TN currently comprises two main research lines:
1. Motor control and movement disorders
Within research line 1 several studies investigate motor-related interaction between brain areas such as the parietal, premotor and prefrontal cortical regions in healthy participants. This provides information on how visuomotor functions are embedded in motor circuitry, ranging from basic sensorimotor transformations to free-choice selection. Neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI, fNIRS or PET are employed in these studies. In conjunction with studies on the motor system at whole brain level, behavioral aspects of normal and supranormal motor performance across the life span are also studied using kinematic and muscle measures in controlled and real-life circumstances, and also in virtual reality. The resulting insights into normal cerebral motor control, peripheral aspects of motor functioning, gait, and balance, are applied in studies of patients with movement disorders or motor problems, such as Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, ataxia, tremor, and limb amputees. This allows researchers to extend their understanding of neuropathophysiology and neuroplasticity and aims at providing clinicians with possible targets for treatment. Genetic studies to identify causative genes of rare motor disorders such as dystonia and ataxia are also performed in the context of the program. Technical applications (sensors, computer models and algorithms) to quantify symptoms of movement disorders such as tremor, ataxia or bradykinesia are being developed.
A major part of this research line is related to clinical activities. A nationally recognized Center of Expertise on Rare Movement Disorders at the UMCG provides the clinical inspiration as well as the patients to which the research relates. Research on Parkinson’s disease is strongly linked to busy clinical activities. The clinical Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) program for Parkinson’s disease provides regional services; research on the effects of DBS on dystonia is expanding.
2. Neurological damage: long-term outcome and its determinants
After initial diagnosis and treatment of neurological disease, the long-term neurological and cognitive outcome becomes increasingly important, particularly from the point of view of healthy ageing. Long-term effects of neurological diseases such as traumatic brain injury, cerebrovascular accidents, epilepsy and in particular juvenile epilepsy, preterm birth-related neurological deficits (e.g. cerebral palsy), and the treatment of these conditions have major personal and societal impact. Researchers in TN study such determinants of outcome, with the ultimate aim to improve quality of life. Clinical studies are performed in neonatal, juvenile and elderly patients with (acute) neurological damage, to evaluate long-term outcome and to determine predictors for outcome. Employing this knowledge randomized controlled intervention studies are set up to find out how to optimize both short- and long-term outcome. Studies use imaging methods, neurophysiology, clinimetric measurements of typical and pathological neurological functioning, longitudinal and long-term follow-up observational studies and intervention trials. Again, strong clinical ties enable such studies to be integrated into an extensive stroke service and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) program. Within this research line, age-related cognitive alterations, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are also studied. Predictors for long-term outcome for these highly prevalent and feared ‘ageing brain’ conditions are of particular clinical interest. Within the Alzheimer Research Center (ARC) Groningen, several Alzheimer-related research activities are brought together and focused on both preclinical as well as clinical research topics.
The research interests expressed in TN are: motor control and movement disorders, abnormal neurological development, MCI and dementia, acute neurological damage and neuroimaging.