As a psychiatrist my main interests are within the neurobiological field of Affective Disorders. To gain more insight in the underlying mechanisms of emotional brain processes in the ‘healthy’ as well as in the ‘mentally affected’ human brain, brain-imaging paradigms (MRI, fMRI, (S)PET,….) are used with or without the combination of neuromodulation techniques, such as rTMS and tDCS.
I’m an assistant professor of psychology and a principal investigator within the Ghent Experimental Psychiatry (GHEP) Lab. I received my M.A. in clinical psychology from the Free University of Brussels (2004) and my PhD in psychological sciences from Ghent University (2008). I then completed several years of postdoctoral training within the field of experimental psychopathology (funded by the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO)), during which I visited different international labs. I joined the GHEP Lab in 2015. With my research, I seek to integrate basic and applied neuroscience in order to study the underlying mechanisms of stress reactivity and emotion regulation among healthy and clinical populations. To investigate these topics, I utilize behavioural, physiological, electrophysiological and neuroimaging methods during ecologically valid protocols to induce emotional distress and negative emotions.
Post doctoral researchers
PhD, biomedical engineer
I studied BioMedical Engineering at the Eindhoven University of Technology (BSc, MSc, TU/e). During the master program, I went to Melbourne (Australia) for a three month internship in the clinical neurophysiology department headed by Prof. Cook (daily supervisor Dr. Vogrin) and started to collaborate with the Academic Center for Epileptology Kempenhaeghe. Later, I enrolled in a post-master program Qualified Medical Engineering (PDEng, TU/e and Kempenhaeghe). During this two-year program, my interest in brain stimulation was triggered, mainly by a three month internship in the Berenson-Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation (BA CNBS) of Prof. Pascual-Leone in Boston (daily supervisor Dr. Shafi). In 2014, I started a PhD project focusing on the mechanism of action of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Imaging techniques, mostly resting-state functional- and diffusion MRI, were used to firstly investigate the effect of brain stimulation on brain connections, and secondly to learn which baseline connections can predict the outcome of brain stimulation. The project was a close collaboration between TU/e, Kempenhaeghe and the university hospital Ghent. During the PhD project, I furthermore extended the collaboration with the BA CNBS by a 2 month research visit (supervised by Dr. Shafi and Dr. Fox). I have recently successfully defended my PhD thesis and will continue to do research in the lab of Prof. Baeken.
I received my PhD in Psychology with a specialization in brain and cognitive sciences from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. During my PhD, I focused on topics concerning cardiac and respiratory interoception, which refers to how the brain senses and processes information arising from the viscera. For this work, I applied multimodal approaches, including functional MRI, EEG, transcranial magnetic stimulation, cardiovascular psychophysiology and transcutaneous vagus nerve stimulation. To conduct my doctoral research, I also had the privilege of collaborating with the GHEP Lab and the 4Brain Lab (PI: Prof. Dr. Kristl Vonck) at UZ Gent. Now in my role as a BAEF-funded postdoctoral research fellow, I am investigating whether the gut microbiome is associated with vagus nerve stimulation treatment outcomes in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. This research reflects a collaboration between UZ Gent (GHEP and 4Brain labs) and the Laboratory for Brain-Gut Axis Studies (PI: Prof. Dr. Lukas Van Oudenhove) and The Raes Lab (PI: Prof. Jeroen Raes) at KU Leuven.
I obtained my MSc in Theoretical and Experimental Psychology in 2017 at Ghent University, with a thesis in which the relationship between regret and repetitive negative thinking was investigated. From 2017 until 2019 I worked as a scientific researcher in the GHEPlab, during which I learned psychophysiological measures such as pupillometry, gaze behavior, skin conductance responses, heart rate variability, and heart rate deceleration/acceleration. Furthermore, I investigated the effects of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the left DLPFC on psychophysiological responses during the anticipation and reception of social feedback. In 2019 I started my PhD project, which builds upon my thesis concerning the study of regret. In this project, we will investigate and explore constructs that are related to regret, such as self-blame schemata, adaptive (i.e., positive reappraisal, acceptance) and maladaptive (e.g., brooding rumination) emotion regulation strategies. Moreover, we will investigate the causal role of a) attentional control in the dynamics between regret and repetitive negative thinking, and b) regret in the onset of depression. My scope of research interests is relatively broad, including neuro-modulation techniques (e.g., tDCS), psychophysiological measures, stress and emotion regulation, emotional reactivity, attentional control, experimental methodology, statistical analysis, and more.
