PhD candidate (1.0 fte) – Early detection of Alzheimer's disease, Maastricht University Alzheimer Center Limburg

PhD candidate (1.0 fte) – Early detection of Alzheimer's disease, Maastricht University Alzheimer Center Limburg

Published Deadline Location
5 Dec 19 Dec Maastricht

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How early can we predict cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's disease? In this project, we are looking for a motivated, ambitious PhD student who wants to study the very first brain changes in dementia, using 7T MRI, postmortem examination, neuropsychological testing, and wearables. This is a full-time, four-year position.

Job description

In this project, we combine new 7T MRI techniques, postmortem imaging-histology, blood measurements, wearables, and comprehensive neuropsychological measurements to better understand the role of the locus coeruleus in the development of Alzheimer's disease. The locus coeruleus is one of the first areas in the brain where tau protein accumulation is detected. The locus coeruleus supplies the brain with norepinephrine, which plays an important role in sleep, memory, emotion, and arousal. Our group has developed a 7T MRI method to visualize the locus coeruleus in vivo. Using neuroimaging-histology correlations of postmortem brains, the PhD student will investigate whether the 7T MRI signal from the locus coeruleus is related to tau protein. In addition, the PhD student will be actively involved in collecting data (cognitive data, imaging data, and wearables) and analyzing data from an in vivo 7T imaging study of people between 30 and 90 years old and patients with Alzheimer's disease. The PhD student will investigate whether a less intact locus coeruleus is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, and which factors increase the risk (gender, genetics, sleep problems…).

This project is conducted by Maastricht University/Alzheimer Centrum Limburg and is a collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston), the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, and the University of San Francisco California. The project is funded by the Alzheimer's Association and Maastricht University.

The activities of this PhD project include:

  • Gaining insight into the biological correlates of the MRI signal of the locus coeruleus;
  • Gaining insight into the differences in locus coeruleus MRI signal between healthy people and people with Alzheimer's disease;
  • Gaining insight into which factors contribute to poorer integrity of the locus coeruleus;
  • Gaining insight into the clinical value of locus coeruleus imaging, in particular for the feasibility of future clinical trials.

The PhD student will be actively involved in collecting neuropsychological test data, questionnaires, 7T MR imaging, wearables (to measure sleep and physical activity) in healthy subjects and people with Alzheimer's disease.



Maastricht University (UM)


  • A master's degree in a relevant discipline is required for this position (for example, in neuropsychology, cognitive neuroscience, fundamental neuroscience, computer science, or human-computer interactions). We seek someone with interest in learning and thinking across disciplines.
  • In addition, a proactive work attitude, flexibility, and excellent organizational and communication skills are very important because of the interaction with healthy subjects and people with dementia.
  • As this is an interdisciplinary project, with a focus on biology and behavior with novel imaging methods, it is important to have a good foundation in neuroscience and statistics, and to be willing to learn programming.
  • We are looking for someone who speaks the Dutch language.

Conditions of employment

The appointment will take place at the Alzheimer Center Limburg of the Cognitive Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience division of the School for Mental Health and Neuroscience at the Department of Psychiatry and Neuropsychology.

This is a temporary employment contract for a period of 4 years. The first year is a probationary period. After a positive assessment, the position will be extended by 3 years.

The monthly salary is € 2,541 gross per month in the first year to € 3,247 gross per month in the 4th year, in accordance with the CAO-NU PhD salary.

In addition to the monthly salary, an 8% holiday allowance and an 8.3% year-end bonus apply. In addition to good primary terms of employment, UM also offers a nice package of secondary terms of employment.

Recruitment is as soon as possible.

The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website > About UM > Working at UM.


Maastricht University

Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 22,000 students and about 5,000 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. 
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  • PhD; Research, development, innovation
  • Health
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2541—€3247 per month
  • University graduate
  • AT2022.524 ENG


Maastricht University (UM)

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Universiteitssingel 40, 6229 ER, Maastricht

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