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Brain Plasticity Group

Group leader Prof. Paul Lucassen
Structural and Functional Plasticity of the Nervous System
Group photo Brain Plasticity Group
Group photo Brain Plasticity Group

We approach plasticity from a molecular, structural, functional and behavioral level and aim to understand; 

  • - how plasticity is modified by lifestyle factors, including (early life) stress, nutrition, inflammation, physical exercise, enriched environment and psychoactive drugs, and; 
  • - how plasticity is changed in metabolic and brain disorders like depression and dementia. 
  • One unique form of plasticity, and key interest in the group, is ‘adult neurogenesis’, which refers to stem cells that continue to produce new neurons in the adult brain. 

In our research, we aim to comprehend; 

  • -how neurogenesis supports adult brain functions like cognition. 
  • -how structural and functional plasticity is ‘programmed’ for life, by stress and nutrition during the early life period
  • -how plasticity and cognition is modified by adult stress, exercise and enrichment.  
  • -how (changes in) plasticity is involved in 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. 

The Brain Plasticity group is well embedded in local programs such as the Center for Urban Mental Health (https://www.centreforurbanmentalhealth.com ), Amsterdam Brain & Cognition (https://abc.uva.nl ), Healthy Future (https://www.uva.nl/en/about-the-uva/about-the-university/strategy/theme-based-collaboration/healthy-future.html) and organizations like Amsterdam Neuroscience (https://www.amsterdamumc.org/en/research/institutes/amsterdam-neuroscience.htm) and the graduate school Neurosciences Amsterdam & Rotterdam (ONWAR) (http://www.onwar.nl/).  

Also, we are part of national consortia on Alzheimer’s disease (Memorabel MODEM, Alzheimer Nederland), ME/Chronic Fatigue syndrome, CTE/TBI and Huntington’s disease, as well as of international ones on neurogenesis (EUROGENESIS, Science Foundation Ireland), cognition, nutrition and brain disease (JPI-D-CogPlast, ERA-Net Neuron ReactNSC, EU-Horizon Happy Mums, EU-JPND) and we hold board functions in societies like the ISNPR, the Alba Network, FENS (https://www.fens.org ), EBBS ( https://www.ebbs-science.org ) and ECNP ( https://www.ecnp.eu ).     

We hope our research will help provide more insight in how plasticity is linked to brain function and disease, and how plasticity can be utilized or e.g. recruited to promote resilience to disease and as such, used in possible future therapeutic approaches

Our group is fully named 'Structural and Functional Plasticity of the Nervous System', in short termed as Brain Plasticity Group. 

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