I am a PhD candidate and Teaching Assistant who joined the GHEP Lab in 2017. My PhD supervisors are Prof. Dr. Chris Baeken and Prof. Dr. Kees Van Heeringen. I obtained my MSc in Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at Ghent University. My main research interests focus on the search for electrophysiological (EEG) markers of affective disorders, mainly suicide and depression. My research skills include analyzing time- and spatial frequency data, applying various forms of source localization, functional connectivity analysis (phase lagged connectivity, granger prediction, etc.) and inter-trial phase clustering analysis. I collaborate with the data-analysis department at Ghent University and received an FWO-funded research stay in the Biomedical Imaging Group in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California to expand my source localization skills and to learn how to apply machine learning on neural time series data.
I have only recently joined the GHEP-lab, having just finished my clinical training as a child and adolescent psychiatrist. I am currently working on a research project funded by “Rode Neuzen” and FWO. The primary aim of this project is to investigate whether observations regarding rTMS treatment of depression in adult populations can be extended to adolescents as well.
As current treatment options (e.g. psychological therapy and/or pharmacotherapy) for adolescent depressive disorders are not always successful, new therapeutic strategies are to be explored. My main research interest is the treatment of adolescent depression by means of rTMS.
Several reviews have indicated that rTMS is a safe and well-tolerated technique in children and adolescents (e.g. Doruk Camsari, Kirkovski, & Croarkin, 2018). Furthermore, recent open-label studies have indicated that a neuronavigation-based rTMS protocol is feasible (Wall et al., 2016) and that rTMS appears to be more effective as an add-on treatment for depressive symptoms in adolescents than in older populations (Zhang et al., 2019). Therefore, we are conducting a randomised controlled trial to study the effectiveness of a neuronavigation-based rTMS protocol. At the same time, we are studying several factors that influence proneness to depression, including response to criticism.
Nele De Schryver
Nele De Schryver
I’m a psychiatrist at the departement of psychiatry of the Ghent University Hospital. I obtained my MD at Ghent University (2009). I’m an expert in eating disorders: anorexia nervosa, boulimia nervosa en binge eating disorder. My research focuses on treatment of these disorders and the brain effects (rTMS, fMRI).
Stefanie De Smet
Stefanie studied Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at the Ghent University. During the final year of the master programme, she did her internship in the GHEP lab investigating the effects of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) in combination with intermittent Theta Burst Stimulation (iTBS) in the context of stress. Following this internship, she aims to pursue a PhD to further investigate the effects of combined brain stimulation techniques.
Linde De Wandel
I started my PhD and joined the GHEP lab in October 2017, after obtaining my MSc in Experimental and Theoretical Psychology at Ghent University. During my studies I gained research experience working together with the department of experimental psychology at Ghent University, the recovery centre at Ghent University Hospital, and doing an internship at the CNN lab at the University of Oxford. My research interests cover different topics in cognition and neuroscience, particularly focusing on the potential of neurostimulation as a treatment modality. For my PhD project I investigate the effects of neurostimulation on HPA-axis reactivity and stress-regulation processes. Another part of my research involves the effects of stress and neuromodulation on Mental time travel and particularly episodic future thinking. Essentially I am interested to see how different techniques impact the brain during stimulation and how this is linked to changes in cognition and biophysiological measures (e.g. cortisol) that could promote mental health. The ultimate aim of my research is to further optimize and gain insight in neurostimulation as a treatment modality for depression and stress-related disorders. Former projects involved social cognition and spatial-attentional processes, contributing to research in traumatic brain injury recovery.
Sara De Witte
As a clinical psychologist my main focus is the well-being of my patients. Before I started working for the GHEP lab I guided children and adolescents growing up in difficult situations, frequently paving the way for emotional and behavioral problems. Nowadays, together with my colleagues of the GHEP lab, I’m striving to improve the treatment of psychiatric patients. Therefore, we aim to create new neurocognitive interventions. Specifically, I’m involved in the development of a stepped care treatment in severe melancholic depressed patients, combining neurostimulation, medication and cognitive training. Apart from administering different kinds of non-invasive brain stimulation (such as tDCS, TMS and iTBS) as a treatment – not only for depressed patients but also for repetitive negative thinking (RNT) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – I assist in neuroimaging assessments such as structural and functional MRI, and positron emission tomography (PET) as well. Lastly, another research focus of mine is the effect of neurostimulation on the stressed brain and the influence of it on the HPA-axis and cortisol production.
I obtained my MSc in Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at Ghent University. In 2017 I started working as a teaching assistant and PhD student at the GHEP lab. The main topic of my research is focused on affective and inhibitory processes in eating disorders. I am currently working on a study investigating differences in attentional and inhibitory processes and emotion regulation between patients with anorexia nervosa and healthy controls. Broadly, I use both behavioural and physiological methods to understand these underlying mechanisms. Additionally, aside from my current research project I am also interested in neuromodulation techniques such as tDCS and TMS.
I am a psychiatrist at the department of psychiatry of the Ghent Universital Hospital. I am an expert in anxiety, obsessive-compulsive (OCD) and mood disorders. My research mainly focuses on the treatment of these disorders, especially with magnetic stimulation (rTMS, iTBS).
Nele Van de Velde
As a psychiatrist, I focus on mood and anxiety disorders and I have a special interest in perinatal mental health. Electroconvulsiontherapy (ECT) is my main research interest and more specifically add-on and relapse prevention strategies in mood disorders. I am involved in ongoing research investigating cognitive control training as add-on treatment after ECT in patients with severe depression.
I studied at Ghent University my whole (current) career and obtained my first master (Master of Science in Electronics and ICT Engineering Technology) in 2017 and my second master (Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering) in 2019. As I had a previous interest in psychology and psychiatry, I wanted to pursue a master’s thesis that was related to these fields. While searching for a suitable subject I came into contact with the GHEP research group (mainly prof. Chris Baeken) and finally obtained a subject, the diagnosis of depression based on resting state fMRI. After my master’s degree I started pursuing a PhD.
For my PhD I am trying to build a closed-loop, EEG based TMS setup that will be used for personalized TMS treatment for patients with depression. The mental state that will be detected using EEG and will be used for the adjustment of the TMS treatment parameters is self-referential stress. A first step in this PhD is the detection and quantification of self-referential stress in EEG and a study for this is currently undergoing. Aside from my main PhD subject I will also elaborate on the work done in my Master’s thesis.
Due to my education as an engineer, my approach to psychology and psychiatry is very technical and different than most people in our research group. These differences in skill set, reasoning and problem approach is in my opinion complementary and highly interesting for both me and my colleagues. Aside from the subjects in my PhD thesis, my interests lie in the usage of neuroimaging and artificial intelligence for the diagnosis of mental disorders and comorbidities as well as the prediction of treatment efficacy.
I studied at Utrecht University (the Netherlands) for both my bachelor’s in Cognitive and Neurobiological Psychology and for my master’s in Applied Cognitive Psychology. I have specialized mainly in physiological data, such as EEG, eye-tracking, and facial muscle activation.
During my PhD, I will focus on the treatment of severe treatment resistant depressive patients with the use of, among other things, Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) and Cognitive training. The goal is to gather more insight in, and to minimize relapse after successful treatments.
Moreover, I will focus on exploring whether signs of stress and depression occur in a person’s physiology (biomarkers), such as speech, bodily movements, and facial muscle tension.
