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ABC Projects and Talents

ABC - Amsterdam Brain and Cognition

This page gives an overview of recent proposals that have been awarded the ABC Talent Grant or ABC Project Grant. Each project is listed with an abstract, to give you an insight into ongoing research financed by ABC grants.

ABC Talent Grants

  • Across Diagnostic Boundaries: Investigating shared and specific biopsychosocial factors in common psychiatric disorders

    PI-1

    Mirjam van Zuiden

    Amsterdam UMC, AMC, Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam Public Health, Dept. of Psychiatry

    PI-2

    Anja Lok

    Amsterdam UMC, AMC, Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam Public Health, Dept. of Psychiatry

    Talent

    Laura Nawijn

    Amsterdam UMC, AMC and VUmc, Amsterdam Neuroscience, Amsterdam Public Health, Dept. of Psychiatry

    ABC Talent Grant, April 2020

    Why do common psychiatric disorders, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse, often co-occur? They show partial overlap of genetic, psychosocial risk-factors and biological dysregulations, suggesting both shared and unique etiology. Nawijn is interested in elucidating these shared and specific etiological factors, to better understand heterogeneity and commonalities across psychiatric disorders.

    The ABC Talent project will be performed within the HELIUS cohort. State-of-the-art computational modeling will be used across diagnostic boundaries and bridging biological, psychological and social domains to map shared and specific contributing factors across disorders.

    With the ABC Talent Grant Nawijn will develop a theoretical and methodological framework, and aims to procure external funding to extend the current project to longitudinal models.

     

  • The promises and perils of a ‘digital detox’: An integrated investigation of the role of craving, habits and corticostriatal pathways

    PI-1

    Dr. Sanne de Wit

    UvA | FMG, Clinical Psychology

    Talent

    Dr. Tim van Timmeren

    UvA | FMG, Clinical Psychology

    ABC Talent Grant, April 2020

    Many young adults spend 3-5 hours daily on social media and some indicate that they feel ‘addicted’, pointing to an emerging public health problem. The idea of a “digital detox” to regain control over social media use has become increasingly popular. However, the effectiveness of detox-interventions remains controversial. The promise of a detox is that it helps to break the habit, but the peril is that it could ultimately lead to intensified use as a consequence of “incubation of craving”. In this ABC Talent project, we aim to elucidate the effects of a digital detox on social media use, and the underlying mechanisms of habit and craving. During and following a detox intervention, we will apply Ecological Momentary Assessment of self-reported craving and automaticity and relate this to duration and frequency of social media use. Additionally, we will conduct an fMRI investigation of the mechanisms underlying a digital detox.

     

  • Shared decision-making model for managing cavernous malformations in the brain

    ABC Talent: Susanna Zuurbier, Amsterdam University Medical Center

    ABC Talent Grant, September 2019

    A cerebral cavernous malformation is a vascular abnormality in the brain and imposes doctors and patients with a dilemma on whether to intervene or not: without intervention, around 4-30% of symptomatic cerebral cavernous malformations lead to sudden bleedings in the brain, causing death or severe handicap in over 20% of patients. Neurosurgery can prevent brain hemorrhage, but may also permanently damage the brain tissue.

    Many patients perceive a cerebral cavernous malformation as an abnormality in their brain that they cannot control, which reduces their quality of life. Risk severity perception depends on perceived personal control on that risk, which in turn affects psychological and physical well-being.

    In the absence of clear guidelines based on randomized clinical trials, decision-making is mainly opinion- instead of evidence-based. The goal of my research is to develop a decision model to guide interventions based on new predictors of bleeding of cerebral cavernous malformations and quality of life.

    The project for managing cavernous malformations in the brain calls for an interdisciplinary collaboration. I will work together with experts in the field of neurology (prof. dr. Y.B.W.E.M. Roos, Amsterdam UMC), social and behavioral sciences (prof. dr. F. van Harreveld (UvA)) and biomedical engineering & physics (assistant prof. dr. M.W.A. Caan).  

  • Neural mechanisms of self-conscious emotions in socially anxious adolescents

    ABC Talent: Milica Nikolić, University of Amsterdam, Research Institute of Child Development and Education

    ABC Talent Grant, September 2019

    Self-conscious emotions, such as embarrassment and shame, are powerful forces that facilitate social affiliation but dysregulation in self-conscious emotions can significantly impair social functioning. In particular, excessive embarrassment and shame and related blushing responses are hallmark features of social anxiety disorder (SAD), a common mental disorder that starts in adolescence. Little is known about how self-conscious emotions, such as embarrassment and its related blushing response, are generated.

