Cognitive neuropsychiatry is a theory-driven approach to investigating psychiatric symptoms and cognitive impairments at the crossroads of psychiatry, cognitive psychology and neuroscience. Methods used are neuroimaging, computer-based cognitive tasks and psychiatric or psychological interviews or questionnaires.
Research at the section of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry focuses on three lines of investigation: psychiatric symptoms and vulnerability, with a focus on cognitive-emotional interactions; cognitive aging, with a focus on mild cognitive impairment; treatment and prevention, with a focus on non-invasive neurostimulation.
Professor Cognitive Neuropsychiatry, Head of the Section Cognitive Neuroscience Center
A major focus of research concerns the cognitive and neural basis of apathy. Patients with psychiatric disorders frequently experience markedly reduced levels of interest and a lack of initiative in daily activities, i.e. apathy. Understanding apathy contributes critically to the welfare of patients because the disease has important implications for their (social) function.
We study the neural and cognitive basis of apathy, in order to elucidate brain circuits that may be compromised. Specifically, the involvement of frontostriatal and frontoparietal circuits, with their putatively differential role in apathy, are investigated. In addition, we investigate experimental treatments, such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (TDCS) and behavioral activation therapy.
Another important focus is the neural basis of course prediction in major depressive disorder. The effects of preventive cognitive therapy in remitted depression are studied to understand the neurocognitive mechanisms underlying relapse and relapse prevention in major depressive disorder.
Finally, we conduct research on the neural basis of suicidality. Suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in Europe. In the Netherlands, each year approximately 25.000 people need medical care after a suicide attempt. We are studying cognitive-emotional processes that may be distorted in people with suicidal tendencies. This research can potentially inform the development of new treatments.
Aging is an important issue for society, and many people dread the loss of memory and other cognitive abilities. Excessive memory loss can point to early phases of dementia. We study the neural basis of mild cognitive impairment (cognitive deterioration that is not yet clinically significant) in elderly people using different neuroimaging techniques. We are particularly interested in the role of apathy as predictor for conversion to dementia. We also aim to improve cognitive functioning using neurofeedback and neurostimulation.
Psychosocial therapies, neurofeedback and neurostimulation approaches belong to the most important strategies for improving brain functioning. The neural basis of all three is investigated by researchers in our Department. Neurostimulation concerns repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) or transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS).