Discovering the causes of brain diseases

Web BrainDisease 190329

The BRAIN DISEASES Funds was launched in 2005 to promote non-clinical, basic research in brain disorders, e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, brain cancer, epilepsy, depressive disorders etc. In February 2019 the funds were transferred to the UZH Foundation which manages them.

The funds are used for the UZH-Award for Research in Brain Diseases, a yearly prize (10,000 Swiss Francs) for PhD students for their outstanding contributions to non-clinical basic research related to brain disorders.

Scientific committee
The scientific committee consists of Prof. Amedeo Caflisch, Prof. Ben Schuler, the UZH president Michael Schaepman also as representative of the UZH Foundation.

Promotion of women scientists
It is important to note that since 2006, 14 of the 21 awardees have been female PhD students.  Thus, the proportion of women scientists who have won the prize is higher than the female percentage of PhD students in neurosciences.

List of the prize winners

Winner 2020: Claire Gizowski
The suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) is the body’s master circadian clock and provides anticipatory homeostatic benefits such as opposing overnight adipsia by driving anti-diuretic hormone secretion and lowering body temperature to reduce water loss during sleep. Maintaining optimal fluid balance is essential to sustain life and such rhythms are indispensable to prevent life-threatening disorders. However, little is known about how changes in the electrical activity of clock neurons mediate central rhythms or how their activity can be altered by unanticipated changes in an organism’s physiology. During my PhD, I investigated how (i) the clock can regulate water intake prior to sleep, and (ii) how an acute salt load can alter clock time and its output-networks.

Find out more:
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Claire Gizowski web
Claire Gizowski is researcher an der University of California San Francisco, USA.

Winner 2020: Dr. Sofie Ährlund-Richter
Cognition is a common term for the mental process of acquiring knowledge about the world and utilizing it. The part of the brain named the prefrontal cortex (PFC) is considered indispensable for cognitive functions. Cognitive problems, such as difficulties with working memory or concentration, are common symptoms of many psychiatric disorders, and are suggested to occur due to an imbalance of the activity of the PFC. During her PhD Dr. Sofie Ährlund-Richter applied multiple neuroscientific techniques to exhaustively examine the connectivity and activity patterns of discrete neuronal types within the PFC to further decipher the neuronal basis of cognition.

Find out more: Visual
Sofie Aehrlund Richter Brain Diseases IMG 5892 web

Dr. Sofie Ährlund-Richter conducted her PhD work in the lab of Marie Carlén at the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

Winner 2020: Xuju Qian
Brain organoids, human stem cell-derived 3D tissue cultures resembling the embryonic human brain, provide a new platform to model brain development and disorders. High cost, variability and heterogeneity have limited the broad application of previous brain organoid methods. My thesis work focuses on advancing the technology to more reproducibly generate organoids that better represent neurodevelopmental processes at molecular, cellular, structural and functional levels. Using the brain organoids, I investigated the underlying mechanisms of developmental disorders, including Zika Virus-induced brain malformation and schizophrenia.

Find out more: Visual
Xuyu Qian portrait web
Xuju Qian from Harvard University.


Your candidature for the BRAIN DISEASES Award
Have you published recently the results of your PhD research work on brain diseases as a first (or co-first) author? Do not hesitate to apply to the UZH-Award for research in brain diseases if you have published (or have in press) interesting results on basic research in brain disorders. The rules for applicants can be downloaded here.

UZH-Award for Research in Brain Diseases: rules for applicants


Your donation
Would you like to contribute to research in the brain function and diseases? With a donation you can make possible that talented young scientists are recognized for their passion in brain research and their contribution to fundamental discoveries with the ultimate goal to cure terrible maladies, like Alzheimer’s disease for which there is currently no cure.


Your Contact

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Tonja Küng
Executive Assistant

Telephone: +41 44 634 61 91

Your contact for
in Brain Diseases"

Amedeo Caflisch

Prof. Dr. Amedeo Caflisch
Director Department of Biochemistry UZH

Telephone: +41 44 635 55 21