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Neuroscience Center Zurich

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

Publications: ZoraGoogle Scholar



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



Elvir Becirovic


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Elvir Becirovic
Department of Ophthalmology, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Millions of people worldwide suffer from various forms of retinal diseases that can lead to total blindness. Especially for the inherited forms of retinal diseases, there is an unmet medical need for the development of new molecular genetic diagnostic and therapeutic methods. My group works at the interface between basic research and therapy of inherited retinal diseases (IRDs). In this context we pursue several goals:

  • Analysis of the pathophysiology of IRDs in mouse models.
  • Development of new molecular diagnostic methods using genome editing
  • Analysis of mutations in genes associated with IRDs
  • Production, further development and application of adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors, the gold standard vectors in gene therapy
  • Gene therapies in mouse models of IRDs and in human retinal organoids
  • Establishment of new or optimization of existing (gene)therapeutic approaches with a special focus on CRISPR-Cas-mediated (epi)genome editing
  • Implementation of own (gene)therapeutic approaches and technologies in clinical trials in cooperation with industry.

Keywords: gene therapy, retina, inherited retinal diseases, gene editing, epigenome editing, AAV vectors, molecular diagnosis, retinal organoids, CRISPR-Cas, CRISPRa, IRDs

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System, Sensory Systems





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: Google Scholar


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



Johannes Bohacek


Prof. Dr. Johannes Bohacek
Lab of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Institute for Neuroscience, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: Exposure to stressful experiences is one of the major risk factors for developing mood and anxiety disorders. My group uses mice to study the organism-wide consequences of stress in a complex mammalian system, with a focus on the locus coeruleus – noradrenaline system. In our innovative research program we combine modern multi-omic techniques (from single-cell sequencing to epigenomic screens) with circuit-neuroscience tools (e.g. optogenetics, photometry) to dissect the mechanisms that distinguish healthy stress coping from maladaptive stress-related disease. Because stress is a whole-organism response, in which the central nervous system tightly regulates energy homeostasis across the body, our work spans three major levels of analysis, from single cells to brain circuits and ultimately to behavior.

Keywords: stress, anxiety, transcriptome, hippocampus, epigenetic inheritance, epigenetics

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



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



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



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



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: Zora




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: PubMed


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



Mohamad El Amki


Dr. Mohamad El Amki, Junior Group Leader

Department of Neurology, University Hospital and University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our goal is to understand how blood flow dynamics are regulated in the complex of the brain vascular network in health and disease.

A human brain is powered by ~650km of blood vessels which are compartmentalized into arteries, capillaries, and veins. This immensely complex network can easily fail during disease such as stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. In our projects, we focus on the regulation of blood flow through brain capillaries. Furthermore, we maintain an ongoing effort to develop novel in vitro and in vivo tools to study how to resolve obstructions in large vessels as well as in the microvasculature. We strive to find novel approaches to improve macro and microvascular function in order to keep the brain’s circulatory system functional.

Keywords: Cerebral blood flow, Capillary flow, Microvascular failure, Stroke, No-reflow

Topics: Biomedical Technology and Imaging, Disorders of the Nervous System,

Publications: PubMed


Fierstra Jorn


PD Dr. med. Jorn Fierstra, Junior Group Leader

Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: My research team has developed a pioneering application of blood oxygenation-level dependent (BOLD) MRI using precise vasoactive respiratory challenges in order to interrogate brain blood flow control in patients with cerebrovascular ischemic disease and malignant cerebral glioma.

Since 2013, my team has built up a highly interdisciplinary international network, with special focus on cerebrovascular reactivity measurements to determine hemodynamic failure in ischemic stroke patients and to study novel concepts, such as hemodynamic brain tissue responses in chronic ischemia and stroke epiphenomena (e.g. diaschisis). In addition, for malignant cerebral glioma we are currently developing an additional BOLD contrast technique based on hypoxic tissue reactivity in order to investigate respective tissue responses of (peri-)lesional malignant cerebral glioma.

The main goal is to provide new insights in the current pathophysiological concepts of blood flow control in patients with ischemic stroke and malignant cerebral glioma, thereby aiming for clinical integration of this novel advanced BOLD MRI technique for improved therapy evaluation and efficacy.

Keywords: Advanced Neuroimaging, BOLD MRI, Cerebrovascular Reactivity, Cerebral Blood Flow, Cerebrovascular Autoregulation, Stroke, Cerebral Glioma,

Topics: Biomedical Technology and Imaging; Disorders of the Nervous System




Filli Linard


PD Dr. sc. Linard Filli
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Accurate movement execution is a result of a complex interplay between various muscle groups whose activity is controlled by different areas of the central nervous system (CNS). We are interested in the neural underpinnings of movement control and the neural mechanisms underlying functional recovery after spinal cord injury (SCI). Besides the corticospinal system, the phylogenetically old reticulospinal system is a key descending motor system controlling different elementary movements including posture, locomotion and reaching across vertebrate species. In contrast to the corticospinal system, there is only sparse knowledge on the role of the reticulospinal system in human motor control. One research area of interest aims at gaining more insights into the contribution of the reticulospinal system to the control of different movements (simple vs. complex, coordinative movements). Additionally, we are interested in the neuroplastic rearrangements of the main descending motor systems (i.e. cortico- and reticulospinal system) and how their neuroplastic re-weighting contributes to functional recovery in subjects with SCI. Enhanced knowledge on the plasticity and regenerative capacity of the key descending motor systems will hopefully translate into effective, future clinical trials that aim at improving motor recovery in patients with CNS injuries.

Keywords: neural control of movements, locomotion, movement analysis, neurophysiology, corticospinal system, reticulospinal system, functional recovery, neuroplasticity, spinal cord injury

Topics: motor systems, disorders of the nervous system

Publications: PubMed



Patrick Freund


Prof. Dr. med. Dr. rer. nat. Patrick Freund
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The focus of previous and current research projects is to better understand how the anatomy and the function of the spinal cord and the brain change in neurological disorders involving the spinal cord. The main goal is to develop neuroimaging biomarkers that are sensitive and accurate in predicting functional outcome in order to register more quickly the impact of therapeutic treatments and rehabilitative interventions. The development and application of high-resolution MR sequences and post-processing imaging pipelines are therefore a major area of our research. Other areas of interest are to explore the mechanisms underlying cortical and spinal plasticity during rehabilitation and to facilitate the translation from experimental animal models of spinal injury to humans.

Keywords: spinal cord injury, neuroimaging, rehabilitation, cortical and spinal plasticity

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed


Gapp Katharina


Dr. Katharina Gapp

Lab of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience , Institute for Neuroscience, ETH Zurich

Our research evolves around environmentally increased neuropsychiatric disease risk and the associated changes of the epigenome. We study both directly exposed mice and their offspring, which through a mode of DNA-sequence independent inheritance are often affected by parental exposures as well. The mechanism of such non-genetic effects still remains to be elucidated, but undoubtedly involves the germline. The germline is protected, to a large extent, from environmental impacts by the Weissman barrier. However, it also relies on soma-​germline stress hormone signaling for proper germ cell development and function. A lot of recent work, including our own, has shown that chronic environmental challenges, such as dietary changes or chronic stressors, can change the epigenetic makeup of germ cells. However, little is known how an acute somatic signal – like for example the activation of the sympathetic nervous system – can mechanistically break the Weissmann barrier and reach the germline. We use a range of innovative technologies, including in vivo crispR cas9 (gene level), pharmacological small molecules (protein level), siRNA (RNA level) in combination with a variety of bulk, low input and single cell sequencing techniques to manipulate and analyze the epigenome and ultimately understand behaviour, metabolism and disease risk in the model organism mouse.

