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Neuroscience Center Zurich

Neural Basis of Behavior

Irmgard Amrein


PD Dr. Irmgard Amrein
Division of Functional Neuroanatomy, Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich

Research focus: We investigate eco-evolutionary adaptations in the structure of the mammalian hippocampus – How do structural specializations relate to the evolutionary history of animals? How do structural specializations translate into behaviors that allow the animals to successfully compete in their ecological niches? We perform comparative quantitative analysis of functionally defined neuron populations that also includes neurons that are born in adult animals. Most of the animals we study are wild-living species that show unique environmental adaptations. We have been able to define anatomical patterns that characterize taxonomic groups, and within these groups, habitat requirements that can shape quantitative relations between hippocampal cell populations - revealing surprising features that only nature is able to create.

Keywords: hippocampus, behavior, adaptation, phylogeny, stereology, immunohistochemistry, neurogenesis

Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: PubMed




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


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






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



Moritz Daum


Prof. Dr. phil. Moritz M. Daum
Department of Psychology, Developmental Psychology: Infancy and Childhood, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The overarching aim of the Research Group “Developmental Psychology” is to address the roots of infants’ and young children’s perception and understanding of their social world. The understanding of others as social agents is one of the most fundamental skills in our everyday social life. It is crucial for any engagement in cooperative and communicative activities. In our research, we are particularly interested in the mechanisms that form the bedrock of infants’ action perception, the interrelation of infants’ early action perception comprehension to the control of their own actions, the selective implementation of observed actions in one’s own actions.

Current projects focus on the (neuro-)cognitive processes underlying infants’ and young children’s action understanding, the interrelation of action understanding and action performance across the whole lifespan, the interrelation of language and action in development, and the development of the self.

Keywords: developmental psychology, infancy, life span, cognitive development, action perception language, imitation, eye tracking, EEG

Topics: Development and Regeneration, Neural Basis of Behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience

Publications: PubMed




Daniel Düring


Dr. Daniel Düring, Junior Group Leader
Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich and  University of Zurich

Research focus: My research focuses on resolving the structural and molecular profile and dynamic changes of neural circuits underlying vocal learning in songbirds. Songbird vocal behavior is the prime model system for studying the neural mechanisms underlying human speech development. Birdsong research holds the potential to help us understand healthy vocal systems and design better treatments for speech and language disorders, which affect millions of children worldwide. To investigate the brain circuits controlling birdsong, I use state of the art techniques, some of which I have developed in the past years, with focus on examining the ultra structure of large, unsectioned volumes of the brain using expansion and light sheet microscopy (ExLSM), and viral vector targeting strategies.

Keywords: behavioral neuroscience, vocal learning, connectomics, multi-omics, structural and functional neuro-imaging, expansion light sheet microscopy, photometry, viral vector targeting, neuro-genetic sensors and effectors

Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Publications: Google Scholar





Prof. Dr. Benjamin F. Grewe
Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: My primary research focus is directed towards understanding the basis of information processing and memory formation in neuronal networks using experimental as well as computational approaches. Currently my research at the INI investigates basic concepts of information processing and memory formation in limbic neuronal networks, using miniaturized cutting-edge imaging techniques to record learning induced changes in neuronal network activity of mice. Aligning with the combined strengths of the INI and in collaboration biomedical and electrical engineering groups my long-term vision is to extract fundamental principles of network-learning from real biological networks and then to reverse engineer their functionality as logical, reproducible algorithms that be implemented in software or directly as electrical circuits. I am convinced that reverse-engineering neural learning algorithms that mimic human thinking will one day change the importance of intelligent technologies in our everyday life

Keywords: systems and computational neuroscience, population coding, neuronal network learning, deep learning, spiking network simulations, calcium imaging, two photon microscopy, miniaturized microscope, freely moving, behavior

Topic: neural basis of behavior, computation and modeling, sensory systems


Publications: PubMed


Richard Hahnloser


Prof. Dr. Richard Hahnloser
Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zurich and University of Zurich

Research Focus: We research sensorimotor and observational learning, birdsong development, neural coding in auditory and motor brain areas, ultrastructure of synaptic networks.  We make use mainly of computational modeling, behavioral methods, electrophysiology, and light- and electron microscopy.

