Strategic Partnership

Rolling Call 2020

Selected projects

Visual and Reward Adaptation in the Schizophrenia Spectrum


We are bombarded by sensory inputs and constantly need to decide which of these inputs to attend to, which poses a problem for sensory systems. Adaptive processing of inputs maximizes sensitivity to the most likely inputs and thereby reflects an efficiency principle used by neural systems. Previous studies have used fMRI tasks to show that the brain uses adaptive coding in the context of reward paradigms; however, there are currently no well-developed fMRI tasks to investigate adaptive coding in the context of sensory paradigms. In addition, previous work has shown that intact dopamine signaling is necessary for efficient adaptive coding of reward in the brain. Given this, researchers have been interested in studying adaptive coding in people with disorders entailing dopamine-signaling dysfunction, such as Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders, in order to understand how deficits in adaptive coding may contribute to the overall disease progression. Here, we plan to develop fMRI visual paradigms in order to compare adaptive sensory and reward coding across the Schizophrenia spectrum.

This one-year collaborative study has three specific aims. The first aim is to develop fMRI visual tasks aimed at capturing adaptive coding both behaviorally and neurally. The team at UZH, has developed an object discrimination visual task, while the team at UNIGE has developed a brightness discrimination task. Both of these visual tasks have been developed in order to increase the ease of comparing adaptation between visual and reward tasks. This collaboration will expand the category of visual tasks available to both teams, and increase our ability to understand how the brain is able to process information for humans to function optimally in the world. The second aim is to use these newly developed tasks to determine if adaptive coding occurs differently (domain-specific) or similarly (domain-general) in the processing of reward and other inputs. Specifically, we will use a variant of a commonly used reward task (monetary incentive delay) previously developed at UZH, and compare it to the two newly developed visual tasks to investigate if adaptive coding occurs to similar degrees in visual and reward modalities. The third aim is to examine if there is a correlation between deficits in adaptive coding and: 1) schizotypy in healthy individuals and 2) positive/negative symptoms in individuals with schizophrenia. The completion of this aim will be the first step in determining if reduced adaptive coding marks the schizophrenia spectrum in general.

The findings from this study will provide novel insights into the role of adaptive coding for the ability of humans to process sensory and reward information, and its relationship to schizotypy. We also will obtain a better understanding of Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders and the way that malfunctioning circuitry at the neural level can result in inefficiency and less-adapted behaviors. In the future, this work may help researchers to develop more predictive diagnostic methods and better targeted treatments, such as personalized interventions to reduce symptomology.

Dr. Anna O. Giarratana
Postdoctoral Researcher
University of Zurich - Department of Economics
Prof. Dr. Philippe Tobler
Associate Professor of Neuroeconomics and Social Neuroscience
University of Zurich - Dept of Economics
Dr. Stefan Kaiser
Professeur ordinaire / Chef de service
Université de Genève - Département de Psychiatrie
Dr. Mariia Kaliuzhna
Postdoctoral Researcher
Université de Genève - Département de Psychiatrie

Fostering Swiss collaboration towards a future circular collider


The goal of this program is to spearhead the collaboration among Swiss institutions on the development of future particle physics colliders by organising 2 workshops during 2021. These workshops will aim at fostering collaboration among the different Swiss groups by nurturing discussions and interactions. In 2020 the European Strategy of particle physics has identified new collider projects as a priority for the next decades. Our workshops will focus on the Future Circular Collider (FCC) project, which is a 100-km accelerator to be hosted by CERN. Swiss scientists will discuss the physics potential as well as experimental and technical challenges of the FCC project. In the first workshop, the scene will be set in all related aspects, accelerator, detector, and physics. The second workshop will be more focused on Swiss contributions to the project. Leading experts from the field will be invited for keynote talks. After these workshops, we envisage having a clear path on a strong Swiss involvement, encouraging collaboration among Swiss universities, starting from the Universities of Geneva and the University of Zurich. The Universities of Geneva and the University of Zurich will each host one workshop. The workshops are endorsed by the Swiss Institute of Particle Physics (CHIPP), which will also advertise them for increased Swiss attendance.

Anna Sfyrla
Associate Professor
University of Geneva - Department of Nuclear and Particle Physics
Florencia Canelli
UZH - Particle Physics