Keywords: epigenetics, non-coding RNA, non-genetic inheritance

Topic: Disorders of the nervous system, Molecular and cellular Neuroscience

Publications: Google Scholar


Roger Gassert


Prof. Dr. Roger Gassert
Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: We apply robotics, wearable sensor technology and non-invasive neuroimaging to the exploration, assessment and restoration of sensorimotor function, with the goal of promoting recovery following neurological injury and developing assistive technologies for the compensation of remaining deficits.

Keywords: physical human-machine interaction, rehabilitation robotics, haptics, assistive technology, neural control of movement, neuroimaging, neurofeedback

Topics: Sensory Systems, Motor Systems, Disorders of the Nervous System, Biomedical Technology and Imaging

Publications: Google Scholar



Christian Grimm


Prof. Dr. Christian Grimm
Department of Ophthalmology, Lab for Retinal Cell Biology, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Although many patients worldwide suffer from retinal degenerations, there are currently no therapies for the successful treatment of most blinding diseases of the retina. Our work focuses on biochemical events and signaling cascades during retinal degenerations. The goal is to understand the molecular pathways induced by the disease-causing stimuli to develop strategies (neuroprotection, gene therapy) which may ultimately rescue vision in patients.

Current projects focus i) on intercellular signaling with special emphasis on the interaction between photoreceptors and Müller glia cells; ii) on leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) with respect to its potential function as modulator of stem cell-like properties of Müller cells; iii) on the analysis of cone pathophysiology using a newly developed ‘all-cone mouse’; and iv) on acute and chronic hypoxia as potent modulators of photoreceptor survival and degeneration, respectively.

Keywords: Retinal degeneration, hypoxia, leukemia inhibitory factor, retina, blindness, cones, neuroprotection, gene therapy

Topics: Sensory Systems; Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System




Edna Grünblatt


Prof. Dr. Edna Grünblatt

Translational Molecular Psychiatry, University Clinic of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Zurich

Research Focus: We are interested in finding risk factors and biomarkers for child and adolescent psychiatric disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), early-onset obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Autism spectrum disorders (ASD), psychosis and environmental /stress effects. In addition, the laboratory focuses on functional mechanisms of action of gene variants found to associate to a specific disorder as well as mechanism of action of drug therapies in various neuronal cellular models. Since psychiatric disorders are not only polygenetic predisposed but also influenced by environmental factors, epigenetic is another factor investigated in the lab. This could provide additional tools for early and differential diagnosis as well as therapy prediction.

Keywords: ADHD, ASD, biochemistry, child and adolescent psychiatry, epigenetic, genetic, molecular biology, neurodevelopmental disorders, neuronal cellular models, OCD, psychosis, transcriptomics

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Disorders of the Nervous System, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Publications: PubMed


Johannes Häberle


Prof. Dr. Johannes Häberle
Department of Pediatrics, Division of Metabolism, University Children’s Hospital and Children’s Research Center Zurich, Zurich

Research Focus: Hyperammonemia is a clinical condition that can be caused by defects (in a primary or secondary way) of the urea cycle, the only pathway in mammalians capable of detoxification of excess nitrogen. Current research projects focus on inherited defects of the urea cycle including novel treatment options, and on several other conditions with hyperammonemia.

Keywords: Hyperammonemia, urea cycle, nitrogen metabolism, brain edema

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Christoph Hock


Prof. Dr. Christoph Hock
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM), University of Zurich


Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System





Prof. Dr. med. univ. Philipp Homan
Laboratory for Individual Differences in Psychosis, Psychiatric University Hospital Zurich (PUK)

Research Focus: We study the neurobiological origins and clinical consequences of individual differences in psychotic disorders. Specifically, we are interested in understanding those subgroups of patients who respond unfavorably to standard treatment and for whom alternative treatment options early in their course of illness are warranted. Another subgroup that we are particularly interested in are patients who might benefit from an early dose reduction of antipsychotic treatment after their first episode of psychosis. To this end, we combine randomized clinical trials with multimodal neuroimaging including structural and functional imaging as well as computational modeling to characterize those subgroups and to develop predictive models that will contribute to a more stratified medicine in psychiatry.
Keywords: Psychosis, Stratified Medicine, Neuroimaging, Treatment Effect Heterogeneity, fMRI, Quantitative Modeling
Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Susanne Hornemann


PD Dr. sc. nat. Simone Hornemann
Institute of Neuropathology, University Hospital Zürich

Research Focus: We are interested in the understanding of the molecular mechanisms of protein misfolding and aggregation diseases, such as e.g. prion, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer disease. Our main goal is to clarify whether common mechanisms underlie all those diseases and ultimately to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

Keywords: Neurodegenerative diseases, protein self-assembly, amyloid fibrils, amyloid structure, high-throughput screenings, diagnostic assay development, therapy

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Thorsten Hornemann


Prof. Dr. Thorsten Hornemann
Institute of Clinical Chemistry, University Hospital Zurich


Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System





Dr. Michèle Hubli
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our primary research interest lies in the field of maladaptive neuroplastic changes after neurological trauma, such as spinal cord injury (SCI). Employing a variety of neurophysiological and autonomic assessments such maladaptive changes within the somatosensory system, i.e., the development of neuropathic pain, as well as the autonomic nervous system are investigated in human SCI. Current projects in the lab focus on i) sensory-autonomic interaction using contact-heat and sympathetic skin responses; ii) temporal summation of pain and conditioned pain modulation; iii) multi-modal electrophysiology of the spinothalamic tract.

Consolidated mechanistic understanding of the sensory and autonomic plasticity is highly relevant in the process of evaluation and design of novel therapeutic interventions in human SCI and the stratification of patients for clinical trials.

Keywords: clinical neurophysiology, neuropathic pain, spinal reflexes, autonomic nervous system, spinal cord injury

Topics: Sensory System, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Hugelshofer Michael


Dr. med. MSc. Michael Hugelshofer
Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital and University of Zurich

Research Focus: As a neurosurgeon-scientist my research focuses on the complex pathophysiology of secondary brain injury after hemorrhagic stroke with the aim to develop new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies.

Since 2016, we have established an interdisciplinary scientific network to investigate the toxicity of cell-free hemoglobin in the brain. We were able to define delocalization of hemoglobin from the CSF into cerebrovascular vessel walls and the interstitial space of the brain as the pivotal step for hemoglobin’s toxic effects. Further we could proof the concept of intracerebroventricular haptoglobin treatment to compartmentalize and detoxify hemoglobin within the CSF compartment in translational animal models.

