In order to support young researchers in the field of dementia research in Germany, the Frankfurt-based Hans and Ilse Breuer Foundation has awarded up to three doctoral scholarships per year since 2006.
Funding is provided for doctoral projects that are carried out at one of the ten DZNE sites and that are dedicated to researching, alleviating and curing Alzheimer's disease or similar diseases of old age. Possible topics include fundamental research, clinical research, and health care research, including the development of innovative health care concepts. In special exceptional cases, applications from applicants outside the DZNE can also be considered, for example if their institution cooperates closely with the DZNE.
The Foundation has followed the recommendation of the Scientific Advisory Board, which includes renowned fundamental researchers, health care researchers and scientists working in industry, and has awarded the 2024 doctoral fellowships to:
- Philip Bahrd, RG Aging, Cognition & Technology (Prof. Thomas Wolbers). He will focus on the contribution of grid cells to above-average and pathological ageing. Grid cells are central components of the human navigation system. A decline of navigational abilities is often seen in older adults and in people with dementia. Bahrd's dissertation will primarily investigate the role of grid cells to the maintenance of navigation abilities and episodic memory in old age, i.e. memory for events that contain object-related ("what"), spatial ("where") and temporal ("when") components, and the neuronal mechanisms behind the dysfunction of these neurons in Alzheimer's disease. In his project, he will use virtual reality (VR glasses), model-based functional magnetic resonance imaging and a newly developed computational framework.
- Hüseyin Berkcan Isilgan, RG Cell Biology of Neurodegeneration (Prof. Dieter Edbauer). Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD) are two distinct but interrelated neurodegenerative diseases that share common features: Both diseases involve progressive degeneration of nerve cells, with the focus in ALS being on the motor neurons. Although most cases are sporadic and the aetiology is unclear, genetic predisposition continues to play an important role. Therefore, during his doctorate, Isilgan would like to investigate the complicated functional interaction between ALS and FTD genes in the laboratory in order to uncover new signaling pathways and molecular nodes. The aim of the project is to understand the molecular mechanisms of genetic ALS and possibly uncover disease mechanisms that are also relevant for sporadic ALS.
- Felix Wittmann, Institute of Social Medicine, Occupational Medicine and Public Health at the University of Leipzig Medical Center (Prof. Steffi G. Riedel-Heller), in collaboration with RG Interventional Health Care Research (Prof. René Thyrian). A promising approach of socio-medical research to reduce the risk of developing dementia is to investigate and modify risk factors. Previous research on individual risk factors for dementia provides evidence that migration experiences could be relevant in this context: for example, psychological stress as a result of migration, flight and/or discrimination experiences, inequality in access to healthcare and differences in the needs of dementia patients with a migration background in terms of care. In his dissertation, Wittmann wants to pursue the overarching goal of both better understanding risk factors in people with a migration background and creating the basis for making dementia prevention more targeted and accessible for this group of people in the future.
The scholarship holders are funded with EUR 2,300 per month for 36 months and also receive an annual lump sum of EUR 1,000, which can be used for books, conference and travel expenses.
About the Hans und Ilse Breuer-Foundation: Since its establishment in 2000, the Hans and Ilse Breuer Foundation, which was named "Foundation of the Year 2016" by the state of Hesse, has made it its mission to decisively improve the living situation of people with dementia and their relatives. The non-profit organization, based in Frankfurt am Main, pursues two goals: Help and research promotion – with its commitment to helping those affected and promoting basic scientific research into Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases.