Andreas Lüthi receives SNSF Advanced Grant

Prof. Andreas Lüthi, recipient of an SNSF Advanced Grant
Prof. Andreas Lüthi, recipient of an SNSF Advanced Grant

Andreas Lüthi has been awarded a highly endowed Advanced Grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). This new transitional grant scheme is aimed at researchers who intended to apply for an ERC grant. Lüthi’s project addresses the fundamental question how the brain controls emotional states.

About the SNSF Advanced Grants Following Switzerland’s non-association to Horizon Europe in 2021, the SNSF has launched the transitional funding scheme ’SNSF Advanced Grants’ on behalf of the Swiss Federal Council. It is aimed at researchers in Switzerland who intended to apply for an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council (ERC), who thus have an innovative, high-risk research project and are recognized leaders in their fields with a track record of outstanding research. The criteria for application, the evaluation and the amount of money awarded is comparable with ERC grants.

In response to last year’s call for SNSF Advanced Grants, 232 researchers submitted applications. 24 of these projects were awarded the grant, totaling 50 million Swiss francs in funding. Andreas Lüthi , who is research group leader at the FMI and Professor at the University of Basel, is among them. His project entitled "Brain mechanisms for emotional states" will be funded with around two million Swiss francs over the next five years.

About Lüthi’s project The aim of the project is to elucidate the general neurobiological principles underlying the generation of emotional states across several types of behaviors. The project will focus on the amygdala, a tiny almond-shape structure that is highly connected and is known as a key hub for processing emotional, metabolic and social stimuli.

The emotional state of an animal is defined by internal variables such as the need to feed, survive or reproduce as well as by external stimuli and past experiences. It is the emotional state that will dictate the animal’s behavior, for example look for food or freeze in fear. Although it is understood that the emotional state of an animal is a function of the brain network configuration, it remains largely unknown how the corresponding brain-wide configurations are generated and how they define emotional states and behavior.

The project will also investigate how the general principles identified are implemented at the cellular and circuit level, and address how the amygdala interacts with other brain areas within larger, brain-wide networks to ultimately control internal states and behavior.

Elucidating the basic neural mechanisms underlying state-dependent regulation of behavior will form the basis for the development of new concepts for the treatment of psychiatric disorders including mood and anxiety disorders.