Our current projects focus on bench-to-bedside translation of this knowledge to diagnostic and therapeutic clinical applications.

Keywords: hemorrhagic stroke, hemoglobin, haptoglobin, secondary brain injury, neuroprotection, translational neuroscience, neurosurgery

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System; Biomedical Technology and Imaging    


Lukas Imbach


PD Dr. med. Lukas Imbach
Clinical Neurophysiology, Swiss Epilepsy Center

Research Focus: We study the neurophysiological underpinnings of epilepsy in humans. A special research focus lies on network properties of epileptogenesis at different scales. On the smallest scale, we explore network alterations in micro circuitries of single neurons within the epileptogenic zone. On the other end of the spectrum, we investigate large-scale network dynamics involved in seizure propagation and their evolution comprising widespread brain regions. To this end, we study scalp EEG, intracranial EEG, single unit activity and EEG source imaging in combination with theory-based models of brain connectivity. The key insights are used to derive novel biomarkers of epilepsy and to modulate imbalanced epileptic network states by means of invasive and non-invasive brain stimulation technics such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Other areas of interest include single neuron activity obtained in intracranial EEGs to study basic neurobiological mechanisms of cognitive functions.
Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System

Keywords: Epilepsy, EEG, network dynamics, EEG modeling, single unit recordings, brain stimulation, epilepsy surgery
Google Scholar

Jakab Andras


PD Dr. Dr. med. András Jakab
Center for MR-Research, University Children’s Hospital Zurich
Research Focus: Our research focus is studying normal and pathological human brain development using non-invasive medical imaging approaches, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) prenatally and in early postnatal life. We aim to understand how common congenital disorders affect brain development, and how these manifest in clinical symptoms. We are interested in utilizing the latest computational image analysis approaches to improve data quality, and to construct models of human development. We also support interdisciplinary clinical research projects that consist of radiologists, neonatologists, neurosurgeons and basic scientists.

Keywords: magnetic resonance imaging, brain development, fetal development, image processing

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Biomedical Technology and Imaging

Publications: Google Scholar



Hennric Jokeit

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Hennric Jokeit
Institut für Neuropsychologische Diagnostik und Bildgebung, Schweizerisches Epilepsie-Zentrum, Klinik Lengg , Zürich

Research Focus: Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most prevalent form of refractory focal epilepsy. Functional and structural impairment within and remote from mesial temporal lobe structures characterize this chronic disorder. Deficits in anterograde episodic memory, executive and attention functions, and social cognition are frequent in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsies. Our primary research focus is on less well studied deficits in social cognition using behavioral testing, functional, and structural magnetic resonance imaging. Moreover, we develop and validate fMRI paradigms to activate reliably specific target structures in individual patients in order to improve the presurgical workup of patients who are candidates for epilepsy surgery.

Keywords: epilesy, epilepsy surgery, temporal lobe, memory, affective and social cognition, fMRI

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed


Jutzeler Catherine


Prof. Dr. Catherine Jutzeler
Institute for Translational Medicine, Department of Health Science and Technologies, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: The Biomedical Data Science Lab (BMDS) is an interdisciplinary, motivated, young research team working at the intersection of medicine, data science, and biology. Our research aims to identify causes, risk factors, and biomarkers of disease progression. At the core of our research is a series of prospective and retrospective investigations that integrate genetic, biochemical, clinical assessments, and medication history with both traditional epidemiological approaches and machine-learning algorithms. Currently, we are doing research in the fields of spinal cord injury, lower back pain, and infectious diseases (e.g., sepsis in children and adults). In addition to research, we are involved in teaching activities. The major goal is to provide the students with an introduction to applied data science (programming, analysis, visualization) to solve biomedical questions.
KeywordsBiomedicine, Spinal Cord Injury, Infectious Disease, Data Science, Epidemiology, Machine Learning
Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Computation and Modeling
Publications: Google Scholar
Website: under construction (link will follow shortly)



Prof. Dr. Theofanis Karayannis
Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The brain begins to form during embryogenesis, but undergoes a protracted period of development that lasts into adulthood. Our work is aimed at understanding how the environment moulds the construction and reconfiguration of neuronal circuits to allow them to effectively process and respond to external stimuli throughout development. The goal is to unravel how the interplay between electrical activity and genetic programs controls the assembly and plasticity of cortical circuits that are involved in processing and gating sensory information. To achieve this, we utilize a multi-dimensional approach that includes molecular, genetic and functional methods. It is our hope that this research will not only provide insights into the making of the healthy brain, but also into neurodevelopmental brain pathologies resulting from aberrant circuit wiring.

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Sensory Systems, Disorders of the Nervous System, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Neural Basis of Behavior

Mira Katan
PD Dr. med. MSc Mira Katan Kahles
Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: To identify (using OMICS-methods) and validate (conducting clinical studies and trials) prognostic and diagnostic blood biomarkers to improve risk stratification and clinical decision-making in cerebrovascular diseases. The ultimate goal is to optimize patient care and improve outcome as well as allocation of health care resources.

Keywords: Stroke, blood biomarkers, clinical decision making, outcome research

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed




Emanuela Keller


Prof. Dr. med. Emanuela Keller
Neurointensive Care Unit, Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus:

  • Development of new methods to estimate brain perfusion and oxygenation
  • Optical spectroscopy: Theoretical examinations, in vitro examinations, development of new medical devices for clinical applications
  • Examination of the cerebral and systemic inflammatory response after stroke
  • New treatment strategies against secondary injuries after stroke and traumatic brain injury
  • Data mining, artificial intelligence and self-learning systems in intensive care medicine

Keywords: Multi-modal monitoring, cerebral hemodynamics, optical spectroscopy, stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Thomas Kessler

Prof. Dr. med. Thomas M. Kessler
Neuro-Urology, Spinal Cord Injury Center, Balgrist University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Neurogenic urinary tract, sexual and bowel dysfunction is highly prevalent and affects the lives of millions of people worldwide.
Our focus is on neuro-urological assessments and treatments with the aim to enhance quality of life, to preserve/improve upper urinary tract function, to control urinary tract infection and to achieve urinary continence.

Current projects focus on new assessments (neurophysiology, neuroimaging) of urinary tract function, novel methods to control urinary tract infections, electrotherapy for treating neurogenic urinary tract dysfunction, translational research (from animal models to daily clinical practice), and systematic reviews and meta-analyses in neuro-urology.