Born in Sichuan, China, I studied animal medicine in Southwest University and did my bachelor thesis on Study on the Mechanism of Protecting F81 Cells from Canine Parvovirus by the Total Polysaccharides of Compound Kuqin in vitro. Then I moved to Guangxi University, and majored in veterinary pharmacology and toxicology with master thesis on The Study of Flunixin Meglumine Taste-masking Orally Disintegrating Tablet. These experiences encouraged me to study in interdisciplinary subject and higher platform, and I am lucky to get the scholarship from Ghent University, now I participate in the project: The human dog: translational research on the neurobiological effects of rTMS of the left frontal cortex. The aim of this project is to investigate the effects of the aHF-rTMS protocol on neuronal metabolism, and on the serotonergic neurotransmitter system of the normal and diseased canine brain.
More than 17 million citizens visit the Belgian coast each year, and the coast is considered a safe-haven for people who want to relax and unwind from everyday demands and routines. However, it is currently unknown how living near the coast or visiting the coast can influence a person’s physical and mental health. Therefore, my PhD investigates the public health benefits from the Belgian coast, focussing on how different coastal environments (beaches, dunes, towns, harbours…) can affect the psychological and physiological stress levels of healthy and mentally weak persons. I graduated in 2018 as a Biologist and shortly after, I joined the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ) in Ostend. Before I could start my PhD, I analysed data from the Belgian health survey (Sciensano), to reveal that people who are living at the Belgian coast report a better general health. Now, my doctoral research consists of a series of innovative experiments, exposing participants to pictures with eye tracking, virtual and real life environments of the Belgian coast, while measuring psychological factors (perceived stress, burnout risk, demographics, nature connectedness) and physiological stress biomarkers (cortisol, HRV, EDA…). I frequently reach out to my supervisors and partners at Ghent University, and my network consists of an international multidisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in public health, sociology, psychology, environmental economy, and policy. As such, my research aims to advise the public and policy-makers to ensure the management for a healthy ocean and coast for the sustainable use of its health benefits.
I studied at South China Normal University for both my bachelor’s in Psychology and master’s in Cognitive Neuroscience. Then, I awarded CSC scholarship from Chinese government and started my PhD at Ghent University in 2020. With the great interest in exploring the neural mechanisms of cognitive function in human brain (healthy and patient populations), I join the Ghep lab and under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Chris Baeken.
During my PhD period, I will mainly focus on the framework of criticism paradigm, combining the brain imaging techniques (fMRI, sMRI, DTI, PET) to explore: i) the different neural mechanisms of being criticized between neuropsychiatric patients and healthy controls; ii) the effect of brain stimulation (e.g. tDCS, aiTBS) on criticism in both neuropsychiatric patients and healthy controls; iii) the effect of cognitive behavior therapy on patients with repetitive negative thinking when they are being criticized. Besides, I will be part of the project about the translational research on the neurobiological effect of rTMS treatment on stress-related mental disorders, exploring the neural mechanisms of rTMS treatment in both human and canine brain.
I did my bachelor Psychology at the University of Santiago de Compostela because I had always been interested in the human brain. During my bachelor I did an internship in the department of Cognitive Processes and Behaviour about fear memory reconsolidation and I wrote my bachelor thesis on visual working memory. Next, I did a master in Neuroscience by the University of A Coruña where I did my master thesis about brain stimulation (TMS).
However, I wanted to deepen in my knowledge about cognitive neuroscience, therefore I studied the Research Master in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at the Maastricht University. During my internship at the group of Brain Stimulation and Cognition I discovered my passion: the combination of neuroimaging and neuromodulation.