    Morever, whether feeling oneself blush triggers more embarrassment via biased interoception and mentalizing about what others think of us—the process thought to underlie SAD— has never been explored. The aim of this project is to shed light on the neural underpinnings of embarrassment including blushing, its self-perception, and related mentalizing in adolescents with high and low levels of social anxiety. Two groups of 30 adolescents with high and low levels of SAD symptoms will sing a song on stage while being video-recorded.

    Afterwards, we will play the video of their performance vs. that of another participant to them while measuring their brain activity and blushing in the fMRI scanner. By comparing viewing self vs. other across the high vs. low socially anxious groups, we can, for the first time, identify the neural correlates of blushing and thereby establish how the occurrence and duration of blushing is linked to interoceptive and mentalizing processes. Furthermore, we will establish which neural mechanisms characterize enhanced self-conscious emotions in SAD, and whether they map onto localizers for interoception and mentalizing.

    The findings will decompose the processes that may render an adaptive but transient embarrassment in healthy individuals into a debilitating vicious circle of heightened self-consciousness in socially anxious individuals.

    PI-1

    Disa Sauter

    University of Amsterdam | Department of Social Psychology

    PI-2

    Ramon Lindauer

    Amsterdam UMC | Academic Medical Center, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

     

  • Shaping identities through autobiographical memories

    ABC Talent: Isidoor Bergfeld, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Department of Psychiatry

    ABC Talent Grant, April 2019

    Autobiographical memories play an important role in forming our identities, imagining ourselves in the future and maintaining long-term goals. The less specific autobiographical memories of patients with major depression, therefore, are hypothesized to result in a failure to maintain long-term goals and, in turn, suicidality. Alternatively, reduced basic cognitive functions of depressed patients could underlie the deficiencies in autobiographical memory as well as future planning. With this ABC talent grant, we aim to see how basic cognitive functions, autobiographical memory, sense of self and future planning interact, and how these relate to psychiatric symptoms.

    PI-1

    Claudi Bockting
    Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam | Amsterdam Brain and Cognition; Amsterdam Public Health
    Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry, Institute for Advanced Study

    PI-2

    Esmée Verwijk
    University of Amsterdam; Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam | Amsterdam Brain and Cognition; Parnassia Groep.
    Department of Psychology, Brain and Cognition; Department of Medical Psychology, Neuropsychology; Amsterdam Brain and Cognition; ECT Center Haaglanden.

     

  • The role of recurrent processing in conscious perception investigated using pharmacological intervention, laminar fMRI and visual illusions

    ABC Talent: Maartje de Jong, Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging, Amsterdam

    ABC Talent Grant, April 2019

    Recurrent processing is thought to be crucial for consciousness. We will pharmacologically hamper recurrent processing (using an NMDA-blocker) and investigate the effect of this intervention on functional characteristics of visual cortex and the perception of visual illusions. Since illusions occur without stimulus-driven support, we hypothesize a reduction of illusion-strength. Furthermore, we expect modulations of population receptive fields (measured using laminar fMRI) in the deep/superficial but not the middle layers of visual cortex, considering the known involvement of deep/superficial layers in recurrent processing. By combining pharmacology with state-of-the-art neuroimaging we aim to link biochemical with system-level mechanisms underlying conscious perception.

    PI-1

    Simon van Gaal, UvA | Department of Psychology, Brain and Cognition

    PI-2

    Anouk Schrantee, Amsterdam University Medical Centre, UvA | Radiology and Nuclear Medicine

     

ABC Project Grants

  • Who’s got rhythm? How temporal expectations shape musical experience in the human brain

    PI-1

    Henkjan Honing, UvA, FGw & FNWI, (ILLC)

    PI-2

    Pierre-Louis Bazin, UvA, FMG, Psychology

    Post-doc

    Fleur L. Bouwer-Odijk

    ABC Project Grant 2020

    To optimize processing in our dynamic environment, the brain continuously tries to predict the timing of upcoming events. In musical rhythm, temporal expectations are ubiquitous, and crucial to our ability to synchronize to music, affecting perception, motor behaviour, as well as emotion. Thus, musical rhythm is exceptionally well suited to study temporal expectations. Previously, temporal expectations were often studied in the context of a regular, periodic, beat (“beat-based expectations”). However, humans can also form expectations based on a predictable but irregular pattern (“memory-based expectations”). It is unclear whether beatbased and memory-based expectations rely on shared or separate neural and computational mechanisms. Also, recently it was suggested that individuals may differ in their reliance on beat-based or memory-based expectations.  

