Who we are > FENS-Kavli Scholars > ANISSA KEMPF (2023)


Country of origin: France, Switzerland


Anissa completed her doctoral studies under the supervision of Martin Schwab at ETH Zurich. During her PhD, she studied why neurons of the adult mammalian central nervous system fail to regenerate after injury. Her research led to the discovery of two receptors that interact with a growth-inhibitory protein responsible for hindering neuronal growth and plasticity following injury.

After her PhD, Anissa chose to shift her research focus and joined the lab of Gero Miesenböck at the University of Oxford. During her postdoc, she applied her molecular expertise to a different problem: the control of sleep homeostasis. Surprisingly, her work uncovered that a wake-dependent, cumulative increase of reactive oxygen species in the mitochondria of sleep-promoting neurons is pivotal for this process. This unexpected finding highlighted the significance of mitochondrial metabolism in regulating sleep.

In 2021, Anissa moved to the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, where she continues her scientific pursuits as an Assistant Professor. Her current research focuses on understanding the molecular, cellular, and circuit mechanisms that underlie behaviors regulated by homeostatic mechanisms.


2021 - Present
Biozentrum, University of Basel, Switzerland
2015 - 2021
Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Oxford, United Kingdom


Ph.D: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland
2009 - 2014
Graduate Student, ETH Zurich, Switzerland


Sleep is essential, yet its function remains one of biology’s biggest mysteries. A short or poor night of sleep is usually followed by longer and/or deeper periods of sleep. The existence of such a compensatory mechanism suggests that our brain can monitor the amount of waking time and trigger corrective action if needed. The primary goal of our research is to elucidate how the build-up of sleep need is reflected in molecular changes that ultimately promote sleep. To achieve this goal, we investigate wake-dependent fluctuations in different types of molecular processes and ask how they modulate the activity of neuronal sleep-wake regulatory circuits. Hereby, we put a special focus on mitochondrial signaling.

To address these questions, we use the fruit fly as model organism. Its small brain and rich genetic toolbox offer unparalleled means to identify, visualise and manipulate molecular pathways and neuronal activity at the level of single neurons. We combine genetics, electrophysiology, functional imaging, thermo- and optogenetics with quantitative behavioural approaches to gain a mechanistic understanding of how sleep drive is encoded in the brain. Starting by studying sleep drive, we aim to uncover general mechanisms that the brain uses to keep track of, and to satisfy other essential needs.