PhD Students

I am trained as a neuropsychologist and neuroscientist in Utrecht and joined the RIBS group when I started my PhD in 2015. My main interests are cognitive neuropsychology and brain connectivity research in neurological populations.

My PhD project is embedded in the Visual Brain Group, a research consortium investigating visual information processing in the human brain. A specific focus in my investigations is to understand how visuospatial processing and reaching behaviour are altered by focal brain damage. Through the participation of neurological patients and using structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we examine the neuroanatomical underpinnings of visuospatial and reaching disorders.

Anouk Smits

I joined the lab in March, 2015 to investigate cortical representations of language by applying data-driven techniques to ECoG data. I have completed 2 Master’s degrees: in Linguistics (Moscow State University) and Cognitive Neuroscience (University of Trento), and have done training at the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience lab (Donders Center for Cognition).

Hopefully, the work we are doing could eventually contribute to the theoretical basis of language-related BCI research. The possibility of model-free extraction of language related structures from brain activity patterns should help in constructing more accurate and flexible BCI devices and improve the life of locked-in patients.

Julia Berezutskaya

I studied both psychology and neuroscience here in Utrecht. I’m interested in the relationship between the brain and human behavior. During my education I learned about brain-computer interfaces and I started an internship in this group. After that, I moved to the United States to study brain activity using implantable electrodes.
Now, I work here again as a PhD candidate.  I investigate the possibilities of using brain signals for decoding language with the goal of controlling a (speech)computer for severely paralyzed patients.

Efraïm Salari

During my graduation in Biomedical Engineering I researched in Brain Computer-Interface. I was motivated by the possibility of giving a new direct communication path between the brain and the outside world to those who lost that capability. 

This same goal is present in Nick Ramsey’s group, where I have the pleasure to work now. Here, the main focus of the BCI research is not only to use technology to improve paralyzed patients life quality, but also to bring us one step closer to solve the puzzle behind brain networks. In this group, I was given the opportunity to never stop asking why and always investigate the intuition behind (un)related questions.

Mariana Branco

Ever since my master Cognitive Neuroscience at Leiden University I have been fascinated about brain computer interfacing. As a result I first joined Nick Ramsey’s group as an intern and investigated the effects of real-time fMRI neurofeedback training on brain activation. During this period I learned much about BCI, fMRI and other research methods such as ECoG. Afterwards I can say that my experiences in this lab only provoked many more questions and ideas, and kindled my interest in the field of BCI even further. Luckily, after finishing my research master I was given the opportunity to join the group as a PhD candidate. Currently I’m working on the iConnect programme which aims to give severely paralyzed people the means to communicate with the use of their cognitive functions. In order to do so we investigate and try to decode the activity patterns of several cognitive functions (such as inner speech and sign language). By doing so I hope to answer fundamental questions about the brain and at the same time improve the quality of life of these patients.

Max van den Boom

After completing my bachelor’s degree in medical biology I started with the research master Brain & Cognitive Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. During 2009 I worked on visual priming and the involved time scales at the University of Iceland which resulted in my thesis. After some travelling I joined the group of Nick Ramsey in 2011. There I got interested in working with patients and I was able to contribute to their wellbeing. This led to my involvement in the Utrecht NeuroProsthesis project, and in 2013 I started my PhD. I hope to help people with locked in syndrome to regain a stable form of communication.

Elmar Pels

I have a background in biomedical engineering with a master’s degree in biomedical image analysis. After having worked on developing image analysis algorithms that are inspired by the visual processing in the brain, I got more interested in brain functioning itself.

I am working in the iCONNECT programme, with a special focus on decoding hand gestures from functional MRI data. How are these gestures encoded in the motor cortex and can we decode them using the spatial (and perhaps also temporal) activity patterns? Is decoding gestures still possible in paralysed people using attempted movement? These questions are both intriguing and relevant for the development of brain-computer interfaces.

The hospital environment makes the research to have concrete goals. It is inspiring to work in a team of researchers with various backgrounds.

Mark Bruurmijn