Keywords: imitation behavior, learning

Topics: Computation and Modeling, Neural Basis of Behavior, Motor Systems




Fritjof He.mchen


Prof. Dr. Fritjof Helmchen
Director of the ZNZ
Laboratory of Neural Circuit Dynamics, Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Acting in the world means using the power of the neural circuits in your brain. But how do these complex circuits, comprising diverse neuronal and glial cell types interconnected in a highly complicated fashion, actually operate? How do they process sensory stimuli, integrate sensory information with relevant context and past experiences, and how do they produce motor control signals for adequate behavior? Newest technical developments, especially optical methods and genetic tools to record from and manipulate identified neural circuit components, down to individual neurons, now make it possible to tackle these fundamental questions. We develop and apply 2-photon microscopy and fiber-optic tools to gain understanding of the principles of signal flow in local neural circuits as well as the larger networks of brain regions.  In ongoing projects we apply these methods in behaving mice to reveal neural dynamics underlying various behaviors.  

Keywords: Neural networks, in vivo physiology, optical imaging, electrophysiology, goal-directed behavior

Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior





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

Karipidis Iliana


Dr. phil. Iliana I. Karipidis, Junior Group Leader
Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Zurich

Research focus: We use pediatric neuroimaging techniques (MRI and EGG) to understand the neurobiological mechanisms underlying sex and gender differences in specific learning disorders and psychiatric disorders that emerge during childhood and adolescence. One of my current projects focuses on understanding the effects of sex steroids on reward processing during puberty. In collaboration with the Hong Lab at Stanford University, we examine effects of gender-affirming hormone therapy on neurodevelopment in transgender youth. The goal of this research is to increase our understanding of transgender health, promote well-being in gender minority youth, and enable the integration of evidence about sex and gender differences into clinical practice of child and adolescent psychiatry.

Keywords: pediatric neuroimaging, reading acquisition, specific learning disorders, gender identity, sex differences

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: Google Scholar



Marie Labouesse


Dr. Marie Labouesse

Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: Our team strives to understand how long-range neural circuits wire and rewire throughout the lifespan, how they contribute to behavioral function, and how we can harness new, circuit-related findings to develop pharmacotherapies to treat brain disorders. Our work focuses on the basal ganglia and their inputs and outputs (including monoamines, like dopamine), with a special interest for neural systems critical for body homeostasis, e.g. brain circuits for reward and energy seeking (motivation, feeding, addiction) and for energy output (locomotion, motor function, exercise). Through this work, we hope to contribute a deeper understanding of the postnatal ontogeny and adult plasticity of basal ganglia circuits. We also aim at developing and screening targeted therapeutic approaches to treat basal ganglia and dopamine related brain disorders. This includes illnesses such as mood disorders, eating disorders, addiction, obesity or Parkinson’s disease.

Keywords: wiring, experience, neural circuits, basal ganglia, behavior, optical tools, in vivo fluorescent imaging, biosensors, pharmacotherapy, neuropharmacology, transgenic models.

Topics: Neural Basis of Behavior, Development and Regeneration

Publications: Google Scholar



Hans-Peter Landolt


Prof. Dr. sc. nat. Hans Peter Landolt

Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zürich

Research Focus: Sleep enables the brain to optimize higher cognitive functions such as learning and memory. My group focuses on the pre-clinical human neuropsychopharmacogenetics of CNS stimulants and hypnotics, and the neurochemical underpinnings of wakefulness and sleep. Along a molecule-to-human-to-medicine continuum, it aims at elucidating basic genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying sleep-related brain functions. Our research employs specific pharmacology, electro-encephalography, genotyping, brain imaging and neuro­cognitive testing to investigate the roles for neuromodulators, receptors and transporters in regulating sleep-associated waking functions. It is our vision that a basic understanding of the neuro­biological mechanisms underlying the detrimental and beneficial (i.e., antidepressant) effects of sleep loss will be translated into novel therapies that will improve brain functioning, general well-being, quality of life, and public health.

Keywords: Sleep-associated attentional, affective, and cognitive processes; individual vulnerability to sleep deprivation; disease- and age-related changes in sleep-associated brain functions

Topic: Sleep and Sleep Disorders, Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: PubMed





Prof. Dr. Nicolas Langer
Methods of Plasticity Research, Department of Psychology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Our lab develops and obtains new neurophysiological and neuroimaging measures in the context of human brain and behavioral plasticity. Specifically, we investigate the potential for plasticity, mechanisms for stabilization and compensation across the lifespan. In particular, we investigate the relationship between brain plasticity and cognitive functioning, such as perceptual processing, learning, (working-) memory, decision-making and processing speed.
In this context of neuroplasticity research, we are designing and implementing novel multi-modal paradigms (e.g. combined EEG eye-tracking), extracting and associate them with state of the art neuroscientific methods, such as functional network models, machine learning, longitudinal analyses and computational modeling. These paradigms can also be used to decompose the critical component processes underlying performance of the behavioral tests that are used routinely in clinical diagnosis. This multi-level, multi-modal design allows us to study cognitive performance and perception at their desired level of analysis, and to elucidate variations in performance across the continuum from healthy to pathological functioning. To investigate those research aims and objectives, we are using a variety of psychological and neuroscientific methods, such as EEG, eye-tracking, structural MRI & DTI, psychophysiology)
Keywords: EEG, eye-tracking, cognitive modeling, machine-learning, cognition, multi-modal imaging, structural MRI, DTI, development, neurophenotyping, Research Domain Criteria (RDoC).