Keywords: Neuro-urology, urinary tract dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, bowel dysfunction, urodynamics, neuro-urological assessments and therapies, translational research

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Sanne Kikkert


Dr. Sanne Kikkert

Neural Control of Movement Lab, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: The ability to sense through touch is fundamental to actively interact with our environment. If we lose such sensory information through injury (e.g., spinal cord injury or limb loss), our brains are deprived of a major source of input, and we are required to use novel motor strategies. My team’s research aims at exploring how human brains are affected by such changes, what neural mechanisms may underlie resulting neural reorganisation, and how the human brain responds to sensory reinstatement through neuroprosthetics. A large body of our research focuses on exploring the brainstem as a key hub in brain plasticity, a structure that has been largely overlooked in human brain plasticity research. To do so, we merge cutting-edge functional and structural neuroimaging techniques. Our findings are expected to provide fundamental insights into human brain plasticity that may ultimately be used to guide desirable plasticity, discourage maladaptive plasticity, and better tailor treatments based on individual differences.
Keywords: Plasticity, brainstem, spinal cord injury, limb loss, somatosensory, sensorimotor, (f)MRI

Topics: Sensory Systems, Disorders of the nervous system
Publications: Google Scholar


Uwe Konietzko

Dr. rer. nat. Uwe Konietzko
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM), University of Zurich

Research Focus: The amyloid precursor protein (APP) is central to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Multiple proteolytic cleavages generate several APP fragments, including the APP intracellular domain (AICD). We could show that AICD translocates to the nucleus, bound to the adaptor protein Fe65. Here, they co-localize in nuclear spots together with the lysine acetyltransferase Tip60, at the loci of regulated genes. APP thus has the capacity for nuclear signaling and we have demonstrated that this property is mediated by the amyloidogenic—disease-causing—cleavage pathway of APP. Altered AICD nuclear signaling could therefore be involved in the molecular cascades leading to neuronal death in AD. We are now striving to better understand the regulation of AICD signaling and to identify target genes that will inform us about the probable effects on synapses and that might represent novel therapeutic targets to prevent synapse loss and neuronal death in AD.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, amyloid precursor protein APP, AICD, Fe65, nuclear signaling

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed




Vartan Kurtcuoglou


Prof. Dr. Vartan Kurtcuoglu
The Interface Group, Institute of Physiology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: My group’s goal is to address clinical needs through the convergence of engineering, biological and medical research. Within the neuroscience field, we focus on transport processes in the fluid spaces of the brain, namely in the cerebrospinal, interstitial and perivascular fluids. By combining computational techniques with experimental methods, we aim to understand the dynamics of cerebral fluid motion, the driving forces behind these and how they, along with the associated transport processes of metabolites and other substances, are involved in the pathogenesis of CNS disorders

Keywords: volume transmission, fluid dynamics, hydrocephalus, astrocyte network, mechanosensing

Topic: Computation and Modeling, Biomedical Technology and Imaging, Disorders of the Nervous System



Lambercy Olivier


Dr. Olivier Lambercy

Rehabilitation Engineering Lab, Dep. of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zürich

Research Focus: In our group we are developing and clinically evaluating novel technologies to support the assessment and therapy of upper limb function in people with neurological disorders (stroke, SCI, multiple sclerosis). In particular, we are interested in using movement data (kinematic and kinetic) to derive more objective and sensitive health metrics that can help understand impairment mechanisms (in human and animal models), finely quantify functional limitations and response to therapy interventions, and develop predictive models to personalize rehabilitative treatments.

Keywords: Technology-based assessments, wearable sensors, robotics, neurorehabilitation, digital health, biomarkers

Topic: Sensory Systems, Motor System, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: Google Scholar



Foto Luft


Prof. Andreas Luft
Division of Vascular Neurology and Neurorehabilitation, University Hospital Zurich and University of Zurich

Research Focus: Despite the effectiveness of acute stroke therapies, up to 80% of stroke patients are left disabled due to motor, speech, visual or cognitive impairment. With more than 16’000 new strokes happening in Switzerland every year and an aging population, neurorehabilitation is becoming ever more important.
In our laboratory, we explore the brain's capacity for recovery and plasticity in patients and animal models.
Our main goals are to identify mechanisms of cortical plasticity during learning and recovery after brain lesions and to identify predictors of good recovery and outcome after stroke. By improving our understanding of the processes involved in functional recovery after stroke, we hope to develop novel rehabilitation therapies, as well as to improve existing ones.

Keywords: stroke, functional recovery, neuroplasticity, motor learning

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System




Mansuy Isabelle


Prof. Dr. Isabelle Mansuy
Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich

Research Focus: The laboratory is interested in the epigenetic basis of complex brain functions and their inheritance. With a focus on childhood trauma, we are studying the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the influence of life experiences on mental and physical health across generations. We developed a transgenerational mouse model of postnatal trauma, and are investigating epigenetic processes at the level of DNA, RNA and protein in whole tissues and individual cells including brain and germ cells. DNA methylation, small and long non-coding RNA, chromatin structure and accessibility and their causal relevance for the expression and the transmission of trauma symptoms are examined. The major goal is to clarify the functional interplay between the genome and epigenome in the inheritance of environmentally-induced phenotypes. We also conduct translational studies on blood, saliva and sperm of human subjects exposed to childhood trauma in collaboration with clinicians and psychiatrists to validate findings in mice, and explore the potential for diagnostic and therapeutic strategies based on epigenetic factors.

Keywords: Epigenetics inheritance, childhood trauma, mouse model, brain, germ cells, multi-omics, RNA-seq, bisulfite pyrosequencing, ATAC-seq, ChIP-seq, CRISPR-dCas9, 3D cellular models, behavior, bioinformatics, psychiatry.

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

Publications: PubMed





Prof. Dr. Urs Meyer
Institute of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our main research interest is centered upon the question of how early-life environmental adversities such as prenatal infection, pubertal stress, and nutritional imbalances can influence brain development and shape the risk of long-term brain abnormalities. Our work combines behavioral and cognitive tests, immunological assays and neuroanatomical techniques in rodent models, including models of gene-environment and environment-environment interactions relevant to multifactorial neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Our research also includes molecular investigations to examine the role of epigenetic processes in environmentally induced brain pathologies and uses pharmacological approaches with the aim to establish novel symptomatic and preventive treatments against chronic brain disorders with neurodevelopmental origins.
Keywords: Autism, behavior, cognition, cytokines, epigenetics, infection, inflammation, neurodevelopment, schizophrenia.
Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior; Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: Publons
Google Scholar



Michels Lars


PD Dr. Lars Michels
Department of Neuroradiology, University Hospital of Zurich

Research Focus: My research foci are on the understanding of basic neurophysiological processes as well as structural and functional brain connectivity and plasticity during brain development, aging, and brain disorders (dementia and migraine). To address these questions, I am using a multimodal imaging (and neurostimulation) approach, including techniques such as structural MRI, spinal cord fMRI, high-density EEG, EEG-fMRI, (dynamic) ASL, MR spectroscopy, DTI, QSM, iVASO, WEPCAST, and tDCS. Currently, I am investigating the impact of real-time fMRI neurofeedback intervention on attention and visual brain processing and (tDCS) neurostimulation for reducing migraine.

Keywords: basic neurophysiology, multimodal brain imaging, aging, EEG-fMRI, neurostimulation, neurofeedback, short-term memory.

Topics: Cognitive neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications:PublonsPubMed Google Scholar

Website: Neuroradiology USZ (go to “Forschende”)



Natalucci Giancarlo


Prof. Dr. med. Giancarlo Natalucci
University Hospital Zürich, Department of Neonatology

Research Focus: will follow

Keywords: outcome, child development, neurodevelopment, quality of life; nutrition; neuroprotection, neuromonitoring, post-discharge supportive intervention; parenting; preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy; cohort study.

