Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
Zoek in de site...
Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control

Cognitive Neuromodulation


We study human action and decision control using ultrasound neuromodulation.

We modulate behaviour and brain circuits to better grasp human cognition. Such an interventional approach is important for a causal understanding, and even more critical in a clinical context. Current neuromodulation techniques are either highly invasive, or restricted to the surface of the brain. In our lab we are working on a novel technique to overcome these limitations: focused transcranial ultrasound stimulation.

We use this technique to study how we control our actions and decisions. Everyday, people urge themselves out of bed in the morning, decide to have yoghurt or toast for breakfast, stop for a red light on their way to work. Human cognition is characterised by a high degree of behavioural control. This ability relies on the critical contribution of a set of deep brain nuclei, including the basal ganglia and amygdala, and their interaction with prefrontal cortex. These circuits of human cognition are often affected in psychiatric and neurological disorders. To disentangle how the different parts of these circuits work together we combine non-invasive brain stimulation, including ultrasound, magnetic, and electric stimulation, with neuroimaging, such as fMRI and EEG, and computational analyses of behaviour.

Ultrasound can make visible what is hidden, for example, to give parents a glimpse of their child before birth. We are now putting these high-frequency sound waves – beyond the range of human hearing – to use for a wholly different purpose: to manipulate the activity of the brain and study cognition. Beams of ultrasound can be safely focused at a millimetre scale, even deep within the brain, and modulate neural activity. Ultrasound has the potential to provide new insights into how the brain works and help us develop new treatments for neurological and psychiatric disorders. Breaking new ground in such a way requires an integrative, cross-species approach. It requires a systems level combination of neuromodulation and neuroimaging techniques.

Name: Lennart Verhagen
Telephone: 024-3611027
Visiting address: Donders Centre for Cognition
Montessorilaan 3
6525 HR Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Postal address: Donders Centre for Cognition
P.O. Box 9104
6500 HE Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Key grants and prizes
  • DCC Internal PhD Round 2020
  • Wellcome Trust Strategic Initiatives, ‘Interdepartmental consortium for ultrasound neurostimulation’ (2018)
  • Marie Curie Fellowship, European Commission, ‘Wiring Cognition: How the organisation of our brain enables uniquely human abilities’ (2013)
Key publications
  • Offline impact of transcranial focused ultrasound on cortical activation in primates. Verhagen L*, Gallea C*, Folloni D, Constans C, Jensen D, Ahnine H, Roumazeilles L, Santin M, Ahmed B, Lehericy S, Klein-Flügge, Krug K, Mars RB, Rushworth MFS†, Pouget P†, Aubry JF†, Sallet J† (2019) eLife 8:e40541
  • Manipulation of deep brain activity in primates using transcranial focused ultrasound stimulation. Folloni D*, Verhagen L*, Constans C, Mars RB, Fouragnan EF, Aubry JF, Rushworth MFS†, Sallet J† (2019) Neuron 101:1109-1116
  • Dichotomous organization of amygdala/temporal-prefrontal bundles in humans and monkeys. Folloni D, Sallet J, Khrapitchev AA, Sibson NR, Verhagen L*, Mars RB* (2019) eLife 8:e47175
  • A basal forebrain-cingulate circuit in macaques decides it is time to act. Khalighinejad N, Bongioanni A, Verhagen L, Folloni D, Attali D, Aubry JF, Sallet J, Rushworth MFS (2020) Neuron 105:370-384
  • Is the extrastriate body area part of the dorsal visuomotor stream? Zimmermann M, Mars RB, de Lange FP, Toni I, Verhagen L (2018) Brain Structure and Function 223(1):31-46

Back to:
Research Theme 2:
Perception, Action and Decision-making

Research Group
Cognitive Neuromodulation

Principal Investigator
Dr. Lennart Verhagen

Group members