Dr. Anouk den Braber

During the bachelor biomedical sciences, Dr. den Braber got fascinated by molecular and cellular developmental biology and neurobiology. It was intriguing to learn how genetic processes, after fertilization, lead to the development of a complete embryo and how the interaction between different neuronal cells translates into our basic functions, such as movement, speech, and emotions. With her background in radiology and the affinity to work with humans, she decided to specialize in the field of neuroimaging. Dr. den Braber started with an internship at the department of Biological Psychology at the VU University Amsterdam, followed by a PhD and post-doc position. She has developed a specific interest for the field of imaging genetics in behavioral disorders. How do genetic variations and environmental factors explain individual differences in behavior and how does this translate to the biological processes occurring in our brain? In her PhD project, Dr. den Braber explored the environmental and genetic contributions to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) related brain changes on structural, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and functional MRI (fMRI) scans of monozygotic twins discordant or concordant for OCD. As post-doc, she investigated the extent to which genetic variation accounts for the variation in subcortical volumes and collaborated with the ENIGMA consortium in order to identify genetic variants influencing subcortical brain volumes. In 2014, Dr. den Braber started to work as a postdoc at the Alzheimercentrum VU University Medical Centre Amsterdam, where she is involved in the preclinical AD project of the European Medical Information Framework for Alzheimer’s disease (EMIF-AD) consortium. Aim of EMIF-AD is to find diagnostic markers and prognostic markers for Alzheimer’s disease in non-demented subjects. In the preclinical AD project they collect a range of risk factors, clinical markers and biomarkers for AD in 300 cognitively normal subjects older than 60 years, including 100 monozygotic twins pairs. In the study they collect data from neuropsychological examinations, fMRI, DTI, ASL, structural MRI, amyloid PET, blood and CSF, DNA, duplex of the carotids and fundoscopy and retina thickness measurements. In her project, Dr. den Braber proposes to use her expertise on imaging, genetics and twin research to determine the contribution of genetic and environmental influences on amyloid pathology and other AD markers. With this unique study, she hopes to contribute substantially to the development of novel insights into the pathophysiology of AD and novel diagnostic markers for subjects at increased risk for amyloid pathology and such provide novel strategies for AD prevention.

Dr. Anouk den Braber Grants