Neurodegenerative Diseases

This column will offer PhD students the opportunity to pursue research within memory processes and the most frequent neurodegenerative disorders: Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, and α-synucleinopathies, including Parkinson’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, and multiple systems atrophy. These neurodegenerative disorders share common features: abnormal protein aggregation, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, and microvascular changes. The type and location of specific protein pathologies and other pathogenic factors may help to differentiate into separate underlying etiologies using biomarkers, incl. neuroimaging, genetic and biofluid markers. Early diagnosis is crucial for personalized counselling and pharmacological treatment (precision medicine). Currently, there are no disease-modifying treatments for these fatal disorders.

This column aims to understand the complex mechanistic interplay between the pathobiology specific for the disorder (e.g., amyloid, tau, α-synuclein) and pathogenic factors such as aging, inflammation, genetic susceptibility, microbiota and external triggering factors. Improved knowledge in these fields is crucial in order to develop more accessible diagnostic biomarkers, effective personalized treatments, and prevention strategies. Impairment of memory is key to many neurodegenerative disorders, and this column will also study various forms of memory processes spanning from episodic to declarative memory, as well as autobiographical memory, and from memory consolidation to memory extinction.

The Neurodegenerative Diseases research column offers a wide range of methodologies and resources bridging basic and clinical science, including epidemiological research, health data science, cell and animal models, in vivo and in vitro electrophysiology, circuit mapping, drug target validation, and state-of-the-art clinical neuroimaging and fluid biomarker studies of patients.

Column Speakers

Jørgen Erik Nielsen

Column Speaker
Professor
Danish Dementia Research Centre
Faculty of Health
Copenhagen University Hospitals

Per Borghammer

Column Speaker
Professor
Department of Nuclear Medicine & PET
Faculty of Health
Aarhus University Hospital

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Neurodevelopment

Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) typically present during childhood and can include difficulties with language and speech, motor skills, behavior, social functioning, and learning, and they may include seizures/epilepsy. NDDs encompass disturbances of the early development of the nervous system before or around the time of birth, as well as deviant patterns of brain maturation during childhood and adolescence.

Motor and Pain

Movement and its finely tuned control are at the center of all behaviors. The neuronal circuits controlling movement are found throughout the nervous system. Many brain diseases lead to impairment of motor function, and motor circuits are subject to plasticity and learning. Studies of motor circuits are therefore central to understanding brain function and the target for rehabilitation.

Neuroinflammation and Neuron-Glia Interactions

Neuroinflammation is a rapidly expanding field that has revolutionized our understanding of acute and chronic neurological diseases and is currently considered a prime target for the development of new therapies. Neuroinflammation is the response of reactive CNS components to altered homeostasis, regardless of the cause to be endogenous or exogenous.

Brain Vasculature and Barriers

The vasculature maintains tissue microenvironments that are essential for the function and survival of cells throughout the nervous system. Accordingly, local nervous system blood flow is regulated to maintain tissue oxygenation and meet changing metabolic demands.

Brain States and Brain-Body Interactions

Now more than ever, there is a lot of fascinating science happening in neuroscience demonstrating how important the internal state of the body is for brain function and vice versa. It has become clear that the link between the brain and body plays a vital role for both physical and mental health.

Mood and Reward

Mood disorders and alcohol-/ substance use disorders are common and debilitating heterogeneous conditions associated with structural and functional abnormalities in reward-related brain structures such as the caudate-putamen, amygdala, prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus.