive performance, specifically executive functions. Generally, our strengths are in behavioral methods; structural and functional neuroimaging may complement the behavioral approach.

Keywords: Processing of space and time, body and self, structural correlates of cognitive dysfunction

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: content.usz.ch


Isabel Burghardt


Dr. rer. nat. Dr. med. Isabel Burghardt-Tritschler 
Department of Neurology, University Hospital  Zurich 


Research Focus: Malignant gliomas are deadly brain tumors. Prominent biological features of these tumors include excessive invasive potential, as well as suppression of anti-tumor immune surveillance. Glioma-derived transforming growth factor (TGF)-β is a key player in these processes and TGF-β signaling has been shown to be fundamental in the maintenance of tumorigenic activity of glioma stem cells. Novel approaches of immunotherapy to enhance the immunogenicity of glioma cells may thus focus on members of the TGF-β superfamily. Specific objectives of our research include mechanisms of glial TGF-β secretion and activation underlying glioma immune escape. Through particlular emphasis on glioma stem cells, we aim to understand the molecular mechanisms of TGF-β activation, the underlying signaling pathways, and the role of the extracellular microenvironment.

Keywords: neurooncology, glioblastoma, glioma stem cells, transforming growth factor (TGF) -β

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed

Website: http://www.neurologie.usz.ch

Armin Curt


Prof. Dr. med. Armin Curt
Balgrist University Hospital, Spinal Cord Injury

Research Focus: Recovery in human SCI (in accordance to animal studies) is based on multiple mechanisms not limited to the spinal cord (repair and modulation of longitudinal fibre tracts) but as well at the supraspinal level (reorganization of brain function), within motor units (sprouting) and muscle properties (electromechanical coupling). Outcomes in human acute SCI are rather well predictable by combined clinical (neurological scoring) and neurophysiological (MEP, SSEP, NCS, EMG etc..) and neuroimaging (MRI) recordings and mechanisms of clinical recovery can be attributed to either effects based on the adjustment of movement strategies (achieving ADLs by alternative approaches and technical aids) or compensation of body function (optimized training of preserved motor/sensory function).

Improving the assessment of spinal cord fibre tracts and spinal cord segments in acute SCI and during recovery to introduce more sensitive and responsive measures for the evaluation of neural repair and plasticity. The latter is utmost important to provide tools for the proof of mechanisms and clinical meaningfulness of new interventions (translational research) in human SCI as being developed in pre-clinical (animal) studies.

Keywords: Spinal cord injury, rehabilitation, locomotion, repair in human spinal cord injury, hand/arm function in cervical spinal cord injury, outcome measures, intervention.

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed





PD Dr. med. Dr. med. dent. Dominik Ettlin

Center of Dental Medicine, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our clinical focus is the biopsychosocial evaluation and management of patients suffering from athrogenic, myogenic and neurogenic trigeminal pain disorders. The interdisciplinary team includes dentists, physicians, psychologists and neuroscientists.

We aim at better understanding peripheral and central pathomechanisms underlying these disorders, utilizing primarily functional magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy (fMRI and fMRS). We developed several MR-compatible setups for reliable stimulation of extra and intraoral structures.

We are also interested in behavioral aspects of pain. By collecting multicenter clinical data, we analyze potential pain etiologies and modifying factors.

Keywords: trigeminal sensory system, nociception, (orofacial) pain, brainstem and cortical pain fMRI, fMRS, questionnaires, clinical pain trials

Topics: Sensory Systems, Neural Basis of Behavior, Disorders of the Nervous Systems, Biomedical Technology and Imaging, cognitive neuroscience


Website: http://www.zzm.uzh.ch/en/research/staff/ettlin-dominik.html

Maria-Teresa Ferretti


Dr. Maria Teresa Ferretti, Junior Group Leader
Institute for Regenerative Medicien (IREM), University of Zurich

Research Focus: The general goal of our research is to elucidate the interaction between the immune system and the central nervous system in the context of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. We are particularly interested in understanding how the accumulation of pathologically aggregated proteins (such as amyloid beta peptide) modulates the trafficking and function of antigen presenting cells and lymphocytes into the CNS. To this end we are applying classical neuroimmunological techniques to animal models of Alzheimer’s disease-like pathology. We employ mostly confocal microscopy and multicolour FACS analysis of surface and intracellular markers.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease; microglia; dendritic cells, T cells; amyloid beta peptide

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed

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Patrick Freund