    In this project, first, we will compare two classes of computational models that have been used to explain temporal expectations: entrainment models, based on coupled oscillators, and probabilistic models. Specifically, we will test whether these models underlie beat-based and memory-based expectations respectively, and whether we can use the models to explain why some people rely more on the beat, and others more on the rhythmic pattern when forming temporal expectations. In the second part of the project, we will use
    neuroimaging to study the neural networks underlying temporal expectations, using the same models. 

    Together, these studies will provide insight in how our brain forms temporal expectations, and how this is related to the structure in the input and individual differences. This will not only improve our general knowledge of predictive processing and our understanding of the human musical mind, but also has implications for the use of rhythm-based interventions, especially in movement rehabilitation.
     

  • Fighting fear-generalization with exercise

    PI-1

    Vanessa van Ast, UvA FMG, Clinical Psychology

    PI-2

    Harm Krugers, UvA FNWI, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences

    PI-3

    Joram Mul, UvA FNWI, Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences

    Post-doc

    Wouter Cox

    ABC Project Grant 2020

    For survival, it is imperative to learn and remember which cues represent threat, and to generalize such memories to similar situations. However, fear-generalization can turn maladaptive when nonthreatening situations are inappropriately remembered as threatening, a main characteristic of patients with anxiety or stress-related disorders. Recent insight derived from basic animal studies point to physical exercise training as a novel therapeutic avenue to target the neurobiological roots of fear-generalization. But, depending on the timing of such an exercise training intervention, fear-generalization may also aggravate. The key objective of this translational ABC project is to provide a neurobiological account of how exercise training affects fear-generalization, and how this can promote prevention or aggravation of developing anxiety- and stress-related symptoms.

  • What colour are your i's? Synesthesia as a window into cross-language letter representations

    PI-1

    Romke Rouw, FMG, Psychology, Brain and Cognition

    PI-2

    Willem Zuidema , FNWI, Cognition, Language & Computation lab, ILLC

    PI-3

    Richard Ridderinkhof, FMG, Developmental Psychology/Brain and Cognition

    Postdoc:

    Nicholas Root, Psychology, University of California, San Diego

    ABC Project Grant 2019

    The seemingly-simple question "How are letters represented in the brain?" is complicated by the fact that different languages have different representational systems (e.g., alphabets), and that many different linguistic properties plausibly influence letter representations.

    We study grapheme-colour synesthesia, where normal (healthy) individuals have consistent color sensations with letters (“R is sky-blue”). Remarkably, the linguistic properties of each letter (e.g., orthographic, phonetic) act as regulatory factors (RFs): they influence the synesthetic letter-to-colour pairings. These RFs similarly influence non-synesthetes requested to choose colors for letters. In this project, we employ synesthetic colours as a means for cross-language comparisons of letter representations.

    We will create a large multi-language letter-to-colour database, a computational model predicting letter-to-colour associations using the (weighted) regulatory factors, and a neurological model explaining how linguistic properties shape letter representations in the brain. Finally, a spinoff project pilots the computational model as innovative approach to second-language learning.

  • Sleep-related memory reactivation: a conscious process?

    PI-1

    Lucia Talamini, Psychology, FMG, UvA

    PI-2

    Umberto Olcese, SILS, FNWI, UvA

    Post-doc

    Elsa Juan, Wisconsin Institute for Sleep and Consciousness, Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    ABC Project Grant 2019

    Sleep promotes memory consolidation through specific neural mechanisms. Recent data suggest that memory consolidation can be externally enhanced both by boosting slow oscillations and by presenting memory cues during sleep. While consciousness during sleep – dreaming – has been associated with memory performance, it is unknown whether consciousness is needed to support these memory consolidation processes. Through combined assessment of neural activity, dream reports and memory performance in humans and animals, this project provides an exhaustive account of the role of dreaming in memory consolidation and its underlying neural mechanisms, and paves the way towards targeted (non)clinical interventions.