Prof. Alex Sack, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN), Maastricht University
Combining TMS-(EEG)-fMRI: from basic research to clinical applications
Human cognition requires, and is to a large extent based on, our ability of selectively focusing on certain aspects of our surroundings. This ability of spatial attention control is often severely impaired after stroke and in brain diseases including depression or dementia. Investigating the neurobiological mechanism underlying these cognitive abilities is paramount for understanding the relationship between brain and cognition as a prerequisite to develop new means to initiate, guide, and support cognitive enhancement and rehabilitation.
Magneto-/electroencephalography research demonstrated that attention control is related to oscillatory mechanisms in specific lower frequency-bands (4-20 Hertz), especially the alpha frequency (10Hz). Directing attention to one visual hemifield lateralizes alpha power in parietal cortices. We applied transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) to modulate alpha lateralization as measured by EEG and then assessed how such a tACS-induced change in alpha power lateralization leads to respective changes in behavioral task performances in healthy volunteers.
Based on these studies, we then applied this tACS alpha lateralization protocol also in patients suffering from lateralized spatial attention deficits (hemineglect) in an attempt to specifically support their cognitive rehabilitation.
Professor Dr. Alexander Sack is an internationally renowned expert in noninvasive brain stimulation, fundamental and applied cognitive neuroscience, and clinical brain research. He studied Psychology and Neuroscience with a Master of Science in Psychology and PhD in Natural Sciences (summa cum laude) from Frankfurt University, Germany. Following his PhD in Neuroscience (2003), he completed several postdoctoral and academic research positions. Since 2011, he is appointed as Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University. In 2012, Dr. Sack was appointed as member of The Young Academy (De Jonge Akademie, DJA) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), and in 2013 member of The Young Academy of Europe (YAE).
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