PI: Rick Dijkhuizen, PhD

I am professor of Experimental and Translational Neuroimaging, and head of the Biomedical MR Imaging and Spectroscopy group, which is part of the Center for Image Sciences at the University Medical Center Utrecht (The Netherlands). My research focuses on multiparametric imaging of brain structure and function in health and disease, with particular emphasis on i) development of tools for improved diagnosis of brain pathophysiology, ii) characterization of neural network (re)organization, and iii) monitoring of neuroprotective and -restorative therapies.

Over the years, I have been involved in numerous studies that have demonstrated the potential of MRI methods for characterization of brain development, injury and plasticity. Currently, an important scientific aim within my research group is the elucidation of the (re)organization of brain networks and neurovasculature, particularly in relation to functional recovery after cerebrovascular injury in patients and animal models. This includes multimodal imaging approaches to understand the underlying (cellular and hemodynamic) mechanisms of normal and abnormal signaling in neural circuits. Insights from these studies should lead to development and implementation of diagnostic tools and therapeutic strategies that can improve outcome in patients with brain disorders.

I collaborate with various national and international institutions on topics such as stroke recovery, brain repair and functional imaging. In addition to my position at the UMC Utrecht, I am Associate Editor of Frontiers in Neurology/Stroke and the Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow and Metabolism.


Willem M. (Wim) Otte, PhD

The brain is a highly mysterious, fascinating and important organ. Just like Henry Morton Stanley, a century ago, was dedicated to map the missing topological areas of the ‘deeper Congo’, I spend much time and energy to map the dynamics of the topological areas in the brain. This works optimally given the current research environment where I have access to high-quality brain recordings and equipment. My mapping approach is grounded in network theory.

The last years I have successfully worked on the following research questions:
– How do the anatomical brain structures shape functional networks and behavior?
– Which neural network characteristics provide diagnostic and prognostic information?
– To what extent are dynamics in functional network backbones affected by brain lesions?

My clinical work is focused on predictive modeling. Mostly in the field of epilepsy diagnostics and prognostics (‘personalized medicine’), responsible research practice (‘high-quality clinical trials’) and global health models. My dream is to develop an affordable rapid test that will help to effectively bridge the pressing epilepsy treatment gap in many low- and middle-income countries.


Geralda van Tilborg, PhD

I am currently working on a Brain Initiative project, which is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01MH111417 (PI: Dr. Natalia Petridou). In this collaborative project between the UMCU (Utrecht, The Netherlands) and NYU (New York, United States) we aim to further understand the neural contribution to the vascular response in BOLD functional MRI measurements. Within this project I am responsible for the multimodal imaging studies in animals, consisting of high resolution BOLD functional MRI at 9.4T, optical intrinsic signal imaging and electrocorticography (EcoG).

Besides working on the Brain Initiative Project I am supervising multiple PhD students, who are involved in experimental stroke studies.


Annette van der Toorn, PhD

I am presently working as MR physicist in the Dijkhuizen lab, where I help and train researchers to set up and execute MR studies, involving instructions and implementations of protocols. In addition I provide assistance when more elaborate post-processing is necessary. My personal projects mainly involve the development of fast (EPI) sequences for specific purposes, DKI/DTI imaging, and high-resolution post-mortem brain scanning.

I have been working at the Dijkhuizen lab since 2002. I got involved in and hooked on in vivo MR research after spending half a year at NIH in Bethesda, as part of my Master’s study (Molecular Sciences) at Wageningen University, which I finished in 1990. From 1990 until 1994, I did my PhD research in the current lab in Utrecht under Dr. Klaas Nicolay’s supervision, working on a 4.7 T scanner, which was the first scanner in the lab. This research involved localized spectroscopy after experimental stroke in cats and rats. From 1994 until 2002, I was a post-doc at Wageningen University and at the University in Würzburg, performing MR experiments to study flow and development in plants (1994-1999), and at the Biophysics department of Maastricht University, working on the quantification of myocardial MR tagging images to obtain information on cardiac function (1999-2002).