After successful completion of my Master's in Neurosciences at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), I subsequently focused for my doctoral thesis on the neurochemical characterization of behavioral disturbances in Alzheimer's disease, for which I received the Santkin prize for Alzheimer research in 2016 (Royal Academy of Medicine, Belgium). In addition to my postdoctoral research position at the UAntwerp between 2015-2020, I also got a guest researcher appointment at the Dept. of Neurology of the UMCG and Alzheimer Center Groningen (Netherlands), and actively became involved in various neurochemical, neuropathological and imaging research projects concerning Parkinson's, Lewy body dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and frontotemporal dementia. From 2017, after acquiring several grants (SAO; Alzheimer Nederland; FWO; JPND) and a senior FWO-VITO fellowship, my research line became centered around noradrenergic alterations in Parkinson's and Down syndrome subjects with(out) Alzheimer's, with special interest into a tiny blueish brainstem nucleus, i.e. the locus coeruleus. My overall research experience thus lies in the domain of behavioral and clinical neurosciences, and neurochemical biomarker studies in neurodegenerative disease, next to studying catecholaminergic and indolaminergic neurotransmitter alterations of noradrenalin, dopamine, and serotonin.
Starting from December 2020 onwards as a fulltime Tenure Track Assistant Professor at the Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition & Health, Chair Group of Nutritional Biology, I will combine these previously acquired research skills with the study of nutritional alterations in elderly at risk of neurodegenerative disease. As such, my research focus has now broadened to include preventative measures against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, primarily looking at diet and lifestyle, or, the microbiota-gut-brain axis. All in all, it should form an innovative blend of combined state-of-the-art clinical, neuroscientific, epidemiological, behavioral, and bioanalytical research, with a great deal of attention to unveiling causal relationships.
Apart from my position at WUR, I also am still affiliated at the UAntwerp (Faculty of Medicine), where I am involved in biomarker dementia studies. Finally, I also recently became selected as Treasurer and member of the Executive Board of the Trisomy 21 Research Society (both unsalaried positions).
On the whole, 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 - dietary habits, shortcomings or deficiencies, both in age-related cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment and forthcoming neurodegenerative diseases, in order to:
(i) unveil novel etiological mechanisms of disease;
(ii) link accompanied behavioral and nutritional disturbances;
(iii) provide corrective, potentially-preventive or relieving, and, disease-specific nutritional care.
The role of tryptophan, the inflammatory kynurenine pathway and serotonin across the microbiota-gut-brain axis in elderly at risk of cognitive deterioration and depression will be one of the topics under investigation (SmartAge-ITN; 2020-2024), next to the effect of a 2-year personalized multidomain lifestyle intervention to maintain optimal cognitive function in aging (MOCIA; 2020-2027).