Research Groups

Group Ćurčić-Blake

My group has a specific interest in brain connectivity. I focus on healthy brain connectivity, how it is altered in several patient groups, and whether it can be affected by neuromodulation techniques. My background in experimental physics supports application of various experimental techniques and data analysis techniques to answer research questions in the best possible way.

 

  • Mild Cognitive Impairment
  • tACS in Multiple Sclerose
  • NIRS
  • Hallucinations
  • Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

    Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementias. MCI is characterized by changes in cortical neural networks related to decline in executive functioning (EF). EF refers to the set of cognitive functions involved in controlling or guiding behaviour, such as attention, working memory, planning ability or inhibition. Finding an effective and patient-friendly treatment for cognitive impairment is important for MCI patients as it may improve quality of life on the short term and may postpone conversion to dementia on the long term.

    Transcranial alternating electrical current brain stimulation (tACS) is a novel application of transcranial stimulation that may provide such a treatment. Given the deficiencies in low frequency brain oscillations in MCI, it is very appealing that tACS can directly target relevant oscillations by the application of a weak alternating current to specific parts of the brain.

    In this project we are applying synchronous tACS in the theta range in 90 patients with MCI. We aim to increase fronto-parietal brain synchronization and improve EF of MCI patients, potentially delaying conversion to dementia.

    This project is funded by ZonMW Memorable grant Project number 733050836.

  • Improving cognitive performance in MS by transcranial alternating current brain stimulation (tACS); proof of concept.

    Mild to severe cognitive impairment in multiple sclerosis (MS) is widespread (45-70 %) and highly detrimental to quality of life. Minimizing cognitive decline, which is due to the deterioration of brain connections involved in cognitive processing, will thus be of great benefit.

    In this project we investigate the practical application of tACS to MS patients and the optimal way to deliver it. This clinical pilot study is the first step towards a large multicenter trial, focused on clinical efficacy and underlying mechanisms. 25 MS patients with cognitive impairment are receiving tACS treatment. We include EEG, MRI and neuropsychological measurements (such as Vienna Reaction Time Task).

    We hypothesize that enhancing brain oscillations using tACS will improve cognitive functioning in MS patients, thereby improving their quality of life and delaying the progression of cognitive decline.

    The study is funded by the Dutch MS Research Foundation, Project number 16 – 949 MS.

  • Brain stimulation and NIRS

    Our background in experimental physics allows us to swiftly create, modify and apply non-invasive brain stimulation techniques as well as specific measurement techniques (near infrared spectroscopy –NIRS). Towards this goal we are actively involved in several ongoing projects. These include rTMS in combination with NIRS (apathy ERC study coordinated by prof. André Aleman), dual microTMS (weak magnetic brain stimulation), and tACS and EEG in patients with MS. In addition, in the context of the UMCG theme “Healthy aging”.

  • We are investigating brain connectivity associated with hallucinations. Previously we investigated anatomical connections (Ćurčić-Blake et al 2013) and specific causal differences in the brain connectivity (Ćurčić-Blake et al 2012) of patients with hallucinations and how connectivity changes during hallucination. This was accompanied by changes of levels of glutamate in white matter tracts (Ćurčić-Blake et al 2017). These findings will enable better focus of treatment trials including specific non-invasive electromagnetic stimulation.

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