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System



Ruiqing Ni


Dr. Ruiqing Ni
Institute for Biomedical Engineering

Research Focus: My research goal is to understand the mechanisms underlying Alzheimer’s disease, with a focus on detecting aberrant brain network activity, Aβ, tau and neurodegeneration by using multiscale high-resolution neuroimaging techniques (MRI, Optoacoustic tomography, PET).
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, Neuroimaging, transgenic mouse models

Topic: Biomedical Technology and Imaging, Disorders of the Nervous System
Publications: PubMed

Roger Nitsch

Prof. Dr. Roger Nitsch
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM), University of Zurich

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System



Noain Daniela



Dr. Daniela Noain
Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: What restorative and/or neuroprotective processes unfold in the sleeping brain? Is slow-wave sleep a key player to their regulation and execution? And, therefore, could slow-wave sleep modulation be used to influence the course of neuropathological processes? The focus of our research is exploring the role of slow-wave sleep in the levels of brain proteins that lead to neurodegeneration. Aiming at implementing translational and highly specific slow-wave sleep modulation strategies in transgenic rodent models of disease, we develop innovative techniques, such as closed-loop acoustic stimulation of slow oscillations. Our ultimate goal is providing tools for and proof that modulations of slow-wave sleep regulate protein clearance in the sleeping brain and, therefore, could be translated into novel non-invasive human therapies against Alzheimer and Parkinson Disease, the two most common protein aggregation-related neurodegenerative diseases.

Keywords: Slow-wave sleep, modulation of sleep-wake states, neurodegeneration, Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, traumatic brain injury, brain clearance, behavioral testing.

Topic: Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed Google Scholar


Paola Picotti


Prof. Dr. Paola Picotti
Institute of Biochemistry, Dept of Biology, ETH Zurich


Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System



Magdalini Polymenidou


Prof. Dr. Magdalini Polymenidou
Department of Quantitative BioMedicine (DQBM), University of Zurich


Topic: Disorders for the Nervous System



Christopher Pryce


Prof. Dr. Christopher Pryce
Dept of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, Psychiatric Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus:Mouse models aimed at identifying the causal pathways via which chronic psychosocial stress can lead to excessive fear and deficient motivation. Stress-immune-glia-neuron dysfunction is a pathway of major interest, and amygdala a structure of major interest.

Keywords: Stress, immune-inflammation, amygdala, oligodendrocyte, neuron, fear, motivation

Topics:  Neural Basis of Behavior, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed


ramantani georgia


Prof. Dr. med. Georgia Ramantani
Department of Neuropediatrics, University Children’s Hospital Zurich

Research Focus:  We aim to improve diagnostic tools for focal epilepsy, particularly in the context of epilepsy surgery, and establish pertinent biomarkers for postsurgical seizure outcomes deriving from electrophysiology and neuroimaging studies. Furthermore, we strive to provide deeper insights into the cognitive development after epilepsy surgery and to facilitate the selection of appropriate candidates. Finally, we aspire to study the processes of epileptogenesis in the immature brain, particularly in the context of neonatal seizures, and develop prognostic tools for outcome prediction.

Keywords: pediatric epilepsy; epilepsy surgery; biomarkers; outcome prediction; cognitive development; epileptogenesis; neonatal seizures

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



raschle nora


Prof. Dr. Nora Maria Raschle
Jacobs Center for Productive Youth Development, University of Zurich

Research Focus: In our laboratory we study typical and atypical brain development with a particular focus on socioemotional and cognitive processes. In order to assess such trajectories we employ magnetic resonance imaging techniques (f/MRI), eye-tracking, neurophysiological assessments, behavioral testing and clinical interviews. Our main goal is to contribute towards the early detection and characterization of developmental and mental health disorders. And most importantly, we always strive towards making paediatric neuroimaging child’s play, a fun and beneficial experience for all.
Our main areas of interest include:
paediatric neuroimaging, brain development, brain structure, function and connectivity, socioemotional skills (emotion processing and emotion regulation), language and reading, learning, plasticity and resilience
Keywords: fMRI, MRI, brain development, paediatric neuroimagng, emotion, emotion regulation, conduct disorder, reading, developmental dyslexia

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Foto Rauch Anita


Prof. Dr. Anita Rauch
Institute of Medical Genetics, University of Zurich

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Katrin Rauen


PD Dr. med. Katrin Rauen, Junior Group Leader
Consultant Neurology, Psychiatry & Psychotherapy (FMH), Somnologist (ESRS)
Head of Center for Neuropsychiatry, Department of Geriatric Psychiatry, Psychiatry University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: The overarching goal is to identify and validate clinical, blood, and advanced neuroimaging markers for patients suffering from acute or chronic TBI over the lifespan, thereby providing new clinical diagnostic algorithms and knowledge on the link between chronic neuroinflammation and posttraumatic neurodegeneration. This approach will help to develop new pharmacological and neuropsychiatric rehabilitation strategies for TBI patients, and thus will provide best quality of life for TBI patients and their relatives.

Keywords: Traumatic brain injury, neuropsychiatric burden, clinical trials, clinical diagnostic algorithm, chronic neuroinflammation, posttraumatic neurodegeneration, neuropsychiatric rehabilitation, neurotrauma outcome and quality of life.

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Neuroimmunology

Publications: PubMed Google Scholar

Social Media: linkedin and twitter

Websites: and and


Regli Luca

Prof. Dr. med. Luca Regli
Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Zurich

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous Systems


Richetto Juliet


Dr. Juliet Richetto
Institute for Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Main research interests are centered upon the question of how early-life environmental adversities, such as prenatal infection or prenatal maternal isolation, can influence brain development and shape the risk of long-term brain abnormalities. Currently, we are investigating whether maternal social isolation, and concomitant pharmacological interventions, lead to genome-wide alterations in DNA methylation and gene expression in the offspring’s brain, which in turn may impact pathways and neuronal systems that underlie behavioral functioning. In addition, we are starting to explore how the microbiome may affect CNS functioning through epigenetic mechanisms. Our research is performed in mice models and combines behavioral neuroscience, neuroanatomical investigations, transcriptomics and epigenomics.
Keywords: Epigenetics, social isolation, prenatal infection, prenatal stress, depression, transcriptomics, microbiome

Topics: Disorders of the nervous system, Neural basis of behavior, Molecular and cellular neuroscience.

Foto Roth Patrick


PD Dr. med. Patrick Roth
Department of Neurology and Brain Tumor Center, University Hospital Zurich
Research Focus: The research of our group focuses on the biology of malignant gliomas. These tumors are characterized by resistance to conventional therapy and paradigmatic for tumor-associated immunosuppression. Various in vitro and in vivo models including glioma stem cells have been established to address these issues. Current projects aim at assessing novel mediators of glioma immune escape and the interaction of glioma and immune cells. Furthermore, we are investigating novel therapeutic approaches in order to overcome the treatment resistance of these tumors.

