By and large, my ultimate goal in the context of this tenure track trajectory will be to pinpoint neurochemical mechanistic drivers that are inseparable from particular - but most likely modifiable - nutritional habits, shortcomings or deficiencies, in age-related cognitive decline and forthcoming neurodegenerative diseases (NDD; such as Alzheimer's (AD) or Parkinson's disease (PD)), in order to:
(i) unveil novel etiological mechanisms of disease;
(ii) link accompanied behavioral and psychological signs and symptoms of dementia (BPSD);
(iii) provide corrective, potentially-preventive or relieving, and, disease-specific nutritional care.
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From 2009 until 2015, I gained experience in neurochemical and behavioral research in AD and related NDD (e.g. DLB, PD(D), FTD, ALS, Down syndrome) at the Laboratory of Neurochemistry & Behavior, University of Antwerp (Belgium). Meanwhile, I became coordinator of brain donations to the Neurobiobank of the Institute Born-Bunge (FAGG n° BB190113; Antwerp). We developed and optimized a liquid chromatography method (UHPLC-ECD) for the precise detection of 8 biogenic amines and metabolites in brain, CSF and plasma/serum samples. After my doctoral thesis concerning the neurochemical characterization of behavioral disturbances in dementia, I received the Santkin prize for Alzheimer research (2016; Royal Academy of Medicine, Belgium). Between 2015 and 2020, I became appointed as a postdoctoral guest researcher at the Dept. of Neurology of the UMCG and the Alzheimer Center Groningen (Groningen, Netherlands), and actively became involved in several imaging and bio-analytical projects on early-onset dementia (FTD, ALS) and synucleinopathies. From 2017, after acquiring various grants and a senior FWO-VITO postdoc fellowship (SAO-FRA; Alzheimer Nederland; FWO; JPND (co-applicant)), my neurochemical research line continued and became focused around noradrenergic alterations in DLB and AD patients, as well as Down syndrome subjects with(out) AD, with a special interest into a tiny blueish brainstem nucleus, i.e. the locus coeruleus.
From December 2020 onwards, I will combine my previously acquired research skills in biomarkers of NDD, neurochemistry, behavioral and clinical neurosciences with the study of nutritional alterations in dementia/cognitive decline/ageing as such, at the Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition and Health, Chair Group of Nutritional Biology.
The research I envision is about disease-specific dietary/nutritional interventions in NDD, and, primarily, its preclinical phases, that may have profound effects on the underlying pathophysiology and accompanied behavioral (BPSD), clinical and neurochemical features, with a great deal of attention to revealing causal relationships.
The role of tryptophan, the kynurenine pathway and serotonin across the microbiota-gut-brain axis in elderly at risk of cognitive deterioration and depression will be one of the current topics under investigation (SmartAge-ITN; 2020-2024; ESR10), next to the effect of a 2-year personalized multidomain lifestyle intervention approach to maintain optimal cognitive function in aging (MOCIA/FINGER-NL; 2020-2027).
https://www.uniklinikum-jena.de/etnsmartage/en/ & https://mocia.nl/