The Institute


Ruth Handschin, Letters from Nature

Our research is dedicated to understand the mechanisms of neural development, plasticity, and repair of the central nervous system with the aim to define the fundamental principles of brain function and to discover novel approaches for brain repair.

The Brain Research Institute (Institut für Hirnforschung, short "HiFo") was founded in 1962 by Konrad Akert as a neuroscience research center in the medical faculty of the University of Zurich. The laboratories of the HiFo focus on basic research topics ranging from molecular and cellular processes to network functions in the nervous system. The main areas of investigation concern the ability of the central nervous system to learn new information and to regenerate after injury, the mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission, plasticity and synapses formation, and the processes that influence behavioral responses.

The Brain Research Institute has currently five directors (Csaba Földy, Fritjof Helmchen, Theofanis Karayannis, Isabelle Manusy, and Sebastian Jessberger as managing director). Martin Schwab heads a senior group, and Urs Gerber an independent research group. The institute runs shared administrative and infrastructural support (mechanics, electronics, IT). Currently, the institute consists of approximately 80 scientists that came to Zurich from over 15 countries.

The Brain Research Institute has been crucially involved in establishing Zurich as an international top place for neuroscience. The foundation of the Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ) by Martin Schwab in 1998 and the establishment of the NCCR "Neural Plasticity and Repair" in 2001 created an active network of research groups and provided platforms for numerous collaborations. They have led to a world-leading neuroscience community in Zurich, covering the entire range from basic and translational research projects to clinical applications. Through these overarching networks and personal affiliations, the Brain Research Institute is tightly associated with ETH Zurich. HiFo group leaders are members of several projects within the Hochschulmedizin Zurich initiative and serve as board members for a number of foundations and actively participate in academic governance.