Keywords: Brain cancer, glioblastoma, immune escape, immunotherapy

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous Systems

Publications: PubMed



Foto Rufer Michael


Prof. Dr. Michael Rufer
Clinic for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, University Hospital of Psychiatry, Zurich

Research Focus: One important focus is the emotion regulation and dysregulation in psychosomatic and psychiatric disorders. This includes the evaluation of different psychological constructs, such as alexithymia and dissociation, the development of assessment methods, and the investigation of neural correlates of emotion regulation. Further main research areas are multidisciplinary approaches on different aspects of the relationships between psychology and medicine, psychotherapeutic processes and outcomes, including neurobiological aspects, and technology-based psychological interventions (Internet-based and mobile interventions) for different disorders, such as anxiety and obsessive compulsive spectrum disorders.

Keywords: Emotion regulation, alexithymia, dissociation, psychotherapy, psychosomatics, neurobiology, internet-based therapy

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System, Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: PubMed



Ruslan Rust


Dr. Ruslan Rust, Junior Group Leader
Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our research focuses on generating novel cell-based therapies in preclinical stroke models. We have recently generated a scalable neural cell source from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) under xeno-free conditions that can be continuously tracked in vivo. These cells will be genetically engineered with a brain-shuttle system to facilitate systemic delivery across the brain barriers. To circumvent immune rejection, transplants will co-express distinct immunosuppressive molecules together with safety checkpoints. Efficacy of these advanced cell therapies will be evaluated through an experimental pipeline comprising i.a. in vivo imaging, deep learning-based behavioral profiling, and spatially resolved transcriptomics. The generated findings will be valuable to advance cell therapy for brain injury further towards clinical applications in the foreseeable future.

Keywords: Cell therapy, iPSCs, NPCs, stroke, brain injury, CNS, regeneration, preclinical animal models, in vivo imaging, big data analysis, deep learning

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Publications: Google Scholar


saab aiman


Prof. Dr. Aiman Saab
Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Myelinating oligodendrocytes and astrocytes are suggested to play an important role in maintaining neuronal functions and long-term integrity. In white matter tracts, axons are almost completely ensheathed by myelin and the axonal compartment may receive metabolic support from surrounding glial cells. Our research focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms governing neuron-glial interactions and metabolic cooperation. How do myelinating oligodendrocytes and astrocytes sense neuronal activity and how are these signals translated into maintaining neuronal functions in the young and aging brain? Could perturbations in glial metabolic support to axons impact the etiology and pathogenesis of age-related neuropsychiatric and degenerative diseases? To address these questions we combine molecular genetics, electrophysiology, in vivo and ex vivo two-photon imaging, histology, electron microscopy and behavioural studies in various transgenic and knockout mouse models to investigate cellular mechanisms regulating intercellular communication, brain energy homeostasis and cellular integrity.
Keywords: white matter, axon-glial interactions, myelinated axons, oligodendrocytes, astrocytes, axonal integrity and energy metabolism, neurodegeneration
Topics: Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous Systems, Biomedical Technology and Imaging

Publications: PubMed

Schmid Daners Marianne


Dr. Marianne Schmid Daners
Product Development Group Zurich, Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: At the interdisciplinary interface of clinical research and engineering my research focuses on the modelling, control and testing of biomedical systems as well as on the development and control of devices for the treatment of hydrocephalus. One particular focus is to gain fundamental insights into the physiologic dynamics within and adjacent to the cerebrospinal fluid spaces and to develop a pathologic hydrocephalus model. In addition, my research on the cardiovascular system contributes to the understanding of intracranial and spinal dynamics and may support further work on brain perfusion.

Keywords: pressure interaction, testing, sensors, physiologic control, gait analysis, hydrocephalus

Topic: Computation and Modeling, Biomedical Technology and Imaging, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: Publons



Foto Schneider-Gasser


Dr. Edith M. Schneider Gasser, Junior Group Leader
Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zürich

Research Focus: We are investigating the involvement of cerebral erythropoietin (Epo) in brain maturation and its neuroprotective role in premature brain injury.

Our current research focuses on understanding how Epo influences brain energy metabolism and the interactions between blood vessels, astrocytes and neurons. We are also investigating the protective role of Epo in models of hypoxia induced brain injury and epilepsy.

Keywords: Erythropoietin, hypoxia, epilepsy, neuroprotection, hippocampus, interneurons, brain metabolism

Topic: Development and Regeneration, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Foto Schwab Martin


Prof. Dr. Martin E. Schwab
Laboratory of Neural Regeneration and Repair, Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich, and Dept. of Health Sciences and Technology (D-HEST), ETH Zurich
Research Focus: Growth and regeneration of nerve fibers are influenced by growth promoting or growth inhibiting signaling molecules. Our group discovered the existence of myelin-associated growth inhibitors in the adult CNS and characterized an important nerve growth inhibiting membrane protein, Nogo-A. The in vivo application of anti-Nogo-A antibodies after spinal cord or brain trauma in rats or monkeys leads to outgrowth and regeneration of injured and uninjured nerve fibers and to a high degree of functional recovery. Clinical trials in spinal cord injured patients are currently on-going.

The laboratory also analyses the functional roles of Nogo-A as a stabilizer of the CNS circuitry and of synapses, including processes of memory formation. On the cell biological level, we analyse the multi-subunit composition of Nogo-A receptors and their relation to the specific effects of Nogo-A on the neuronal cytoskeleton and gene transcription.

Keywords: Nogo-A, nerve fiber growth, regeneration, plasticity, spinal cord and brain injury, myelin, neurite growth inhibitory activity, rehabilitation

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System, Development and Regeneration, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Publications: PubMed



Schweinhardt Petra


PD Dr. med. Petra Schweinhardt
Integrative Spinal Research Group, Department of Chiropractic Medicine, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Albeit nociception and pain are closely linked, there is no 1:1 relationship because the central nervous system hugely modulates nociceptive processing in a facilitatory as well as an inhibitory way. Our research focuses on how the CNS, in particular the brain, modulates nociception and how an altered balance between facilitation and inhibition contributes to chronic pain in patients. We use brain imaging methods (magnetic resonance imaging and spectroscopy) and psychophysical techniques to understand cerebral processes resulting in augmented nociceptive processing. We specifically investigate how contextual threat cues lead to sensitization along the neuraxis, thereby contributing to chronic pain.  

Keywords: pain modulation, threat, MRI, MRS

Topics: Sensory Systems, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Seif Maryam


Dr. Maryam Seif, Junior Group Leader
Spinal Cord Injury Center, Neuroimaging Group, Balgrist University Hospital, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our vision is to develop and apply neuroimaging biomarkers in human CNS following spinal cord injury (SCI) to better understand the SCI-induced neurodegeneration and predict the functional outcome. We use novel quantitative magnetic resonance imaging (qMRI) in the brain and spinal cord. qMRI is expected to provide sensitive biomarkers of (micro-) structural changes of CNS due to trauma or neurodegeneration. Neuroimaging biomarkers hold promises to improve clinical trial design and efficiency through better SCI patient stratification.

