Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Topic: Aging and neuropsychological rehabilitation

Cognitive decline (amongst other problems with attention, concentration, memory) is a common symptom in patients with a variety of brain disorders and has been related to healthy ageing as well. People suffering from cognitive deficits are often significantly hampered in their day-to-day functioning which in turn can lead to decreased mood and quality of life. Consequently, it is our aim to design, develop, validate and implement neuropsychological rehabilitation programs in order to increase cognitive (and brain) functioning and well-being of the elderly and people with brain disorders.

Hanneke Hulst

Description of topic

Non-pharmacological interventions, such as exercise training, mindfulness or computerized training programs have been shown to improve cognitive functioning in different clinical populations (e.g., pathological ageing, people with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, acquired brain injury) as well as healthily ageing people. Currently, the effect sizes of such interventions are only mild-to-moderate, hampering implementation in clinical care and leaving patients with limited options to improve their day-to-day functioning. Several methodological problems need to be tackled, such as the often small sample sizes, the large variety and one-size-fits-all interventions, lack of ecological validity and sustainability of the intervention effects.

This topic focuses on all aspects concerned with cognitive rehabilitation in different patient populations. From the development of innovative and ecologically valid outcome measures and the creation of novel interventions towards understanding the underlying neurobiological underpinnings of the intervention effects. Our methods include state of the art brain imaging techniques such as MRI (e.g. functional connectivity, brain activation, white matter integrity). Biological outcomes (MRI, EEG, physiological measures, blood biomarkers) are studied alongside with cognitive, psychological (e.g. mood, anxiety, fatigue, self-perceived cognitive problems), and social factors (e.g. employment, social roles). With this approach we aim to bridge the gap between science and clinical practice, and as such improve clinical care.

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