Theme 3: Development and lifelong plasticity
Donders Theme 3: Development and lifelong plasticity focuses on plasticity, referring to the capacity to continuously alter neural structure and function in response to experience or injury.
Plasticity contributes to development, learning and memory, responses to environmental stimuli (e.g. stress) and ageing, and can lead to both adaptation and maladaptation of organisms or a population relative to their life stage and environment. Plasticity can thereby support healthy conditions and contribute to prevention or increased resilience, but can also lead to mental brain disease and influence treatment responsiveness. Since the brain does not function in isolation, also the influences of somatic and social processes on brain function are studied.
Knowledge derived from this approach is used to inform a diversity of clinical fields that strive to improve mental and physical health throughout the lifespan, including clinical genetics, pediatrics, geriatrics, neurology, psychiatry, psychology, and vascular medicine.
Fundamental and clinical research
Plasticity is genetically co-determined driven by conserved preprogrammed biological events as well as individual genetic and environmental factors, and can take place at the level of molecules up to the organism and an entire population. This theme thus covers fundamental and clinical research based on cell systems, organoids, animal models and research in healthy volunteers as well as patients. These levels of research are linked together through extensive interactions between researchers and translational methodologies.
Each of the four research themes of the Donders Institute has a Theme Leader. They coordinate discussions on subjects, host theme meetings and take part in the Research Platform to discuss strategic policy aspects. Contact theme leader Judith Homberg if you want to know more. Marcel Verbeek and Sharon Kolk are panel members of this theme.