Projects

Our projects investigate and modulate sleep in healthy individuals and patients with psychiatric disorders. The work is grouped into interlinked projects that integrate a variety of methods, from non-invasive brain stimulation to psychotherapeutic interventions.

Christoph Nissen (PI), Kristoffer Fehér (Postdoc), Jonathan Maier (Postdoc), Ersilia Trinca (Research assistant)

Major depression is the leading cause for reduced quality of life due to illness worldwide. This project aims to develop a novel sleep-based treatment technology for major depression based on auditory closed-loop modulation of sleep slow waves and related neuroplasticity processes.

The project is part of the Interfaculty Research Cooperation (IRC) ‘Decoding Sleep’ of the University of Bern. 

Project related publications

  • Kuhn, M., Mainberger, F., Feige, B., Maier, J.G., Mall, V., Jung, N.H., Klöppel, S., Reis, J., Normann, C., & Nissen, C. (2016). State-Dependent Partial Occlusion of Cortical LTP-Like Plasticity in Major Depression. Neuropsychopharmacology, 41, 1521-1529.
  • Kuhn, M., Wolf, E., Maier, J.G., Mainberger, F., Feige, B., Schmid, H., Bürklin, J., Maywald, S., Mall, V., Jung, N.H., Reis, J., Spiegelhalder, K., Klöppel, S., Sterr, A., Eckert, A., Riemann, D., Normann, C., & Nissen, C. (2016). Sleep recalibrates homeostatic and associative synaptic plasticity in the human cortex. Nature Communications, 7, 12455. Doi: 10.1038/ncomms12455
  • Wolf, E; Kuhn, M; Normann, C; Mainberger;, Maier, JG; Maywald, S.; Bredl, A.; Klöppel, S.; Biber, K; van Calker, D; F Feige B, Biber K, Riemann, D; Sterr, A; Nissen, C. (2016). Synaptic plasticity model of therapeutic sleep deprivation in major depression, Sleep Med Rev, 30, 53-62.
  • Nissen, C. Holz, J., Blechert, J., Feige, B., Riemann, D., Voderholzer, U., & Normann, C. (2010). Learning as a model for neural plasticity in major depression. Biol Psychiatry, 68, 544-552.

SLEEPexpert: development of a behavioral treatment program for insomnia in patients with psychiatric disorders

Christoph Nissen (PI), Elisabeth Hertenstein (Postdoc), Carlotta Schneider (PhD student)

This project strives to improve sleep in patients with mental disorders based on a behavioral treatment program for insomnia, adapted for severely ill patients. The project will test the hypotheses that the intervention improves sleep, but also other relevant health outcomes, such as the use of hypnotics and, potentially, the course of mental disorders.

Project related publications

  • Riemann D, Baglioni C, Bassetti C, Bjorvatn B, Dolenc Groselj L, Ellis JG, Espie CA, Garcia-Borreguero D, Gjerstad M, Gonçalves M, Hertenstein E, Jansson-Fröjmark M, Jennum PJ, Leger D, Nissen C, Parrino L, Paunio T, Pevernagie D, Verbraecken J, Weeß HG, Wichniak A, Zavalko I, Arnardottir ES, Deleanu OC, Strazisar B, Zoetmulder M, Spiegelhalder K. (2017) European guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of insomnia. J Sleep Res, 26, 675-700.
  • Riemann, D., Nissen, C., Palagini, L., Otte, A., Perlis, M.L., & Spiegelhalder, K. (2015). The neurobiology, investigation and treatment of chronic insomnia. Lancet Neurology, 14, 547-558.
  • Bassetti, C.L., Ferini-Strambi, L., Brown, S., Adamantidis, A., Benedetti, F., Bruni, O., Cajochen, C., Dolenc-Groselj, L., Ferri, R., Gais, S., Huber, R., Khatami, R., Lammers, G.J., Luppi, P.H., Manconi, M., Nissen, C. Nobili, L., Peigneux, P., Pollmächer, T., Randerath, W., Riemann, D., Santamaria, J., Schindler, K., Tafti, M., Van Someren, E., Wetter, T. (2015). Neurology and Psychiatry: Waking up to opportunities of sleep – State of the art and clinical/research priorities for the next decade, European, Sleep Expert Statement. European Journal of Neurology, 22, 1337-1354.

