I attended the University of Antwerp in 1981 where I graduated with great distinction in Physics in 1985. In 1991, I obtained my PhD in Physics with a topic on blood vessel elasticity. Since 1994, I work at an otolaryngology department, first at the University Hospital in Antwerp and recently in the European Institute for ORL-HNS-SBS department of the St Augustinus Hospital in Antwerp. I became tenure professor at the University of Antwerp in 2002 and became full professor in 2013. I am the head of the Lab for Equilibrium Investigations and Aerospace (LEIA) and have been the supervisor of 19 PhD’s, with currently 3 PhD’s ongoing.
I teach Medical Physics, Physics, and Biostatistics, as well as selected topics at the courses of neuroscience and cardiology. For a decade long I participated in the course of Audiological Medicine at the University College in London (UCL). I teach yearly at King’s College in London (KCL) since 2011 in the Master course on Space Physiology and Health. I have participated for several years as expert in the Governmental Task Force Space Research of the Flemish Government.
Together with my team, we conducted in the early 2000’s a study for NASA to investigate pharmaceutical countermeasures against space motion sickness. Since 2004, I obtained my first grant from the European Space Agency to further study the effect of medication on the different parts of the vestibular system. Since 2007, I performed and supervised my team during the testing of the vestibular and autonomic system of cosmonauts before and after long duration spaceflight for the SPIN project. Up to date (2021), 71% (n=45) of all cosmonauts who went to the ISS for long duration missions have been tested in Star City near Moscow for the SPIN project. This is the largest number of long duration space crew tested by any European scientist. We were one of the first to unravel the link between the autonomous system and the vestibular system in humans. (Hallgren et al, Scientific Reports, 2015). I am also the principal investigator of the first prospective study to look at the brain of space crew with MRI methods. This project is called BRAIN-DTI, which was written in 2009 for ESA and is still ongoing. I am senior author of the first paper ever on the impact of long duration microgravity on the brain of an astronaut using the technique of MRI (Demertzi et al, 2016), as well as of a paper on this topic in The New England Journal of Medicine (IF=71), (Van Ombergen et al, NEJM, 2018),which is the highest ranked journal in general medicine, and the second highest of all scientific journals. Overall, I have authored 237 papers, I have a Hirsch Index of 38 according to Web of Knowledge and according to Google scholar, I have 11509 citations, H-index = 59, and the most cited publication counts 658 citations.
I was honoured to give the 6th Eugen Reinarts Keynote Lecture at the Aerospace Medical Association Congress in Las Vegas in May 2019 for an audience of 1600 attendants. The topic was ‘The impact of microgravity and hypergravity on the human brain studied with advanced MRI methods'. In January 2020, I was invited to give a keynote lecture at the NASA Human Research Congress in Galveston on the topic of Neuroplasticity in astronauts.
I am one of the 6 members of the NASA-ESA Brain-SANS expert group, established by NASA and ESA to further elaborate on this topic. In 2019 I obtained the 1st prize Vertigo Academy International, Minsk, for contribution on the vestibular cortex and visual induced dizziness. In 2019 I was co-author of the Best Scientific Paper on the European Society for Radiology conference in Paris.