Madelon Vollebregt

A focus on new treatment methods

Dr. Madelon Vollebregt

Senior researcher, with Brainclinics since January 2016

Where did you study?
I graduated at the Radboud University Nijmegen as Neuropsychologist and Cognitive Neuroscientist. In both fields, I gained a Master degree (in 2010 and 2012). In my subsequent PhD-trajectory at the Donders Institute, in cooperation with Karakter child- and adolescent psychiatry, I focused on the development of potential new treatment methods for children with ADHD. Among other things, I investigated the efficacy of EEG-neurofeedback treatment in children with ADHD in a blinded placebo-controlled manner. Furthermore, I investigated ‘alpha’ brainwaves during attentional task performance. In 2016 I received my PhD, the same year that I started working at Brainclinics. I’m still affiliated to the Donders Institute.

Have you always wanted to become a researcher?
If you would have asked me if I wanted to become a researcher during college, I would probably have said no. The funny thing however is that all career choices that I made have led to this position. Although long in doubt of what I wanted, I have always made decisions based on my interests trusting that it would eventually lead to a desirable working place. And it has!

What other careers have had your interest?
As a child the main theme of my future perspective was wanting to help people (favorably children) by becoming a doctor or a nurse. The other major theme was creative expression; I visualized myself becoming an artist and/or photographer. I long thought of combining these themes by becoming a creative arts therapist, but once it was time to choose a study, the psychology books at the view day of creative arts therapy made me realize it was mainly psychology that I wanted to learn more about. When having to decide a specialization within psychology, again the books made me decide; the books of neuropsychology triggered my curiosity and eagerness to learn most, so I chose to pursue neuropsychology.

But you didn’t only study neuropsychology, right?
That’s correct. After having finished my masters in neuropsychology (expanded with courses on developmental psychology, because I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to learn more about this theme as well), I realized that starting to work as a neuropsychologist would not give me the fulfillment in my inquisitiveness. It was a true eye-opening experience when one of my supervisors told me that my description of an ideal job fully matched the job of a researcher. Why hadn’t I thought of that??? I applied for the research master of cognitive neuroscience at the Donders Institute and the decision was made. My master thesis, research assistant position, and PhD position merged into one big project.

What do you currently work on at Brainclinics?
The main theme of my current projects is the relationship between sunlight and attentional functioning, mediated by our biological clock (i.e., sleep). I investigate the pathway through which sunlight may influence inattention and genetic vulnerabilities associated with it. I study healthy individuals as well as people diagnosed with ADHD. By supplementing data collected at Brainclinics with data gathered through collaborations, I try to make optimal use of available data and expertise of collaborators. Understanding such mediation by our biological clock may provide optimization of clinical prevention or treatment of attentional problems.
In addition, I co-supervise the Phd candidates at Brainclinics. I’m particularly involved in projects involving personalized medicine, EEG analyses, (EEG-)biomarkers and treatment optimization for multiple disorders.

So, no more creativity?
Being a researcher can be such a creative job as well! A creative way of thinking leads to the most innovative research projects. But also, optimally carrying out an experiment may require creativity. For example, during my PhD, I loved having to create an attentional task for children that would actually interest them. Without their interest the experiment would have failed. In addition, creating presentations and illustrations that visualize the results of conducted research provides room to express my creativity. And of course – although a very important aspect of my life – life is more than just a job. I can think of other ways to express my creativity in my spare time.

No more helping people?
Not in clinical setting, but I do highly aim to contribute to helping people. Either through the aim of treatment optimization or simply by guiding PhD candidates with their career development.

How do you spend your time outside of those working hours?
Well, with two little kids at home I mostly enjoy the precious moments I have with them while still young! Having to raise them truly fulfils the wish I had to ‘help children’. Before I had children, I loved to paint and I’m sure there will come a time where I will find the time to do that again. Also, I do Latin ballroom dancing, (used to) play the piano and flute, swim, love to cook and bake, garden, (cycling or walking in) nature areas, read, socialize, and mostly: be active!