Research theme: Neuromodulation
Neuromodulation is applied both in research and in clinical settings. It provides a better understanding of brain function in both health and disease. At the same time, targets for improving brain and nerve function are determined, validated and implemented for therapeutic use. Moreover, we study the mechanisms behind the (side) effects of neuromodulation.
In this research theme, we use a broad methodology to modulate the brain or specific neural cell types. Neuromodulation is not limited to the application of electrical stimuli, including deep brain stimulation (DBS) and repetitive magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Also innovative research tools such as optogenetics, DREADD (Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs) and the use of magneto-thermal and magneto-electric particles are applied. Moreover, neuro-feedback training, pharmacotherapy and biologicals can also achieve modulation of the brain.
The research mainly focuses on restoring aberrant neuronal activity in the diseased brain, thereby improving brain function. The ultimate goal of neuromodulation is the application of techniques, tools or drugs in patients suffering from neurological and psychiatric disorders.
Fundamental neuromodulation research focuses on investigating the mechanisms behind the effects and side effects of neuromodulation therapies using experimental animal models and neuronal cell cultures. Moreover, the aim is to develop novel neuromodulation approaches, as well as modifying and optimizing the effectiveness of existing neuromodulative modalities. Special attention is on the development of non-invasive modulative tools using nanotechnology.
Clinical neuromodulation has the focus to make progress in neuromodulative treatments in neurological and psychiatric disorders. Several lines of investigation are conducted:
- Novel neuromodulative modalities are tested in early phases of development.
- New applications are investigated.
- Optimization of neuromodulative paradigms is investigated, as well as optimization of the brain target using ultrahigh field MR imaging and electrophysiological techniques.
- Novel neuromodulative paradigms are developed, like adaptive or closed loop DBS, or new paradigms for brain computer interfacing using invasively recorded brain signals.
Research and Impact
Clinical problems are translated into basic research questions. The insights obtained from fundamental research are again applied in humans to optimize the well-being of patients suffering from brain disorders.
A diverse group of patients suffering from a disorder involving the nervous system may possibly benefit, especially patients suffering from neurodegenerative disorders, epilepsy, pain or psychiatric disease. Representatives from patient organizations are generally asked to discuss their needs in the design and execution of our research.