Subsidy for developing new strategy for dementia diagnosis

Professor Serge Rombouts with co-applicants Professor Joop van Gerven and Dr John van Swieten has been awarded a subsidy by the Netherlands National Brain and Cognition Initiative. He and his research team will be using a newly developed FMRI technique to develop early markers of dementia.

Neuroscience-based focus

Rombouts, Professor of Methods of Cognitive Neuroimaging at Leiden’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Studies, was given this award, amounting to 250,000 euro for the strong neuroscience-based focus of his proposal. His research aims to identify new opportunities to develop sensitive early markers of dementia.


How neurons communicate

Building on previous studies that have provided valuable knowledge about brain dysfunction in dementia, Rombouts’ research proposal offers an alternative approach that is not based on how patients try to understand and execute a certain assignment, but rather on how their neurons communicate irrespective of a task.

Targeted drug treatments

This approach will initially be used to study different dementia syndromes. In time, pharmacological MRIs could lead to novel diagnostic tools in individual patients, with the potential to offer suggestions for targeted drug treatment strategies to correct the disturbances observed in the brain of patients.

Implications for dementia research

The researchers have recently successfully developed a new technique, known as pharmacological RS-FMRI (Ph-RS-FMRI or pharmacological resting stage FMRI). Using this technique they have demonstrated specific drug-induced changes in brain connectivity in healthy volunteers. These findings in the brain were associated with changes in cognition due to manipulation by different medications. The Ph-RS-FMRI technique may therefore have important implications for dementia research.


Highly sensitive technique

This highly sensitive technique has the potential to detect changes in the brain in dementia before atrophy can be observed on MRI, or perhaps even before these changes affect brain function or show up on task-related FMRI studies.

New strategy for dementia diagnosis

This may be the start of the development of a new strategy for dementia diagnosis. The successful completion of these studies may have significant impact on other research projects, both inside and outside this Innovative Programme. This project will be a collaboration between the departments of psychology (FSW), radiology, neurology, gerontology (all LUMC), the Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR) in Leiden, University of Oxford, FC Donders Centre for cognitive neuroimaging in Nijmegen, and the neurology department of the EMC in Rotterdam. The project will also receive support of 100,000 euro from the Centre for Human Drug Research in the form of staff, expertise and methods. 

Links

Personal page Serge Rombouts

News article: Functional networks in healthy and sick brains

Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition

(4 February 2011 / Marilyn Hedges)

Last Modified: 20-01-2012