Research team

Neurochemistry and behaviour

Expertise

Our current research activities are related to the field of neurochemical research in neurodegenerative disorders. As coordinator of the RP-(U)HPLC unit of the Neurochemistry & Behavior lab, we perform neurotransmitter analyses in biofluids and brain material of patients with all types of dementia. Moreover, we have expertise in conducting behavioral research, and correlating these findings with neurotransmitter data. Our current projects are related to Alzheimer's disease in Down syndrome, Parkinson-plus syndromes, and frontotemporal dementia/amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Our main goals are to (i) identify potential neurochemical biomarkers to facilitate differential diagnosis among these disorders, and (ii) to elucidate the neurochemical pathophysiology of neuropsychiatric symptoms in dementia. Our unit works closely with the neuropathology department of the Institute Born-Bunge, at which a large brain and biofluid biobank is situated. The UHPLC unit also functions as a service facility to analyze neurotransmitter levels in biofluids/brain material of various species. Our current setup is modifiable, to analyze various compounds.

Monoaminergic and neuroinflammatory markers in dementia with Lewy bodies to improve differential dementia diagnosis. 01/11/2019 - 31/10/2022

Abstract

Due to overlapping clinical and pathological features, the differential diagnosis between dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) and Alzheimer's disease (AD) becomes extremely difficult. Besides, there still is no approved treatment for DLB. The current application, therefore, aims at identifying neurochemical markers in blood (serum) and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to improve the diagnostic accuracy among these syndromes. Based on our previous data, DLB-specific alterations in the locus coeruleus, a small noradrenergic brainstem nucleus, may provide rationale to address these challenges. The same goes for the neuroinflammatory marker lipocalin-2 (LCN2), of which expression levels in the substantia nigra are increased. Overall, this proposal intends to (i) analyze various neurochemical compounds in serum/CSF as potential disease-specific biomarkers with a demonstrated link to underlying brain pathology. Here, our main focus will be on the noradrenergic neurotransmitter system (3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol; noradrenaline) and LCN2. We will also study in detail (ii) if these marker alterations are associated with the clinical follow-up diagnosis and measured noradrenergic tracer uptake values after MIBG-scintigraphy. Finally, this study will (iii) meticulously process and analyze brain material, allowing us an in-depth evaluation of the regional distribution of alfa-synuclein and AD-related pathology, linked to the monoaminergic and neuroinflammatory markers previously determined.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Prediction of conversion to Alzheimer's disease in Down syndrome: a behavioural and neurochemical approach. 01/01/2018 - 31/12/2021

Abstract

Alzheimer's disease (AD) and related dementias are degenerative and irreversible brain illnesses characterized by memory loss, behavioral and psychological signs and symptoms of dementia (BPSD), and an (over)activated neuroimmune response. Interestingly, people with Down syndrome (DS), a congenital disorder, face accelerated aging and are at high risk to develop AD over time; 50- 70% of the DS individuals develop AD. Earlier AD diagnosis and/or prediction of conversion to AD is essential for adaptive caretaking and adequate treatment interventions. BPSD in AD patients are diagnosed using validated rating scales. However, no BPSD scales are available for DS. Therefore, our first aim is to validate and longitudinally apply our recently developed BPSD scale specifically adapted for DS in cohorts of DS patients with and without dementia. Concentration changes in biogenic amines, i.e. neurotransmitters and their metabolites, have been associated with BPSD. We previously discovered that the serum concentration of the monoaminergic neurotransmitter metabolite 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol (MHPG) can predict the development of AD in DS. The current project aims to investigate the biological functionality of the monoaminergic neurotransmitter system in human brain, blood and CSF samples. We will also study in detail how brain pathology typical for AD, develops in DS, whether locus coeruleus pathology is observed and how these link to neurotransmitter changes and patients' symptoms.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

Neurochemical characterization of behavioral disturbances in dementia. 01/10/2009 - 30/09/2010

Abstract

Behavioral disturbances (Behavioral and psychological signs and symptoms of dementia, BPSD) are an indispensable part of dementia and consist of delusions, hallucinations, aggressiveness, activity disturbances, diurnal rhythm disturbances, affective disorders and anxieties/phobias. Research has repeatedly confirmed that there is a neurochemical basis underlying BPSD although the pathophysiology remains unclear. In this project ante-mortem behavioral data will be correlated with neurotransmitter concentrations from regional dissection of post-mortem brain tissue of patients with various forms of dementia. Changes in different neurotransmitter systems will be mutually compared between different diagnostic categories of dementia in order to unravel possible neurochemical changes that predispose to certain behavioral profiles.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)