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Computation and Modeling, Neural Basis of Behavior, Development and Regeneration

Publications: PubMed Google Scholar





Prof. Dr. Thomas A. Lutz
Institute of Veterinary Physiology, Vetsuisse-Faculty, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The two main research areas are the control of food intake, including the pathophysiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
I have a strong background in physiology (neuroendocrinology and neurophysiology) with the specific focus on the central nervous system control of food intake and the pathophysiology of obesity. My group mainly studies the central mediation of the peptidergic control of eating, and we focus particularly on gastrointestinal hormones like amylin, glucagon-like peptide-1 and others. We are interested in the improved hypothalamic leptin sensitivity induced by the pancreatic hormone amylin, which seems to be mediated by the release of IL-6 from microglia. Recently, we also started to investigate mechanisms of food reward by the use of fast scan cyclic voltammetry (FSCV). This technique allows the measurement of dopamine secretion in brain regions of interest with a temporal resolution in the second range.

Keywords: Amylin, Leptin, Cytokines, Hypothalamus, Bariatric surgery, Type 2 diabetes mellitus

Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: PubMed zora





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: PublonsGoogle Scholar


Notter Tina


Dr. Tina Notter
Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The main research focus of our group is to define the role of astrocytes in postnatal synaptic refinement of the prefrontal cortex (PFC). One distinctive feature of the PFC is its protracted adolescent maturation, which is necessary for acquiring mature cognitive abilities in adulthood. One of our primary aims is to determine the role of astrocytes in the structural and functional maturation of the PFC.  Long thought to act merely as a structural support of neurons, astrocytes are now known to actively integrate, process and contribute to neuronal signaling. They are essential for early brain development regulating synaptogenesis and assuring correct wiring of the brain. More recently, astrocytes have been shown to actively participate in the rewiring of neuronal connections during brain maturation, a process involving the elimination of superfluous synapses, whereby neuronal circuits are optimized. Using a multi-disciplinary approach including chemogenetics, in-vivo two-photon imaging, immunohistochemistry, and behavioral analyses in mouse models, we investigate whether astrocyte-dependent synaptic elimination is indispensable for the normal development of neuronal networks subserving adult cognitive functions. In addition, we thrive to unravel the functional and behavioral consequences of aberrant astrocyte activity in the matured PFC. We hereby focus on understanding how astrocytes actively integrate, process and contribute to PFC synaptic signaling and thereby modulate behavioral and cognitive functions with relevance to psychiatric disorders.

Keywords: Astrocytes, medial prefrontal cortex, brain maturation, adolescence, synaptic refinement, cognition, behavior, psychiatric disorders

Topics: Neural Basis of Behavior, Development and Regeneration, Molecular and Cellular

Publications: PubMed


Daria Peleg


Dr. Daria Peleg-Raibstein, Junior Group Leader
Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: Obesity has long been identified as a global epidemic with major health implications such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Maternal overnutrition and maternal obesity are significant health issues in industrial countries and are known risk factors for the development of obesity and related disorders in the offspring. The wide accessibility of junk food in recent years is one of the major causes of obesity. An excess of nutrients during fetal life not only has immediate effects on the fetus but also has long term effects on adult health. Our interest is on how maternal overnutrition can affect the development and function of the central nervous system circuits that regulate reward-related behaviors and cognitive disabilities in the offspring. We are also interested in the impact of maternal overnutrition and lifelong obesity and related metabolic consequences in the offspring.

Keywords: Obesity, addiction, maternal high-fat diet, development, cognitive functions, epigenetic, dopamine, translational research

Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: PubMed





Prof. Dr. phil. Monique Pfaltz

Department of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy, University Hospital Zurich

Research Focus: Our research group specialises in peripheral physiology associated with emotion processing and the respective data collection and analysis methods. We are using ambulatory approaches as well as experimental laboratory research, including eye tracking analysis of video recordings to better understand emotion recognition, facial mimicry, emotion regulation, emotional reactivity and their biological foundations in clinical populations (e.g. borderline personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder) as well as the general population. A special focus lies on childhood and adult trauma related symptoms and their impact on emotional and social functioning.

