Disorders of the Nervous System



  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


Prof. Dr. med. Ruxandra Bachmann-Gagescu

Institute of Medical Genetics, 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 signaling 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 and in human iPSC-derived neurons 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, iPSC

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Disorders of the nervous system





Dr. Giovanni Bertolini, Junior Group Leader
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


Prof. Dr. Johannes Bohacek
Lab of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Institute for Neuroscience, ETH 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, epigenetic inheritance, epigenetics

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

Publications: pubmed       

Website: http://www.bohaceklab.ethz.ch

Bolliger Marc


PD Dr. Marc Bolliger
University Hospital Balgrist, Spinal Cord Injury Center

 Research Focus: Regaining locomotor function after spinal cord injury (SCI) is one of the priorities for the affected persons. The focus of our group lies on the development of new technologies to enhance the therapy outcome after SCI. In addition, we establish detailed motion capture analysis in our patients to better understand mechanism of improvements. Our interdisciplinary team consists of movement scientists, biologists, engineers and therapists and is closely connected to the clinic of the Spinal Cord Injury Center Balgrist.

Keywords: Spinal cord injury, rehabilitation robotics, locomotion, movement analysis, outcome measures, intervention.

Topics: Motor Systems, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: pubmed

Website: https://www.sci-research.uzh.ch/en.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 
Department Neuropsychology, Rehabilitationszentrum Valens and
Dept of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric Hospital, University of 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: www.zora.uzh.ch




Prof. Dr. Denis Burdakov

ETH Zurich, Department of Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST)

Research focus: Neural algorithms and behaviour

How does the brain solve complex problems? The Burdakov lab studies brain computations that convert sensory context into appropriate actions, appetites, and arousal. Our experiments focus on specific genetically-defined brain cells, but our questions are more general, overlapping with fields such as robotics (what control algorithms are best for performance in an uncertain world? what are their strengths and weaknesses?).  To answer such questions, the lab studies how information is represented by specific neural clusters to sway decisions.

This is achieved by tracking real-time brain network dynamics (using in vivo genetically-targete­­d calcium reporters, electrophysiology) associated with quantified voluntary actions, while manipulating sensory contexts (internal and external body state) and genetically- and temporally-defined elements of neural computations (using optogenetics, chemogenetics). These sensorimotor measurements are interpreted with the help of computational simulations that formally assess the performance of particular sensorimotor algorithms in defined tasks.  By elucidating what different parts of the brain do, how they do it, and what makes them perform well or badly, this work provides fundamental information that can be used for designing better medical treatments for brain disorders.

Topics: Neural basis of behaviour, computation and modelling, molecular and cellular neuroscience, disorders of the nervous systems

Publications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Burdakov+D

Website: https://www.hest.ethz.ch/en/research/professorships/person-detail.html?persid=228841

Armin Curt