Keywords: quantitative MRI, neuroimaging biomarker, spinal cord injury

Topic: Biomedical Technology and Disorders of the Nervous System



Foto Seifritz


Prof. Dr. Erich Seifritz
Director, Dept of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics and Center for Psychiatric Research, University Hospital of Psychiatry, Zurich

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Foto Stassen Hans


Prof. Dr. Hans H. Stassen
Institute for Response Genetics, Psychiatric University Hospital (KPPP), University of Zurich
Research Focus: Today, the question of predicting treatment response in the individual patient is not answerable for any of the currently available antipsychotics and antidepressants. In tandem with the benefits of these medications are significant risks associated with their use. This is particularly true for polypharmacy approaches where patients receive combinations of various drugs. Our research focus lies on “objective” prediction methods for the individual patient that avoid (1) unnecessarily long treatments with ineffective drugs; and (2) acute side effects that are quite uncomfortable for patients and compromise compliance with otherwise beneficial treatments. Another focus lies on the early detection of insufficient coping behavior under chronic stress which may raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, suppress the immune system, and increase the vulnerability to psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia.

Keywords: Antidepressants, antipsychotics, polypharmacy, unwanted side effects, inflammatory response system, prediction of treatment response, early detection and prevention, stress, coping behavior

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed


Foto Stöckli


Prof. Dr. Esther Stoeckli
Department of Molecular Life Sciences, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Correct wiring of the nervous system is key to its function. Many neurodevelopmental disorders, such as intellectual disability or autism, are a consequence of aberrant formation of neural networks. Our research focuses on the characterization of molecular mechanisms underlying the formation of neural circuits in health and disease using mouse and chicken embryos as model organisms. We use mainly in vivo approaches to understand the regulation of axonal behavior at intermediate targets or along their trajectories to final targets.

Keywords: axon guidance, choice points, disease genes, spinal cord

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed




Dr. Christian Tackenberg
Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IREM), University of Zürich

Research Focus: Our research aims to elucidate the potential of stem cells, especially induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), for the use in regenerative medicine and for modeling human diseases.

iPSCs are generated by reprogramming somatic cells to an embryonic stem cell-like state via ectopic expression of a distinct transcription factor cocktail. Due to their pluripotent nature, iPSCs can be differentiated into many cell types. The use of iPSCs offers the possibility for personalized regenerative therapies with autologous or allogenic cells or tissue as well as in vitro disease modeling in human cells. 

Currently, we are modeling sporadic Alzheimer’s disease (SAD), which is the most common age-related dementia. Using either SAD patient-derived iPSCs or isogenic cells that differ only in their SAD risk genes, we analyze disease-relevant pathomechanisms in differentiated cortical neurons and astrocytes.

Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease, induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), Aβ, tau, neurodegeneration, neurons, astrocytes

Topics: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Foto Thöny


Prof. Dr. Beat Thöny
Divison of Metabolism, University Childrens Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: We are interested in the understanding on patho-mechanisms of (mainly) monogenetic disorders of biogenic amines, tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) metabolism and BH4-dependent enzyme deficiencies such as tyrosine hydroxylase (TH; infantile parkinsonism) and phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH; phenylketonuria). We combine laboratory investigations (CSF, blood, urine and DNA) and transgenic animal (mouse) models – the latter are also exploited as platforms for the evaluation of novel therapeutics, including gene therapy and pharmacological chaperons.

Our current research focus is on a novel knock-in model for TH deficiency with specific loss of brain catecholamines and motor dysfunction, and on gene therapy to correct phenylketonuria, a neurometabolic disease.

Keywords: Monoamine neurotransmitter deficiency, infantile parkinsonism, tyrosine hydroxylase, hyperphenylalaninemia, phenylketonuria (PKU), gene therapy

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed  Google Scholar


Tyagarajan Shiva


Prof. Dr. Shiva Tyagarajan
nstitute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Inhibitory GABAergic neurotransmission regulates neural excitability and network synchronization. Disruption in GABAergic inhibition is implicated in neuropsychiatric, neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative disorders. The group employs diverse experimental approaches (cell biology, molecular biology, proteomics, RNA seq, morphology, confocal microscopy, protein biochemistry) to study plasticity mechanisms regulating GABAergic neurotransmission. Our research has demonstrated that activity-dependent adaptations at inhibitory postsynapse are orchestrated via the convergence of intracellular signal cascades on to the scaffolding protein gephyrin. In this process, we have developed molecular tools to specifically modulate synaptic GABAergic neurotransmission. Hence, using a combination of in vitro primary neuron culture; and in vivo animal models we study how signaling pathways regulate inhibition to alter neural excitability in both physiology and pathology. 

Keywords: gephyrin, dendritic protein synthesis, barrel cortex plasticity

Topic: Development and Regeneration, Molecular and Cellular neuroscience, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Foto van Hedel


Prof. Dr. Huub van Hedel
Head of the Pediatric Rehab Research Department, Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adolescents, University Children’s Hospital Zurich, Affoltern am Albis

Research Focus: The neurorehabilitative treatment of upper and lower extremity functions and activities in children and youths with neurological disorders presents a high challenge as the developmental status interferes with neurological, functional, cognitive, and motivational aspects. As evidence-based guidelines for assessment and treatment are scarce, our main aim is to improve the rehabilitation process of children and youths. We have three main directions for research: (i) Develop, refine, and psychometrically evaluate (clinical) assessments, including technology-based ones. (ii) Develop and assess rehabilitative interventions, with an emphasis on rehabilitation technologies and exergames. (iii) Understand how the brain reorganizes during neurorehabilitation (e.g. with EEG, fNIRS or MRI).

Keywords: pediatric, rehabilitation technology, psychometric studies, effectiveness, brain reorganisation

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous Systems, Motor Systems

Publications: PubMed





Dr. Dr. Anna-Sophia Wahl
Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich

Research Focus: A prerequisite for the recovery of impaired brain function is the capacity of the central nervous system to induce plastic rewiring and reorganization processes after CNS injury. However, where and how neuronal connections regrow, which neuronal circuits reorganize, stabilize or disintegrate and how neuronal remodeling contributes to the functional outcome is not well understood. My work aims at understanding fundamental principles of neuronal circuit rewiring and individual neuronal recoding as intrinsic repair mechanisms of the brain recruiting intact structures to regain lost or impaired functions. From networks to function: Within my junior group we use a combination of techniques, including 2-photon calcium imaging in the behaving animal, opto- and chemogenetics, sophisticated behavioral assessments for sensorimotor and cognitive functions as well as Deep Learning computer algorithms to explore causal relationships between neuronal rewiring- from a cellular resolution till a network level- and the behavioral phenotype. Our goal is to develop novel therapeutic approaches or optimized rehabilitative strategies in stroke and vascular dementia.

