Cover of my PhD dissertation (1 June 2005)
My name is Matthijs Vink (December 1976) and I received my Master’s degree in Psychology in December 1999 from the University of Groningen. In February 2000, I started a PhD training project at the University Medical Center Utrecht and obtained my title on the first of June 2005 (supervisors: Prof RS Kahn, Dr NF Ramsey). An outline of my thesis can be found below. From 2016 until the end of 2020, I worked at the Departments of Experimental and Developmental Psychology of the Utrecht University in the group of Prof Chantal Kemner.
The focus of my research has been on the fronto-striatal network. In particular, how it is affected by psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and bipolar disorder. I study this network using functional MRI and several paradigms: learning, working memory, inhibitory control, and reward processing. The inhibition and reward tasks are now being used by several groups worldwide. For example, these tasks are used at Stellenbosch University (South Africa) to study the functional consequences of HIV and also methamphetamine on the fronto-striatal network.
In collaboration with the AMC Amsterdam, my tasks are used to investigate, for the first time, how deep brain stimulation (DBS) affects neural functioning in the fronto-striatal network in OCD patients (published in Nature Neuroscience). I was the first to examine the neural correlates of proactive inhibition and to center on the importance of the striatum for inhibitory control. During my PhD-project, I showed reduced proactive inhibitory control in schizophrenia patients and their unaffected siblings.
In my NWO VENI funded research, I replicated these findings and extended them by using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) to investigate structural and causal functional connectivity of the fronto-striatal network. DNA data are available for a large number of these participants, as well as for healthy volunteer subjects, allowing for association studies involving dopamine genes and fronto-striatal regions.
The strategy of my investigations has been to start with healthy volunteer subjects, in order to learn how the fronto-striatal network normally functions and develops. Next, obtaining data from patients then not only provides insights into the mechanisms of a particular disorder, but also increases the general understanding of how the brain operates. I now have data from multiple patient groups (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), HIV, methamphetamine addicts) performing my tasks. I also have extended the age range of my healthy groups, and now include participants from 10 to 70. By including adolescents, adults, and elderly, I am able to study the lifelong development of the fronto-striatal network. The wide range of data from patients and controls provides a unique context for unraveling mechanisms specific for normal and abnormal development.
Good research also requires in depth understanding of the methods of investigation. This is why I lecture on how to design functional MRI tasks, and how to process and analyze functional MRI data. Moreover, I have contributed to improving these methods by developing new ways to remove cardiorespiratory noise form the functional MRI signal. This helps by improving functional MRI signal quality.
Also, I developed new ways to calculate the reliability of functional MRI when participants are tested multiple times, and the effect this has on sample-sizes that are required to detect treatment effects. Finally, I published on new methods of functional MRI group analyses, which can distinguish subgroups within large samples.