Impact Department of Cognitive Neuropsychology
The Department of Cognitive Neuropsychology involves three themes: Clinical Neuropsychology, Cognitive Neuropsychology and Cognitive Enhancement & Prevention.
Within these themes, several research projects add to assimilation of knowledge and tools in society and work on diverse individual and societal challenges in order to advance society.
Cognitive Enhancement & Prevention
For example within the theme Cognitive Enhancement & Prevention, some studies aim to gain more insight into the impact of digital technologies on well-being and everyday cognitive functioning. The goal is to stimulate the development of total package of digital skills of people to help them participate optimally in the digital society and make autonomous choices that are good for them in the long term. In another project, we aim to ensure that all 170,000 children annually born start school at the right language level. The goal is that all parents know that talking and interacting with their children is a prerequisite for the (brain) development of their children. Another project is aimed at breaking the vicious circle of generational poverty based on neuropsychological insights. In a newly developed approach, we try to strengthen the socio-economic and cognitive fitness of families, in order to give them back control over their future and the future of their children.
In this theme there is a focus on patients with conditions that affect the brain. We hope to discover which brain structures are indispensable and which are not, for example to optimize resection of brain tumours without harming structures important for daily cognitive functioning. In a multicenter project, we apply deep learning techniques to extract relevant information from privacy-sensitive medical imaging data, including brain scans, which are dispersed across hospitals. This technology will support radiologists, oncologists, general practitioners and other treating physicians in extracting relevant information from (longitudinal) image sets of an individual patient. Additionally, technology developed in this project will have a contribution for all cancer types and all phases of the care path. For care organizations, this has many opportunities to improve care processes such as through automation. For the individual patient, this has opportunities like finding a “patient like me”, to improve shared decision making and survivorship.
We also develop clinical tools that will provide personalized information on the effects of brain tumor removal on higher cognitive functioning. This tool can be used to discuss possible cognitive risks of surgery and to set safe boundaries during the operation. As such, it will add to existing knowledge to find a more personal balance between maximization of oncological outcome and optimization of personal goals and quality of life. We also focus on fatigue profiles in which the complex nature of the symptom and individual differences and are taken into account. This is an essential step towards the personalization of care. We have also developed an evidence-based eHealth cognitive rehabilitation program ‘ReMind’. A care pathway for the use of the ReMind iPad app in clinical practice was designed with input from patients, carers and clinicians. Next steps are to include ReMind in brain tumor treatment guidelines and healthcare contracts, and to develop a platform-independent program of ReMind and a French version. In the meantime, research on the English version of ReMind, together with the University of California San Francisco is ongoing. By making it available as part of reimbursed regular care we aim to help (brain) cancer patients overcome cognitive difficulties in everyday activities at home and at work.
We also try to make an impact on society by adopting a lifespan approach. The mother-infant relationship is foundational for children’s (brain) development. We aim to elucidate how maternal prenatal anxiety may negatively affect this relationship and leave long-lasting neurological traces on mothers and infants. This knowledge may lead to interventions to get mothers and infants back on the same wavelength, helping children get the best start possible. Other projects are aimed at supporting patients with dementia and their caregivers. Our society is aging and with that, cases of dementia are rising. In order to diagnose dementia at a point when we can still do something for the patient, we try to develop personalized tests that are sensitive to the earliest cognitive changes.
Within this theme we focus for example on advancing scientific knowledge and theories about human brain processes that are at play during perception of (basic components of) spoken language. We also examine the neural mechanisms of sensory anticipation in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) which may provide an objective biomarker that might potentially serve as a diagnostic tool for ASD. In addition, the results of our research may provide an impetus for development of clinical applications to improve sensory processing and social functioning in ASD, which, ultimately, may significantly improve the quality of life in individuals with ASD.