Professor Anna Wirz Justice


Research interests include human chronobiology and sleep regulation and light therapy for the treatment of depressive illness. In 2002 Anna was a consultant to Philippe Rahm and Jean-Gilles Décosterd in creating their light room in the Swiss Pavillion at the Venice Bienniale, Physiological Architecture.

2 responses to “Professor Anna Wirz Justice

  1. Dear All

    As an expat NZer who has lived all her professional life in Switzerland, I am delighted that Philippa and Sam are dragging me back to summer down under. It’s going to be a challenge for us all to translate science into an artform of whatever shape movement and style…

    My research has focussed on circadian and seasonal rhythms and sleep-wake regulation in humans. Since I work in a psychiatric clinic, a further interest has been the relationship to clinical illness, in particular depression, and finding therapeutic applications. It is astonishing that staying awake all night can relieve the most serious depression within hours – and sleeping again often induce relapse. This suggests an intimate connection between sleep-wake and mood. We also can improve seasonal winter depression with bright light within a few days – again a non-pharmacological but biologically based treatment, that has been expanded to all kinds of depression as well as many sleep-wake cycle disorders. My third group of studies relate to melatonin, the hormone of the pineal gland, and its role as a signal of darkness and the seasons.

    I have always been interested in the two-cultures debate, and tried to organise events at the interface (e.g., a “sleep ship” anchored in the Rhine in the middle of the city, where anyone could go and have a nap nicely tucked in with hot water bottle and duvet on a deckchair; a lecture in the Basel Art Museum by the neurologist Semir Zeki, talking about different areas of the brain that create colour form movement and using examples of modern art in the collection to illustrate how we actually create sight). In the last decade I have started collaborations with artists and architects, particularly in respect to the importance of light in everyday life for wellbeing and good sleep. Andreas Horlitz ( has used our actigrams (rest-activity movement data collected over 24h for weeks and months) to create light boxes and mirrored glass structures. Philippe Rahm has created a number of “melatonin rooms” to aid relaxation as well as a bright light space at the Swiss Pavillion of the Venice Biennale for Architecture (

    Some of these can be seen on our lab website under chronobiology and art.

    I look forward to a stimulating and creative week and who knows what will come out of it!


    Anna Wirz-Justice PhD
    Professor Emeritus
    Centre for Chronobiology
    Psychiatric Hospital
    University of Basel
    Wilhelm Klein Strasse 27
    CH-4025 Basel
    Tel +41(0)61 325 5473
    Fax +41(0)61 325 55 56


    Austrasse 81
    CH-4051 Basel
    Tel/Fax +41(0)61 271 9770

  2. Brenda

    Thank you for the information. I suffer with bipolar and i find if i spend 10 minutes a day when it is sunny outside to sit in the sun without sunglasses on and let my eyes pick up the rays of sunlight . I find my mood changes. I have rapid mood swings, It swings like a watch on a chain from side to side,I was told about the sunlight from my doctor plus we need vitamin D from the sun.
    Regards Brenda

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