The world's largest single-cell study of epilepsy published

NRU senior Researcher Lars Pinborg has co-authored the paper 'Identification of epilepsy-associated neuronal subtypes and gene expression underlying epileptogenesis' which has recently been published in Nature Communications. The paper identifies, for the first time in the world, dysfunctional neuronal subtypes underlying seizure activity in the human brain by means of single-nucleus transcriptomics analysis of >110,000 neuronal transcriptomes derived from temporal cortex samples of multiple temporal lobe epilepsy and non-epileptic subjects. In conclusion, the paper finds large-scale and complex changes in the neuronal transcriptomes of epileptic patients, where some subtypes showed a dramatic epilepsy-driven dysregulation of gene expression, whereas other subtypes were largely spared. Based on the results, the authors conclude that it is likely that antiepileptic therapies should take into consideration the interplay between subtypes and their relationship in circuits for effective treatment and seizure relief.

Press release from University of Copenhagen is available here.

Staff News October 2020

A warm welcome to our new staff members:

Maja Marstrand-Jørgensen, MD, PhD student in the BrainDrugs project.

MRI-student assistant Christina Schnohr (Medicine).

Erasmus research intern and MD Ida Ivek, University of Zagreb. She will be working on the project “Brain striatal dopamine transport (DAT) measured with [123I] FP-CIT with new brain dedicated pin-hole collimator AnyScan SPECT-CT” in the SPECT Lab. Her scientific focus is translational research in psychiatry, particularly on the psychosis spectrum.

     Christina                        Ida                                   Maja

NRU researchers in the media

In September 2020, Gitte Moos Knudsen and Vibe Frøkjær have nicely represented NRU by presenting some of our research through the media. Gitte Moos Knudsen participated twice in the radio program 'Kraniebrud' on Radio4 in broadcasts entitled 'Lykke' and 'Psykedeliske stoffer/Psilocybin', while Vibe Frøkjær spoke about cortisol and birth control pills in the podcast 'Estrogen and Sharp Brains', which is part of the podcast series "24 spørgsmål til professoren" with science journalist Lone Frank.

OpenNeuroPET funded by the BRAIN Initiative

We’re delighted to report that our joint grant application "OpenNeuroPET: An Archive for PET data" with Bob Innis from National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has been funded by the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). Bob Innis is the PI of the grant which totals $4.4 M in funding over five years. The overall aim of the proposal it to establish an archive for PET data, i.e. OpenNeuroPET. OpenNeuroPET will be an extension of OpenNeuro, which is directed by Dr. Russell Poldrack of Stanford University. To establish the archive we will follow the recent Guidelines paper that specifies the content and format of PET brain data in publications and archives. In addition to an archive, we plan to provide useful tools to the PET community, including software for a data analysis pipeline, and quality control checks using simulated and real data.

In recent years, the importance of data sharing has increasingly been recognized by the neuroimaging community because of the poor replicability of findings, the need for appropriate quality control, the greater statistical power provided by larger samples, and the higher scientific impact of multilateral collaborations. In addition, our funding bodies and scientific journals increasingly require that the data be shared. This application proposes to establish an OpenNeuroPET Archive for PET data, following the recommendations of international leaders in the PET field. The Archive would be created in a way that would enable it to communicate and synergize with other datasets and imaging modalities.
Over the past three years, Drs. Knudsen and Innis have directed a committee of the NeuroReceptor Mapping community to recommend standards for the content and structure of brain PET and associated plasma data so that they can be meaningfully shared. At its recent biennial meeting in July 2018, the NeuroReceptor Mapping community of >300 attendees supported the recommendations of the committee and voted unanimously that we finalize these recommendation in a “white paper” and, commensurately, that we apply for a grant to establish a PET Archive. The paper is titled, “Guidelines for Content and Format of PET Brain Data in Publications and in Archives” and has been submitted to J. Cereb. Blood Flow and Metab.
The proposed OpenNeuroPET Archive will synergize with existing BRAIN initiatives in two important ways. First, we will follow the Brain Imaging Data Structure (BIDS) format and extend the BRAIN initiative-funded human MRI archive, OpenNeuro, to support PET. Second, we have included and will develop software to facilitate use of the Archive across collaborations with the larger MRI/fMRI community.

Aim 1: To establish a PET archive federated with OpenNeuro
We will establish a cloud-hosted PET data repository that implements the Guidelines approved by the international community of PET experts. Our Archive will extend the existing BRAIN Initiative human MRI repository ( to support PET neuroimaging using the BIDS-PET standard. Maintaining the same code base and repository in collaboration with OpenNeuro will ensure that the new Archive will be fully integrated and inter-operable, which will help encourage collaboration between functional MRI and PET neuroimaging communities.

Aim 2: To support adoption and use by the neuroimaging community
The proposed OpenNeuroPET Archive already has the support of the NeuroReceptor Mapping community. In addition, fourteen individual investigators and 21 directors of PET centers or CNS subsections have signed a statement of support for the proposed PET archive and will encourage contributions to it (see Letter #19). We will continue to work with this community to guide the development of the Archive and to encourage its adoption. We will provide ongoing technical assistance and data curation support from PET imaging experts. To support the international adoption of the OpenNeuroPET Archive throughout the brain PET community, we will lead workshops on preparing and uploading data as well as make curators available at conferences across the neuroimaging community.

