The central theme of our research is the relationship between cognition and motor activity over the lifespan, in both normal and neuropathological conditions. This central theme is incorporated into three different programs, i.e. Paediatric Neuropsychology, Neuropsychology of Neurodegeneration, and Endocrinological Neuropsychology.
The program Paediatric Neuropsychology is chaired by professor Jaap Oosterlaan and hosts two internationally acknowledged lines of research. One line focuses on disruptive behaviour disorders and ADHD in particular. The other line of research targets medical conditions affecting the central nervous system, with emphasis on the sequels of premature birth and very low birth weight (VLBW). The focus of research is on a broad array of neurocognitive functions varying from basic motor skills to higher order cognitive control processes. The research program has a strong reputation with regard to the development of sophisticated computer based paradigms. These paradigms are coupled with the use of psychophysiological measures and imaging techniques including high density EEG and MRI-based techniques including functional MRI and diffusion tensor imaging. Our research bridges fundamental research questions related to underlying disease mechanisms and clinically oriented research topics regarding treatment efficacy.
Neuropsychology of Neurodegeneration
The program Neuropsychology of Neurodegeneration is chaired by professor Erik Scherder and hosts three lines of research. One line focuses on the relationship between physical activity (e.g. walking, mastication) and behaviour (e.g. cognition) in people with dementia; the second line of research concerns the relationship between pain, physical activity, and behaviour (as described above) in people with a cognitive impairment (dementia, intellectual disability), and the third line of research focuses on brain injuries after sports (e.g. soccer) and behaviour, more specifically on ‘return to play’. Specific research questions that need to be addressed include the causality of the relationship between motor activity and cognition, between motor activity and a wide array of behavioural functions, and between motor activity and pain.
The program Endocrinological neuropsychology is chaired by professor Madeleine Drent. This research program concerns the relationship between neuropsychological functioning and normal as well as clinical endocrine fluctuations, such as the activity of the growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-I (GH/IGF-I) axis. Decline in the activity of the GH/IGF-I axis seems to play a mediating role in age-related impairment of neuropsychological functions. In collaboration with the department of Endocrinology of the VUmc (Dr. M.L. Drent) we study the relationship between age, GH/IGF-I status and neuropsychological functions in healthy subjects. Differences in neuropsychological indices and brain activation during fMRI/PET scanning are determined in subjects of different ages with high or low IGF-I status. In addition, the effects of growth hormone deficiency (GHD) and GH substitution therapy on memory performance is studied in GHD adult patients and patients with Prader-Willi syndrome and traumatic brain injury. Also, attention is directed to diabetes and the use of insulin preparations.