Keywords: Stroke, neuronal rewiring and plasticity, neuronal repair, dementia, in-vivo imaging

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: Google Scholar



Foto Walitza


Prof. Dr. Susanne Walitza, KJPD


Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System


Thomas Wälchli


Dr. Thomas Wälchli, Junior Group Leader

Division of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Zurich; and Institute for Regenerative Medicine, University of Zurich and University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: We aim to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern angiogenesis and the neurovascular unit/perivascular niche in the central nervous system (CNS), during development as well as in CNS pathologies such as brain tumors and vascular malformations.
Current projects focus on the mechanisms that regulate angiogenesis, endothelial tip cells and the neurovascular unit/perivascular niche during brain development and in the above-mentioned CNS pathologies. To that regard, we are also investigating the differences between developmental and pathological blood vessel formation.
We use interdisciplinary approaches combining in vivo and in vitro techniques as well as mouse and human tissues in order to translate the laboratory findings into clinically relevant settings such as brain tumors, vascular malformations, and stroke.
Keywords: Angiogenesis, neurovascular link, neurovascular unit/perivascular niche, endothelial tip cells, perivascular microenvironment, brain tumors, brain vascular malformations, stroke

Topics: Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience, Development and Regeneration, Disorders of the Nervous System
Publications: PubMed



Weber-Stadlbauer Ulrike


Dr. Ulrike Weber-Stadlbauer

Institute for Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich

Research Focus:  My research focuses upon the question of how early-life environmental adversities, such as prenatal infection or nutritional imbalances, can shape the risk for neurodevelopmental abnormalities. One of my current research lines explores non-genetic transgenerational inheritance of neuronal and behavioral abnormalities relevant to major neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia and autism. More specifically, I investigate these processes in a translational mouse model of maternal gestational infection, which is an established environmental risk factor of schizophrenia and autism, thereby focusing on epigenetic alterations as candidate mechanisms. My research combines behavioral and cognitive tests, immunological assays, neuroanatomical techniques, transcriptomics and epigenomics. With our research we want to provide starting points for translational initiatives aiming at preventing the possible transmission of neuropsychiatric disease risk across generations.

Keywords: Prenatal Infection, Transgenerational Inheritance, Epigenetics, Neurodevelopment, Behavior, Cognition, Schizophrenia, Autism

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: Publons




Prof. Dr. Susanne Wegener
Dept. of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Thrombolysis is an effective treatment in acute ischemic stroke. However, the benefit of therapy has to be weighed against the risks, particularly intracerebral hemorrhage. Reasons for a different outcome in stroke may be an individual vulnerability/resistance to ischemia or vascular factors (type of occlusion/collaterals). Using rodent stroke models (MCAO/thrombin injection) and multimodal imaging we are studying mechanisms underlying ischemia tolerance and vascular adaptations to ischemia. Furthermore, we are interested in anatomical and functional correlates of cognitive impairment after MCA-territory stroke (sensorimotor and cognitive testing and Manganese-enhanced MRI). In a clinical project based on the analysis of patient imaging data, we plan to characterize novel imaging based predictors of therapeutic success in stroke

Our goal is a continuing transfer of knowledge between clinical and experimental stroke research.

Keywords: ischemic stroke, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Middle cerebral artery occlusion, preconditioning, post-stroke cognitive impairment, cerebral blood flow

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Weiss Tobias


Dr. med. Dr. sc. nat. Tobias Weiss
Department of Neurology, University Hospital and University of Zurich

Research Focus: Malignant brain tumors are devastating diseases with a poor prognosis and an urgent need for better therapies. We are developing novel therapeutic approaches against primary brain tumors and brain metastasis, with a focus on novel cancer immunotherapies. For this, we use state-of-the-art disease models including cell lines, orthotopic fully immunocompetent mouse models and patient samples. In collaboration with groups at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, we apply cutting-edge methods in genomics, proteomics and imaging to gain a deep mechanistical understanding of these diseases. The goal of our research is the translational of novel treatment strategies to patients.

Keywords: Brain Tumors, Immunotherapy, drug-development, multi-omics

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System, Neuroimmunology

Publications: PubMed Google Scholar



Foto Weller


Prof. Dr. med. Michael Weller
Department of Neurology, University Hospital and University of Zurich

Research Focus: Despite multimodal treatment of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the prognosis for patients with malignant brain tumors, notably glioblastoma, remains poor. To design novel treatment approaches, we study the microenvironment of brain tumors and explore how invasiveness and angiogenesis in brain tumors are regulated by the hosts`s brain. Further, our immunotherapy projects aim at defining the basis for a novel approaches targeting glioma-initiating cells with stem cell properties, commonly named glioma stem cells. These glioma stem cells are isolated from surgically removed tumor material and characterized for possible immunogenic properties with a focus on cell surface markers for immune recognition, with the hope to develop novel approaches of tumor stem cell-specific vaccination against brain tumors.

Keywords: Glioblastoma, brain tumor, stem cells, immunology

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed



Werth Esther


Dr. sc. nat. Esther Werth
Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich
Research Focus: Sleep is a very sensitive marker of health problems. Most physical or mental diseases accompany changes in quantitative and qualitative patterns of sleep. Our recent research employs circadian (melatonin, core body temperature), homeostatic (EEG, slow wave activity) and behavioral (vigilance, activity) measures to study the pathophysiology of narcolepsy type 1 and idiopathic hypersomnia. A better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of a sleep-wake disorder is always the most important step towards the development of tailored treatment strategies.

Keywords: sleep-wake disorder, vigilance, EEG, endogenous melatonin, core body temperature, rest-activity pattern

Topic: Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Disorders of the Nervous System

Publications: PubMed


Wirsching Hans Georg


Dr. Hans-Georg Wirsching
Department of Neurology, University Hospital and University of Zurich
Research Focus: Glioblastoma is an invariably fatal disease characterized by an extensively immunosuppressed microenvironment. The RCAS/tv-a gene transfer system has been utilized to engineer glioblastoma models that recapitulate the genomic aberrations that drive human glioblastoma. In situ genetic transformation of neuroglial stem- and progenitor cells induces mouse brain tumors that exhibit all histological features of human glioblastoma. These tumors develop from the own cells of immune competent mice and recapitulate the molecular and immunologic profiles of human glioblastoma, thus circumventing limitations of models that rely on the transplantation of in vitro cultured cells. We are utilizing these models for pre-clinical drug development including immunotherapy approaches and for genetic studies of oncogenesis

Keywords: glioblastoma, pre-clinical drug development, immunotherapy

Topic: Disorders of the Nervous System





Prof. Dr. Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer
Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zürich, and Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, ETH Zürich

Research Focus: The spinal dorsal horn serves a pivotal role as the first site of cellular and synaptic integration of somatosensory information. It plays a key role in diseases such as chronic pain and itch. Our group focuses on the organization and function of dorsal horn neuronal circuits and their plasticity in different pathologies. We use a variety of neuronal tracing techniques to analyse the integration of dorsal horn neurons into neuronal circuits in mice and combine virus-based and genetic tools to manipulate specific subpopulations of dorsal horn neurons in vivo. Behavioral test and in vivo 2-photon imaging and electrophysiology are used to study the function of neurons and circuits under physiological conditions and in chronic pain and itch states.  

Keywords: Spinal cord, interneurons, circuits, pain

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

Publications: PubMed