University of Utrecht

University of Utrecht, Netherlands

Lead contacts: Professor Roger Adan

Dr Paul Smeets

Two independent research groups at the UMCU (namely the Image Sciences Institute (Paul Smeets) and the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience (Roger Adan) will contribute to the project.  

The University Medical Center Utrecht (UMC Utrecht) is one of the largest and most distinguished academic hospitals in The Netherlands. All Dutch UMCs score high in terms of the quantity and quality of their international scientific publications, however, among them, UMC Utrecht is second in terms of quantity of published papers and first in terms of citation score. Its research is focussed on 7 spearheads, which include Neuroscience, Biomedical Image Sciences, Biomedical Genetics, and Clinical Epidemiology.

The Imaging Division of UMC Utrecht houses around 120 researchers, more than half of whom are PhD students. This division is the backbone of the Image Sciences Institute (ISI) and of the associated Research School for Biomedical Image Sciences (ImagO). The scientific mission of the Division is to stimulate and perform fundamental and application-oriented research in the field of biomedical imaging.

The Imaging Division of UMC Utrecht participates in many national and international projects, e.g. the EUREKA (ITEA2) project, Care4Me.

At the UMC Utrecht there is a strong expertise with regard to functional neuroimaging, including functional MRI (fMRI) design and data analysis, and the application of functional neuroimaging in the clinic. UMC Utrecht has excellent (neuro)imaging facilities which include two high field (3 Tesla) MRI scanners and an ultra-high field (7 Tesla) MRI scanner.

Within ISI there is specific expertise with regard to neuroimaging of food-induced brain responses. Other relevant in-house expertise includes performing neuroimaging in children and in the elderly. ISI is a member of the URGE group, which is a multidisciplinary research group, existing in the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience (RMI, UMC Utrecht), the Rintveld Centre for Eating Disorders (Altrecht, Zeist), and the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP, London, UK). URGE aims to unravel the aetiology of eating disorders. Local collaborations of ISI and RMI include those with the Julius Center for Health Sciences and Primary Care, an epidemiological UMC Utrecht research institute that has several large cross-sectional cohorts with longitudinal data on nutrition and other cardiovascular risk factors.

Short profile of the staff members who will be undertaking the work:


Prof Max A Viergever is Head of the Department of Medical Imaging at UMC Utrecht, Professor of Physics and Professor of Computer Science at the same university. Since 1996 he has been Scientific Director of ISI, Director of the Research School ImagO and Manager Education and Research of the Imaging Division of UMC Utrecht. He is (co)author of >450 refereed scientific articles (abstracts excluded) and has served as supervisor of >90 PhD theses and >120 MSc theses. His research interests comprise all aspects of medical imaging.

Dr Paul A.M. Smeets is a Neuroscientist with a background in Biology. He focuses on the neural processes that govern food intake behaviour, in particular the effects of food stimuli on the human brain. He uses functional neuroimaging in conjunction with endocrine and psychological measures in order to unravel the neural processes relevant for hunger and satiety, which ultimately lead to the decision to eat.

Second UMCU research group:

Prof Roger Adan is section head of “Neurobiology of behavior” at the department of Neuroscience and Pharmacology of the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience, one of the research institutes hosted by UMCU.  The section “Neurobiology of behavior” has 4 staff members and encompass around 25 scientists, of which around 7 are post-doctoral researchers and 14 PhD students. Main focus of research is in the areas of feeding and reward biology. The strength of the section lies in its multidisciplinary character, in its embedding in the UMCU genomics centre and its proximity to the clinic. The section itself is excellently equipped for analysis of rodent behaviour. For metabolic phenotyping of rodents, a system for automated analysis of feeding behavior and energy expenditure is available. In vivo electrophysiology has recently been introduced into this lab in close collaboration with Dr A.B. Mulder (VuMC, Amsterdam), an expert in in vivo electrophysiology. More than 50 Skinner boxes are available for studying addictive behaviours. The section has a core facility to generate viral vectors that in combination with stereotactic delivery enables the scientist to locally interfere with gene expression in the CNS. Molecular and cell biology (cloning, in situ hybridization, molecular pharmacology, signal transduction etc), in vivo electrophysiology, genetics and neuroanatomy (immunocytochemistry) are core technologies available to all projects of the section.  The UMCU has excellent imaging facilities that include a high resolution 7 Tesla scanner for fMRI studies.  Local collaborations offer extensive possibilities for increasing the activities of Full4Health; these include (1) access to eating disorder patients recruited from the Rintveld clinic, (2) excellent imaging facilities at UMCU, (3) the Julius Centre, an epidemiological UMCU research institute which has several cohorts with longitudinal data on smoking, alcohol intake and nutrition.

Short profile of the staff members who will be undertaking the work:

Roger Adan, PhD, Professor of Molecular Pharmacology since 2002. Almost 20 years experience in research, and has a research group for 15 years. He has around 100 publications in Peer Reviewed journals and has been an invited speaker at many International Congresses. His field of research concerns the molecular and neural circuits that underlie feeding behavior.

Geert Ramakers PhD. Assistant professor, research area: electrophysiology, has > 40 publications in Peer Reviewed journals

Post doctoral researchers:

Geoffrey van der Plasse PhD, Research area: in vivo electrophysiology of reward behaviours. Role: assist in in vivo electrophysiology studies

Olivier van Beekum PhD, Research area: viral vector molecular biology. Role: assist in molecular biological work generating AAV vectors necessary to the project

In This Section