Vacancies 63522-PhD-candidate-The-role-of-neuroinflammation-in-progressive-basal-ganglia-dysfunction-in-Parkin

  • 36 hours a week
  • Temporary
  • 4 years
  • Date of publication: 30 November 2018
  • Deadline: 8 January 2019
  • Scale 10A: max € 41835 gross per year at full employment (incl. vacation bonus and end of year payments)
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Job description

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by nigro-striatal denervation, resulting in striatal dysfunction. There are large individual differences in disease progression: while some PD patients deteriorate rapidly, others follow a benign disease course. The reason for these differences is unclear. Here we will test the new hypothesis that neuroinflammation has a critical role in the progression of dopaminergic dysfunction in PD. This idea is based on evidence that pro-inflammatory molecules, likely produced by microglial cells, can accelerate dopaminergic cell death. To test this hypothesis, we will leverage a unique longitudinal dataset of 650 PD patients (Personalized Parkinson Project), who all receive fMRI scans and lumbar punctures at baseline and after two years in Nijmegen. We will quantify neuroinflammation using cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) inflammatory biomarkers, striatal dysfunction using a validated probabilistic reinforcement learning task and fMRI, and clinical progression using the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS). This study will provide important insights into the mechanisms underlying disease progression in PD, and the specific role of neuroinflammation.
We are looking for a highly motivated PhD candidate with an interest in neurological diseases (such as Parkinson’s disease) and neuroimaging. This project combines clinical work (interpreting clinical data), neuroscientific work (understanding the role of the basal ganglia circuitry) and computational work (model-based functional neuroimaging analyses). You will work at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging and the department of Neurology at the Radboudumc. At the Donders Centre, you will be imbedded in the research groups of Dr. Rick Helmich (Systems Neurology) and Prof. Roshan Cools (Motivational and Cognitive Control). Data collection is being performed by the research team of the Personalized Parkinson Project, and will not form a major part of the PhD project. Instead, you will spend most of your time on data analysis (of MRI images, CSF, clinical data) and interpretation. During your PhD, you will work in team together with Prof. Roshan Cools (PI), Dr. Rick Helmich (PI), and several other researchers (post-docs, PhD students).

Tasks and responsibilities
Your most important task will be to successfully carry out your PhD project and develop into a successful and independent researcher. You will be in charge of analyzing MRI and CSF data in a large set of Parkinson patients (n=325), perform statistical analyses, and write scientific papers. You will present your findings at international scientific conferences. Furthermore, you will be stimulated to take part in the vivid scientific and social climate of the Donders Institute. Finally, you will have a role in supervising Master students.


You should have a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in cognitive neuroscience, biomedical sciences, psychology, medicine or related science, with a strong interest in neurological diseases and neuroimaging. Since you will not be collecting data yourself, mastering the Dutch language is not required. Ideally, you have strong technical and programming skills (such as experience with Matlab), as well as experience with data analysis and statistics.
This PhD project offers you the opportunity to develop a wide range of clinical, social, scientific and technical skills. It requires a strong motivation and determination, creativity, and communicative talents, to grow into an excellent researcher. You should demonstrate the potency to be one of the emerging scientific talents of the future generation.


The Department of Neurology
Research at the department of Neurology is centered around three major topics including movement disorders, neuromuscular diseases and cerebrovascular diseases. Major areas of research include Parkinson’s disease, tremor and dystonia (both fundamental and clinical research). All of our research is embedded within the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour. This warrants the availability of top-notch infrastructure and expertise.

The Donders Institute
The Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour is a world-class research institute devoted to understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of human cognition and behavior in health and disease. The Institute is home to more than 600 researchers from 35 countries who share the common goal of contributing to the advancement of the brain-, cognitive- and behavioral sciences through investigator-driven research, and improving health, education and technology by applying advances in this field.
The Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, where all measurements and analyses take place, is an exciting social and scientific community. Since it is very internationally oriented, the main language spoken at the institute is English.  

Radboudumc strives to be a leading developer of sustainable, innovative and affordable healthcare to improve the health and wellbeing of people and society in the Netherlands and beyond. This is the core of our mission: To have a significant impact on healthcare. To get a better picture of what this entails, check out our strategy.

Read more about what it means to work at Radboudumc and how you can do your part.

Employment conditions

Upon commencement of employment we require a certificate of conduct (Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag, VOG) and there will be, depending on the type of job, a screening based on the provided cv. Radboud university medical center’s HR Department will apply for this certificate on your behalf.

Read more about the Radboudumc employment conditions and what our International Office can do for you when moving to the Netherlands.

Comments and contact information

All additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Dr. Rick Helmich, principle investigator at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging and neurologist at the Neurology department, or Prof. Roshan Cools, principle investigator at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. Use the Apply button to submit your application.

Please apply before 8 January.
Recruitment agencies are asked not to respond to this job posting.

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