Acceptance and commitment therapy for insomnia

Elisabeth Hertenstein (PI), Christoph Nissen (CoI)

This project builds on our pilot data on the feasibility and preliminary evidence for efficacy and aims at further investigating the effects of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) in patients with insomnia disorder.

Project related publications

  • Hertenstein, E., Thiel, N., Lueking, M., Kuelz, A.K., Schramm E., Baglioni C., Spiegelhalder, K., Riemann, D., & Nissen, C. (2014). Quality of life improvements after acceptance and commitment therapy in nonresponders to cognitive behavioral therapy for primary insomnia. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 83, 371-373.

Modulation of sleep perception through auditory closed-loop stimulation of brain oscillatory activity

Christoph Nissen (PI), Elisabeth Hertenstein (Co-PI)

This project is designed to further contribute to the understanding of the neural basis of sleep perception and to the development of innovative treatments for disrupted sleep (insomnia). Particularly, we aim to further test the emerging concepts (i) that sleep-specific brain oscillatory activity during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep in the form of sleep slow oscillatory and sleep spindle activity and their orchestration (cross-frequency coupling) relate to sleep perception, and (ii) that this orchestration along with sleep perception can be modulated through non-invasive (auditory) brain stimulation.

Project related publications

  • Frase, L., Selhausen, P., Krone, L., Tsodor, S., Jahn, F., Feige, B., Maier, J.G., Mainberger, F., Piosczyk, H., Kuhn, M., Klöppel, S., Sterr, A., Baglioni, C., Spiegelhalder, K., Riemann, D., Nitsche, M.A. & Nissen, C. (2019). Differential effects of bifrontal tDCS on arousal and sleep duration in insomnia patients and healthy controls. Brain Stimulation, 2, 674-683.
  • Mikutta, C., Feige, B., Maier, J.G., Hertenstein, E., Holz, J., Riemann, D., & Nissen, C. (2019) Phase-amplitude coupling of sleep slow oscillatory and spindle activity correlates with overnight memory consolidation. J Sleep Res, Epub ahead of print.
  • Krone, L., Frase, L., Piosczyk, H., Selhausen, P., Zittel, S., Jahn, F., Kuhn, M., Feige, B., Mainberger, F.,Kloppel, S., Riemann, D., Spiegelhalder, K.; Baglioni, C.; Sterr, A., Nissen, C. (2017). Top-down control of arousal and sleep: Fundamentals and clinical implications. Sleep medicine reviews, 31, 17-24.
  • Riemann, D., Nissen, C. Palagini, L., Otte, A., Perlis, M.L., & Spiegelhalder, K. (2015). The neurobiology, investigation and treatment of chronic insomnia. Lancet Neurology, 14, 547-558.

Christoph Nissen (PI), Jonathan Maier (Posdoc)

This line of research centers on the idea that sleep critically modulates synaptic plasticity, i.e. the activity-dependent refinement of the strength of transmission across synapses. The translation of this line of basic research to clinical investigations might inform the development of new treatments for conditions of disturbed sleep and plasticity, including insomnia, major depression or age-related cognitive problems.

