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Translational Neuroscience

The research mission of the Department of Translational Neuroscience is to discover and delineate mechanisms and processes which are fundamental to the development of neural systems and to the control of behavior as well as to translate these to pathogenesis and disease models. We use cutting edge technology, disease models as well as computational tools to achieve these goals.

Our teaching mission is to raise the next generation scientists and clinicians with state-of-the-art knowledge, technical expertise and vision in the field of neuroscience. As a part of this effort, we teach in several Bachelor courses, coordinate the Neuroscience and Cognition master program of the Utrecht University and offer doctoral and postdoctoral training.


June 17, 2024 / News, Research paper

New gene for Parkinson’s disease discovered

In a new study published in Nature Genetics, Paul Hop and colleagues describe the discovery of a gene responsible for a heritable form of Parkinson’s disease. The study was an international collaboration coordinated by the Kenna lab and multiple partners in the US and Italy. The research team used the RVAT software package developed by the Kenna lab and specialized computational infrastructure to analyze DNA from over 2,100 patients with familial Parkinson’s disease and 70,000 volunteers. The partnership with project MinE, an independent initiative to unravel the genetic basis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis made the scale of the analyses possible.

Studying Rab32 in Parkinson's Disease

“We’re very excited about this finding. This was the largest genetic analysis of familial Parkinson’s disease to date, and we believe that the discovery of the RAB32 mutation and it’s effect on LRRK2 open up important new research lines” – Paul Hop

Paul Hop is a PhD student at the UMC Utrecht Brain Center under the supervision of Kevin Kenna and Jan Veldink. Paul is also a lead developer for the RVAT analysis package. His analysis revealed a mutation in the RAB32 gene that significantly increased the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Subsequent investigations of this mutation in laboratory grown cell models revealed that the mutation led to abnormal increases in the activity of a key Parkinson’s related protein called LRRK2. Such abnormal increases in LRRK2 activity are  important in Parkinson’s disease. Furthermore, research community is already exploring this increase as a potential target for therapeutic intervention. Until now, only a handful of genes have been definitively implicated in heritable forms of Parkinson’s disease. The discovery of the RAB32 mutation and its effect on the LRRK2 protein are therefore an important step forward.

For more information about the study please see:



April 9, 2024

The Shapeshifters Symposium; Plasticity – Here, There, and Everywhere

Join and contribute to the The Shapeshifters Symposium; Plasticity – Here, There, and Everywhere !

Plasticity, the ability to be molded in various forms while maintaining a core identity, is a term that is increasingly used within various fields of science, e.g. neuroscience, plant- and cell biology, and within the humanities. However, the meaning and use of plasticity varies between these fields. How are these different usages – from shapeshifting to adaptability, related between disciplines, and how can plasticity be developed into a threshold concept within fields where it is currently not in use?

The Shapeshifters Symposium is a transdisciplinary two-day event that explores the concept of plasticity across academic domains and beyond. We, a group of interdisciplinary scholars, invite researchers, societal stakeholders and artists to come together and question what it means to be a shape within a shapeshifting society, a form within a form – adapting, evolving and mutating, along with its environment. And you are warmly invited to join us!

The Shapeshifters Symposium

This event is organised by the Plasticity team, a group of interdisciplinary researchers working on the concept of plasticity, sponsored by the Dutch Centre for Unusual Collaborations. Two panel facilitators will frame the topic of the panel with a statement from the perspective of their background. After that, the conversation will be opened to all people to present ‘fishbowl-style’ – meaning everybody is invited to join (and leave) the available seats on stage and add to the discussion with questions and thoughts.

“We hope to further expand the concept of plasticity across disciplines – and we need your help!” The Plasticity Team

Day One of the symposium, May 30th, consists of four panels that are transdisciplinary in nature:

09:00 Registration & Coffee

09:30 – 11:00 Panel I – Plasticity, Complexity, and Circular Causality 
Moderator: Yaron Caspi
Panel facilitators: Prof. dr. Ray Noble & Prof. dr. Peter Sloot

11:30 – 13:00 Panel II – Plasticity from within and from without 
Moderators: Dr. Esmee Geerken & Dr. Yaron Caspi
Panel facilitators: Dr. Danqing Lui & Prof. dr. Frank Seebacher

14:00 – 15:30 Panel III – Time & Mind
Moderators: Tamalone van den Eijnden & Dr. Onur Basak
Panel facilitators: Dr. Kjetel Horn Hogstad & Dr. Joost de Jong

16:00 – 17:30 Panel IV – Meaning making across epistemic cultures
Moderators: Dr. Jeff Diamanti & Dr. Abby Waysdorf
Panel facilitators: Alice Iacobone & Prof. Dr. Amanda Boetzkes

Panel descriptions and the programme can be found on our event page.  Our PIs Onur Basak, PhD (leading the consortium) and prof. Elly Hol, PhD are members of this team. The translational Neuroscience department is a hub for brain plasticity research.



November 17, 2023 / News, Public outreach

The World Premature Day

On the 17th of November, it is the World Premature Day that aims to increase awareness and understanding for the impact that a premature birth has on the baby and the newborn’s loved ones. In the Netherlands, there are many organisations that help premature babies and parents through their difficult start, including Care4Neo.

“The time has come, you are pregnant. A whole new chapter of your life is about to begin and it is an unknown territory. You make sure to take your vitamins, get your check-ups and hear your babies heartbeat time and time again. You get excited to meet your baby and with time you feel more and more at ease. And then the time comes, labor. However, for 1 in 10 births, this comes earlier than 37 weeks. Completely unexpected, you are parents to a premature baby and nothing can really prepare you for this. The earlier the baby comes, the more complications are expected. It is a period where you feel all the emotions, happiness, sadness and mainly a lot of insecurity.“ a mother

Developmental research, as done in our department and at the UMC Utrecht Brain Center, also contributes to the care and understanding of what one can expect when having a premature baby. It is a very fragile time when babies are born and information is so important. Information for parents and health care professionals, but also everybody else. So, take a moment to be informed about the impact and work being done to help the care of premature babies. Feel free to share a post, wear something purple (as purple is the color for premature babies) or just take a moment to show your support.

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We welcome open applications from PhD candidates and postdocs.

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