Aim 3: To establish molecular imaging brain atlases
This aim seeks to create a public database within the OpenNeuroPET Archive of average molecular target densities in the brains of healthy human subjects as quantified by in vivo PET. The molecular imaging brain atlases will be offered in formats that facilitate inclusion in MRI analyses, thus greatly expanding their potential impact. The OpenNeuroPET Archive will serve as the platform for aggregating already-collected data for dozens or hundreds of different molecular targets, thereby allowing a comprehensive characterization of, for example, the neuroreceptor signature of the human brain.

EU funding for NRU

Congratulations to Gitte Moos Knudsen and Vibe Frøkjær for being co-PIs on the EU funded Innovative Training Network Serotonin and Beyond: Brain development research Excelling Young Ones in Neurotechnologies and Discoveries. The ITN is coordinated from Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, NL and NRU receives funding for a full PhD stipend (3 years).

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter playing a crucial in the onset and treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders. Most of the drugs
currently used in psychiatry target serotonin (neuro)transmission. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the efficacy
of these drugs is suboptimal. As a result, the prevalence and burden of these disorders remain high. A new wave of research
revealed that serotonin plays important role in neurodevelopment. Changes in serotonin levels lead to changes in
developmental processes with consequences for the serotonin system and beyond. This makes it plausible that the origins
of these disorders do not per se lie in disturbed serotonin neurotransmission, but rather in serotonin-mediated
neurodevelopmental changes. This would require a radical different view on disease burden reduction. We hypothesize that
it are the serotonin-mediated non-serotonergic downstream changes in neurodevelopment that are at the basis of serotoninrelated
neuropsychiatric disorders. SEROTONIN and BEYOND will establish an interdisciplinary, intersectoral and
international scientific network to test this hypothesis. It will enable paradigm shifts in the understanding of vulnerability to
neuropsychiatric disorders, and provide groundwork for critical windows in development for future interventions. To achieve
these goals, top-class academic and industrial scientists will train Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) in the full spectrum of
state-of-the-art neuroscientific technical approaches. We will also equip these ESRs with translational and entrepreneurial
thinking by providing intersectoral and transferable skills training. In summary, we will train a new generation of ESRs in the
integrated field of serotonin, neurodevelopment and psychiatry to deliver 15 excellent young researchers who are optimally
prepared for their future academic and industrial careers.

Press release:

Research into serotonin and its role in treatment

The €4 mln EU project SEROTONIN and BEYOND will start in 2021

When a patient is treated for psychiatric symptoms, they are often given drugs that affect brain serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and critically involved in the communication between nerve cells in the brain. An important problem with these ‘serotonergic’ drugs is that patients don’t always respond to them.

In addition to being a neurotransmitter, serotonin has a major influence on brain development. Recent discoveries in brain research indicate that serotonin-mediated changes in brain development play an important role in the cause of psychiatric disorders. However, these changes in brain development are not the target of current drug treatments, and this may explain why they are not as effective as we want them to be.

The scope of the SEROTONIN and BEYOND project

This project aims to train the next generation of serotonin researchers and deliver new fundamental insights in how early life changes in serotonin caused by genetic or environmental factors alter brain development and thereby contribute to the cause of serotonergic psychiatric disorders.

These new insights have the potential to reveal novel targets for future therapies, as well as the developmental windows in which such interventions would be most effective.

A European network for new researchers

This multi-disciplinary project, led by prof Judith Homberg of Translational Neuroscience at Radboudumc, brings together researchers from leading European universities and institutes to create a network with world-leading expertise in serotonin research and training. Together, these partners will train fifteen talented PhD-students to lead research in serotonin, neural development and psychiatry in the years ahead.

Staff News, September 2020

A warm welcome to the new NRUs:

Research Assistant Kristian Reveles Jensen, MD, who will be working in the BrainDrugs project.

Project employee Louise Nielsen, Psychologist.

Music Therapist Catharina Messell, who will be working with Dea.

Scholarstipend students Anna Søndergaard and Elisabeth Pedersen (both Medicine).

Intern Cecilie Poulsen, Medical Technologist student. She will be working in the SPECT lab.

Volunteers Inger Sørensen (Medicine) and Maria Grzywacz (Psychology)

Philip Fink-Jensen is now scholarstipend student, and Sophia Weber is back as a master's student.

   Anna                                  Catharina                                         Cecilie                                         Elisabeth

                              Inger                                              Kristian                                     Maria                              

                                                        Philip                                      Sophia

NRU researchers awarded with ECNP Excellence Awards

Congratulations to Vibeke Dam and Nakul Raval who have both been awarded with the ECNP Excellence Award. Vibeke Dam's abstract "Link between Serotonin 4 receptor brain binding and cognitive disturbances in major depressive disorder: a NeuroPharm study" and Nakul Raval's abstract "A single dose of psilocybin increases synaptic density and decreases 5-HT2A receptor density in the pig brain" have been selected as one of the best abstracts from an Early Career Scientist. The award consist of a 100 EUR grant and a certificate. The ECNP congress 2020 will be a virtual congress taking place Sep 12-15.

Scholarstipend from Danish Neurological Society

Congratulations to Lars Pinborg who has received a scholar stipend for Philip Fink-Jensen (DKK 70.000) to perform the project 'Morphometric changes in the brains of epilepsy surgery patients: a new understanding of comorbidity in epilepsy?'.