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The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded an ERC Proof of Concept grant to Birte Forstmann, professor of Neuroimaging in Cognitive Neuroscience at the UvA.

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Forstmann is one of fifty recipients awarded a €150,000 grant. The grant, which is only awarded to researchers that previously obtained an ERC award, is intended to explore business opportunities, prepare patent applications or verify the practical viability of scientific concepts.

Picture of Birte Forstmann
Credits: Jeroen Oerlemans

Forstmann received the grant for her proposal to create an atlas of the human subcortex.

Mapping the subcortex

The human brain consists of densely connected networks of interacting areas and nuclei, and while the cerebral cortex has been mapped with great precision, research on the human subcortex has been relatively side-lined. The subcortex contains hundreds of small grey matter nuclei, which take up approximately 1/4 of the entire human brain volume. Importantly, only approximately 7% of these nuclei are currently accessible in standard human brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) atlases. ‘With the ERC PoC grant, we will continue our efforts to map the human subcortex, which will make it accessible for researchers from both the cognitive and clinical neurosciences’, says Forstmann.

Forstmann will use her PoC grant to improve current imaging techniques and apply them to identifying targets for Deep Brain Stimulation, a neurosurgical procedure in which electrodes are lowered in the brain to alleviate, for example, motor symptoms in Parkinson patients. Her work, which furthers current knowledge of the subcortex, could provide major benefits to patients suffering from otherwise virtually untreatable conditions, such as Parkinson's disease.

About the ERC

Created by the European Union in 2007, the European Research Council is the premiere European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. It offers four core grant schemes: Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy Grants. The ERC also strives to attract top researchers from anywhere in the world to come to Europe. To date, the ERC has funded around 7,500 top researchers at various stages of their careers. With its additional Proof of Concept grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation. Since 2011, the ERC has backed more than 800 of such projects.