Project related publications

  • Maier, J.G., Kuhn, M., Mainberger, F., Guo, S., Nachtsheim, K., Bucsenez, U., Feige, B., Klöppel, S., Normann, C., Riemann, D., & Nissen, C. (2019) Sleep orchestrates local plasticity and global network stability in the human cortex. Sleep, 42(4).
  • Maier, J.G., Piosczyk, H., Holz, J., Landmann, N., Deschler, C., Frase, L., Kuhn, M., Klöppel, S., Spiegelhalder, K., Sterr, A., Riemann, D., Feige, B., Voderholzer, U., & Nissen, C. (2017). Brief periods of NREM sleep do not promote early offline gains but subsequent on-task performance in motor skill learning. Neurobiol Learn Mem, 145, 18-27.
  • Maier J G, & Nissen, C. (2017). Sleep and memory: mechanisms and implications for psychiatry. Current opinion in psychiatry, 30, 480-484.
  • Kuhn, M., Wolf, E., Maier, J.G., Mainberger, F., Feige, B., Schmid, H., Bürklin, J., Maywald, S., Mall, V., Jung, N.H., Reis, J., Spiegelhalder, K., Klöppel, S., Sterr, A., Eckert, A., Riemann, D., Normann, C., & Nissen, C. (2016). Sleep recalibrates homeostatic and associative synaptic plasticity in the human cortex. Nature Communications, 7, 12455. 
  • Landmann, N., Kuhn, M., Maier, J. G., Feige, B., Spiegelhalder, K., Riemann, D., & Nissen, C. (2016). Sleep Strengthens but does Not Reorganize Memory Traces in a Verbal Creativity Task. Sleep, 39(3), 705-713.
  • Landmann, N., Piosczyk, H., Kuhn, M., Maier, J. G., Spiegelhalder, K., Baglioni, C., Riemann, D., Sterr, A., Nissen, C. (2015). REM sleep and memory reorganisation: Potential relevance for psychiatry and psychotherapy.  Neurobiology of learning and memory, 122, 28-40.
  • Landmann,  N., Kuhn, M., Piosczyk, H., Holz, J., Feige, B., Baglioni, C., Spiegelhalder, K., Frase, L., Riemann, D., Sterr, A., & Nissen, C. (2014). The reorganisation of memory during sleep. Sleep medicine reviews, 18, 531-541.

Christoph Nissen (Group leader), Christian Mikutta (Project leader)

This projects uses advanced data analysis strategies to further determine the orchestration of brain oscillations during sleep, such as phase amplitude coupling (PAC) between sleep slow waves and sleep spindles, as well as their potential functional relevance, e.g. with regard to memory formation, sleep perception, or brain-body interactions across the sleep-wake cycle.

Project related publications

  • Mikutta C, Feige B, Maier JG, Hertenstein E, Holz J, Riemann D, Nissen C. Phase-amplitude coupling of sleep slow oscillatory and spindle activity correlates with overnight memory consolidation. J Sleep Res. 2019 Mar 7. [Epub ahead of print].
  • Maier JG, Kuhn M, Mainberger F, Nachtsheim K, Guo S, Bucsenez U, Feige B, Mikutta C, Spiegelhalder K, Klöppel S, Normann C, Riemann D, Nissen C. Sleep orchestrates indices of local plasticity and global network stability in the human cortex. Sleep. 2019 Apr 1;42(4).

Stefan Klöppel (PI), Marc Züst (Posdoc) and Marina Wunderlin (PhD) of Research Group Klöppel, Christoph Nissen (CoI)

Reduced sleep slow waves have been observed to be associated with aging and cognitive decline. Other work suggests that, rather than being a mere epiphenomenon, reduced sleep slow waves might contribute to cognitive deficits and potentially even to the development of dementia. This project tests whether sleep slow waves can be increased through auditory closed-loop stimulation in individuals at risk for dementia and if this intervention might have the potential to improve cognition.

Project related publications

  • Krone, L., Frase, L., Piosczyk, H., Selhausen, P., Zittel, S., Jahn, F., Kuhn, M., Feige, B., Mainberger, F.,Kloppel, S., Riemann, D., Spiegelhalder, K.; Baglioni, C.; Sterr, A., Nissen, C. (2017). Top-down control of arousal and sleep: Fundamentals and clinical implications. Sleep medicine reviews, 31, 17-24.