Faculty of Medicine


Johanna Dürmüller-Bol DBMR Research Award

Prof. Enzmann und Dr. Aimee bei der Preisübergabe
Prof. Volker Enzmann, member of the DBMR Board of Directors, with awardee Dr. Mattia Aime

Award-winning sleep research

Dr. Mattia Aime from the Department for BioMedical Research is exploring how sleep contributes to processing emotions. For his project «REM sleep and emotions: the missing link for a better life quality» he was awarded the Johanna Dürmüller-Bol DBMR Research Award 2023 at the Day of BioMedical Research on July 5.

We experience many different emotions in everyday life. They help us to respond appropriately to experiences and situations. During sleep, our brain processes our emotions. Among other things, this serves to prevent traumatic memories from becoming entrenched in the brain and affecting our mental health, for example, by causing us to feel excessive anxiety even in safe situations.

The sorting process preferably occurs during REM sleep, the sleep state in which we dream and our brain is very active. But of all places, the frontal cortex, a brain region that processes many emotions while awake, seems quiet during REM sleep. Dr. Mattia Aime from the Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR) has studied this paradoxical phenomenon in mice He has made highly interesting discoveries and would like to deepen them in a follow-up study. His project plan is convincing and can be implemented: Aime was awarded the Johanna Dürmüller-Bol DBMR Research Award 2023, endowed with CHF 30,000.

Switching mechanism to prevent «emotional overload»

In a widely acclaimed earlier study, Aime measured activity in the components of nerve cells in the brain to determine how emotional memories are processed during REM sleep. He discovered an amazing adaptability of nerve cells. During wakefulness, different parts of the nerve cells are active than during REM sleep. This switching helps the brain distinguish between danger and safety and not overreact to intense emotions such as danger.

According to Aime, this balanced system is crucial for our mental well-being. If it is disturbed, this could lead to a pathological condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder. So the awardee's studies not only provide a better understanding of how emotions are processed during sleep. They also open up new perspectives for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Interview with the awardee:

An interview with Dr. Mattia Aime was published in the online magazine uniAKTUELL at the beginning of the year.

The Awardee

Dr. Mattia Aime

Dr. Mattia Aime

Mattia Aime is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department for BioMedical Research (DBMR), Center for Experimental Neurology, University of Bern and University Hospital of Neurology, Inselspital Bern.