Keywords: peripheral physiology, emotion processing, posttraumatic stress, ambulatory assessment strategies

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience; Neural Basis of Behavior; Development and Regeneration

Publications: PubMed

Polania Rafael


Prof. Dr. Rafael Polania
Decision Neuroscience Lab, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zurich

Research Focus: Humans do not react to the environment in a reflexive manner, but can freely choose which action to perform in response to a given situation. The neural processes that enable such flexible decision making are fundamental components of human cognition and have attracted a lot of interest from researchers in many scientific disciplines such as neuroscience, psychology, economics, and medicine.

The research agenda at the Decision Neuroscience Lab bridges these multiple disciplines across theoretical and empirical domains to establish important links between the computational, psychological and neural processes controlling human decision making, by providing both correlative and causal evidence that well-defined neural signals are indeed driving both computationally defined cognitive processes and the resulting behavior. This research thus has the potential to unite conceptually separate approaches to the study of distinct types of human behavior and thereby contribute information that is crucial for the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders involving decision-making pathologies (e.g. ADHD, obesity, addiction).

Topics: Cognitive Neuroscience, Computation and Modeling, Neural Basis of Behavior

Keywords: decision-making, EEG, fMRI, non-invasive brain stimulation, reward, perception, economics.

Publications: Google Scholar


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



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.

Michael Rufer


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



Peter Rupprecht


Dr. Peter Rupprecht
Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich

Research Focus: The main purpose of the brain is to adapt our behavior to a changing environment. But how does this occur at the level of individual neurons? In other words: how does a neuron in the brain receive feedback to improve the behavior of the organism? To study these feedback loops, we will develop tools to record and control the neuronal activity and behavior in mice. Specifically, we will use and further advance two-photon microscopy for calcium imaging in hippocampus, single-cell electrophysiology and closed-loop behavioral paradigms. Key components of our work are careful experimental design as well as in-depth data analysis rather than large-scale experiments or screens. We believe that such well-thought-out experiments and analyses are ideally suited to tackle the most challenging problems in neuroscience.

Keywords: hippocampus, calcium imaging, microscopy, patch-clamp, credit assignment problem, biological learning, deep learning

Topic: Neural Basis of Behavior, Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Publications: Google Scholar



Philippe Tobler


Prof. Dr. Philippe Tobler
Department of Economics, University of Zurich
Research Focus: Decisions pervade our daily lifes and we often base them on learned value. We investigate the neural mechanisms underlying value-based decision making and learning in social and non-social contexts. For example, we investigate how the brain processes constituents of economic value, such as risk and effort, or we ask whether social learning mechanisms differ from individual learning mechanisms. Our studies mainly employ behavioral methods as well as functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Keywords: Neuroeconomics, reward, punishment, salience, risk

Topic: Cognitive Neuroscience, Neural Basis of Behavior

Publications: PubMed


David Wolfer


Prof. Dr. David P. Wolfer
Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich;
Institute of Human Movement Sciences and Sport, ETH Zurich

Research focus: We investigate the neural basis of cognitive function in the normal and diseased brain using mouse models. Behavioral studies are combined with histological visualization and quantification of neuronal activity, stereotactic lesions, neuropharmacology, and targeted mutations. We also study the influence of normal genetic variation, environment and life style on cognitive function and the underlying brain circuitry. We are developing new approaches to assess cognitive functions of mice more efficiently and reliably in a fully automated social home cage setting (IntelliCage).

Keywords: behavioral neuroscience, cognitive neuroscience, high throughput behavioral phenotyping

Topic: Neural Basis of behavior, Cognitive Neuroscience



Hanns Ulrich Zeilhofer


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



Zhang Xiaomin


Prof. Dr. Xiaomin Zhang
Laboratory of Neural Circuit Dynamics, Brain Research Institute, University of Zurich

Research Focus: Episodic memory enables us to remember daily life events that occurred at particular times and places. However, newly encoded episodic memories are typically fragile due to constant interference with ongoing experiences and therefore require consolidation to form long-lasting memories. Our goal is to understand the cellular and circuitry mechanisms underlying episodic memory consolidation in healthy and Alzheimer’s disease animal models. Taking advantage of in vivo electrophysiological recordings and advanced optical tools, we will investigate the single-neuron dynamics, neuronal population coding properties, and their relations to neuromodulation during spatial memory consolidation. Our long-term goal is to shed insight into neuronal mechanisms of episodic memory impairment, a hallmark of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, and test new strategies to alleviate impaired episodic memory formation.

Keywords: episodic memory formation, memory consolidation, the hippocampus, neuromodulation
Neural Basis of Behavior