Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Donders Challenges

connection challenges Societal ImpactTo stimulate and support cooperation between our researchers, external researchers and partners in society, we formulate and take on Challenges. These are initiatives that can harness the strength of our research, and the knowledge or facilities of partners, in order to address specific society-related problems that should be resolved within 6 years.

The immune system in psychiatry

Psychiatric disorders co-occur often with autoimmune diseases such as  rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. This is reflected in shared genetic risk factors for psychiatric and autoimmune disorders, suggesting similar underlying mechanisms in biology and behavior.

In this Donders Challenge, we combine expertise across neuroscience, psychiatry, genetics, and endopcrynology, to better understand such shared mechanisms. Specifically, the goal of this Challenge is to formulate hypotheses on the most likely and most prevalent mechanisms underlying this pattern. A better understanding of this can ultimately give clues to improve treatment.

Emma Sprooten

Indira Tendolkar, Carolina de Weerth, Janita Bralten, Alejandro Arias Vasques (DI/Radboudumc)
Marco Medici (Radboudumc)
Martina Aranella (King's College)
Marieke van der Schaaf (DI/UU)
Lot de Witte (UU)

The Donders Decision App

What shall I order for lunch? Do I want children or not? We are faced with decisions all the time, small and big. Making the best choice can be difficult. People are often unaware of internal and external factors that influence their choices.
This is thoroughly studied in the field of decision making. To make this knowledge accessible, we will create the Donders Decision App, a free smartphone app with tips and tools to help people improve their decision-making.

Alan Sanfey (Theme 2)

Harold Bekkering (DI)
Esther Aarts (DI)

Keeping balance

As the number of bicycle accidents among senior citizens is rapidly increasing, studying balance on a bike is relevant. Constrained by the geometry of a bicycle, the rider’s movements are relatively easily to model.

We will make our research bicycle simulator available to the clinical partners within this challenge. With motion tracking, we will monitor and diagnose the patients’ balance control strategy and formulate revalidation objectives.


Do we use only a small percentage of our brain ? How long do we suffer from a trauma? What's the difference between the left and the right part of the brain?
Normal questions from normal people.

With the Brainhelpdesk we're developing a platform where people can ask us what they want. We look for the expert and formulate an answer, in normal language.

Fleur Zeldenrust (Theme 4)

Sarah Schoch, Rebecca CalcottNatascha RoosEelke SpaakRoeland SegerenJuraj Bevandic
Marlene Meyer, Bryan Da Costa Souza, (DI)
Joosje Kist, Jeanette Mostert, Marina Boon (Radboudumc)

A toolkit on sensitivity to the environment at the workplace

An estimated 20-30% of working people are highly environmentally sensitive. This often comes with empathy, creativity and giftedness, but at the same time with a more quiet, reflective or thoughtful personality, and a higher risk of overstimulation. Awareness of high sensitivity in the workforce is low, which can result in stress and burnout and the lack of nurturing the qualities that come with it. 
We aim to develop a free toolkit that raises awareness, provides a tool to recognize environmental sensitivity, give practical handles to prevent overstimulation, and to raise inclusiveness.

A dive into brain diversity

In neuroscience animals are used to learn about the human brain. However, animal research is often done in different traditions by separate groups of researchers. This leads to confusion about terminology and the translational value. It has even been argued that this is a reason why clinical trials fail. 
We aim to build multi-model, multi-species maps of the brain and to create formal translational mappings between them. This should make it possible to describe them all within a common abstract space.