In 2020 I started my PhD by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, based in the Ghep-Lab. Following my interest in the combination of techniques, during this PhD I aim to stimulate the social posterior cerebellum with tDCS while recording brain activity with fMRI. The goal is to unravel the role of the posterior cerebellum in learning sequences and to explore the possibility of improving this ability in people with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Intern - Biomedical Sciences
I’m an intern at the Ghent Experimental Psychiatry Lab, as part of the master Biomedical Sciences with track Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology at the University of Amsterdam. I am very curious in the complex working mechanisms of the brain, in healthy and diseased people. Therefore, I first obtained the bachelor Psychobiology, and did an internship on decision making and risky behavior in adolescents with ADHD at the University of Amsterdam. During the first year of my current master, I did an fMRI internship on sex differences in the neural response to negative emotional stimuli in regular cocaine users. This last year of my master, I will be doing an internship with the neuromodulation technique tDCS and the effect on social contexts.
I am a master student Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at the University of Ghent and join the Gheplab for six months as an intern. During my internship, I get the opportunity to learn more about the working mechanisms underlying emotion regulation and stress reactivity. I will work with psychophysiological measures, such as heart rate, skin conductance responses and pupil dilation. Moreover, I will focus on the effects of tDCS over the left and right DLPFC on emotional processing. I am thankful that I get the opportunity to broaden my research skills and gain more experience with executing scientific research in this lab.
I am a second year master’s student in Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at Ghent University and am currently doing my internship at the Ghent Experimental Psychiatry Lab. I am very interested in different kinds of neuromodulation techniques and how they can impact the brain, behaviour and cognition. Moreover, I would like to gain more insight in how these neuromodulation techniques could be applied to improve symptoms in anxiety disorders, stress-related disorders and depression. For my master’s dissertation I am working on a computational project where I will simulate the effects of aiTBS on functional connectivity in the brain. During my internship, I will investigate whether the use of tDCS can help overcome the negative effects of stress on (emotional) working memory.
I’m in my 2nd master theoretical and experimental psychology and I’m doing my internship at the Gheplab. I chose to do my internship here because I was really interested in the topics that are studied by the lab. Generally, my interests lie in cognitive psychology and neuroscience and the lab really suits these interests well. Mitchel Kappen is my mentor so mostly I’m helping him with collecting data and analyzing data. Currently my main job is helping with the collection and analysis of data for a study about PMS.
I am in the final year of studies towards a Master in Science in Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at the University of Ghent. Currently, I am doing my internship at the GHEPLAB during which I am assisting in research on detecting stress in EEG signals. The aim of the project is to train machine learning models on EEG data that can detect psychosocial stress based on EEG signals. I will also assist in a project of detecting brain networks that are active during psychosocial stress.
I’m currently doing my internship at the GHEP Lab as one of the final steps to obtain my Master of Science in Theoretical and Experimental Psychology at Ghent University. During this internship, I have the opportunity to learn how to work with tDCS, electrophysiological data and fMRI. I’m currently working on a project investigating the effects of tDCS on emotional working memory and stress. Later on during my internship, I will assist on a project combining fMRI and theta burst stimulation.
My master thesis, which I’m also doing at the GHEP lab, focuses on the influence of expectancies (i.e., placebo effects) on tDCS. In order to investigate this, we induce positive or negative expectancies in people before they receive tDCS stimulation. Additionally, we will investigate how this procedure influences the stress participants experience.
Marie De Bruecker
I am in my second master theoretical and experimental psychology at the University of Ghent and I am currently doing my internship at the GHEP lab. I am interested in the working mechanisms of the brain, especially in clinical populations, therefore I choose for my master thesis to investigate potential EEG biomarkers in babies at high risk for autism spectrum disorder. Working with psychophysiological measures such as heart rate and eye-tracking or pupillometry also appeals to me.
Moreover, I want to gain more insight in affective disorders such depression or anxiety disorders as well as eating disorders, as I got the subject ‘neurobiology of affective disorders’ last year, which has taken my interest. The topics of the GHEP lab really suited my interests so I am very thankful that I got the chance to do my internship here. Jens Allaert gave me the opportunity to help write the paper ‘Validation of the Dutch version of the Self-Critical Rumination Scale’, which was an enriching experience. I am also assisting Louise Puttevils in her study about differences in attentional and inhibitory processes and emotion regulation between patients with anorexia nervosa and healthy controls.