Research Topics

Research in the CBBM focuses on the interaction between brain and periphery and its implications for behavior and metabolism. Below are representative examples of topics that are investigated in the CBBM.

Brain …

Thyroid hormone action on brain function and development

Thyroid hormone is important for proper brain development and function as can be seen from individuals suffering from impaired thyroid hormone action, e.g. congenital hypothyroidism, or Allan-Herndon-Dudley syndrome. We aim to characterize the resulting neuroanatomical disturbances, the phenotypical consequences, the underlying molecular mechanisms as well as identify the thyroid hormone target genes.


Bridging blood-brain barriers

The brain depends on the supply of nutrients by other tissues. Vice versa, it controls all bodily functions. Therefore, a close interaction between the central nervous system and the periphery is required. In addition to classical communication channels provided by afferent and efferent nerve fibers, there is an exchange of messengers and metabolites at the interfaces of brain and periphery. The latter encompass the blood-brain barrier, the blood-CSF barrier and, less known, the tanycytic barrier between circumventricular organs and brain parenchyma. Our group investigates the structure and function of these barriers. Bridging brain barriers could be a key principle in the treatment of brain diseases.


Pain physiology

Pain plays an important role in human life because it alerts to danger and thus has a protective function. The perception of pain relies on the rapid electrical communication between sensory neurons in the body periphery that detect noxious stimuli and the somatosensory cortex of the brain that interprets the information. Diseases that affect this communication can cause a whole spectrum of pain disorders ranging from congenital analgesia to severe neuropathic pain conditions. We analyze the functions of peripheral sensory neurons using electrophysiological, optical, and molecular biology techniques to infer about physiological and pathophysiological mechanisms of pain sensation.

 

… Behavior …

The brain dynamics of perception and behaviour

Human behavioral success in a complex environment entail a rich cascade of brain processes: To sense and neurally encode environmental signals; to integrate and to prioritize competing input signals (e.g., auditory, visual); to decide, and to respond in an adaptive manner. Our research focuses on the neural dynamics that shape this cascade. Within individuals, we study electrophysiological (EEG), hemodynamic (fMRI), and endocrine determinants of moment-to-moment variability in perception and behavior. Between individuals, we ask which neural and psychological features make us adapt successfully to the challenges that come with sensory decline and healthy ageing.


Behavior expresses itself as movement 

Many neurological and neuropsychiatric diseases present with abnormal movements, for instance a paucity of movements in Parkinsons disease or depression, or an excess of movements in Tourette syndrome (tics) or Huntington’s disease (chorea). Mechanisms underlying these movement disorders are only incompletely understood. This is particularly true for the interplay of actions and action related perceptual processes. Our research is thus dedicated to the study of brain systems engaged in the execution and control of human movements particularly taking into account perception-action processes both in healthy subjects and patients with neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders of all ages predominantly those presenting with movement disorders using different methods including psychophysical behavioral tasks, neurophysiological techniques, e.g. electrical and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), EEG, and brain imaging (structural and functional MRI).

 

… Metabolism

Mechanisms governing liver metabolic homeostasis

The liver is a key player in glucose homeostasis and heavily affected in metabolic disorders such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and type II diabetes. We aim to identify epigenetic and endocrine mechanisms that contribute to the development and the progression of these disorders, ranging from human liver biopsies to animals models and in vitro systems.


Clock genes

To adapt to daily changes in environmental conditions most species have evolved endogenous circadian clocks that enable them to reliably estimate daytime even in the absence of external cues. Such clocks are found in all tissues and cells of our body. Chronodisruption promotes many diseases, from obesity to heart attacks and cancer. At the Institute of Neurobiology, we study the mechanisms of circadian timekeeping by behavioral, physiological, molecular biological and (mouse) genetic experimental approaches. We focus on two main questions: how do clocks synchronize to external time and how is time information transmitted inside the body to coordinate physiological processes?