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Structural and Functional Plasticity of the Nervous System

Group leader Prof. Paul Lucassen

Our group tries to understand how the brain adapts to a changing, or challenging, environment. We study changes in brain plasticity at the molecular level, structural, functional and behavioral level and want to understand how they are modified by lifestyle factors, like (early life) stress, nutrition, inflammation, physical exercise, psychoactive drugs, and changed in brain and metabolic disorders.

Of the various forms of plasticity, one unique form, and key interest in the group, is called ‘adult neurogenesis’, which refers to the birth of new neurons in an adult brain. We aim to comprehend;

  • how neurogenesis supports adult brain functions
  • how structural and functional plasticity are ‘programmed’ by early life stress
  • how neurogenesis is involved in concepts like resilience to disease, and in brain disorders, like epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, major depression, PTSD and Alzheimer’s disease.

We focus on the hippocampus, amygdala, prefrontal cortex and hypothalamus, as these brain regions are not only involved in cognition, stress regulation and homeostasis, but also often affected in conditions of hormonal dysregulation, behavioral adaptation and diseases affecting our body and brain.

With our research, we hope to provide more insight in how plasticity is linked to brain function and disease and how plasticity can e.g. be recruited to promote resilience and/or used in possible future therapeutic approaches.

Group photo SFPNS
SFPNS at-a-distance 2020 group photo

Current sponsors

  • NWO-Food & Cognition
  • NWO Top
  • Alzheimer Nederland
  • Amsterdam Brain & Cognition (ABC)
  • Amsterdam Neuroscience
  • EU Joint Program Inititiave JPI - D-CogPlast program
  • EU-ERA-Net Neuron ReactNSC program
  • Center for Urban Mental Health (UMH)
  • Amsterdam Brain & Mind Program (ABMP)
  • Danone/Nutricia
  • Science Foundation Ireland
  • Dr. J.L. Dobberke Foundation

Past sponsors

  • Corcept Inc
  • Internationale Stichting Alzheimer Onderzoek (ISAO)
  • KNAW Chinese Exchange program
  • EU Marie Curie NEURAD program
  • EU ERA-NET PrioMedChild program
  • NWO Vidi program
  • NWO Meervoud
  • TNO
  • International Parkinson Fonds
  • HersenStichting Nederland