Promovendus Brain age as a new MRI based measure of neurodegeneration in MS

Status Open
Beschikbaar per -
Werkgever AmsterdamUMC
Afdeling Radiologie & Neurologie
Dienstverband Voltijd
Werktijden -
Locatie Amsterdam
Sluitingsdatum 01 september, 2022
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Overige informatie

PhD project: Brain age as a new MRI based measure of neurodegeneration in MS

Help us find new ways to improve care for MS patients using artificial intelligence on brain MRI


Project Background

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is characterised by inflammatory lesions and neurodegeneration in the central nervous system. These partly related processes are responsible for the development of clinical disability, and therefore require monitoring to make well informed treatment decisions.

Currently, individual treatment decisions for persons with MS (pwMS) are mainly based on  the presence of acute inflammatory lesions that are easily detected on brain MRI scans. In contrast, the neurodegenerative aspect of the MS disease process is generally underappreciated in routine patient care. The main reason for this is the absence of simple, reliable and easily interpretable measures that reflect the degree of neurodegeneration in individual patients.

Changes in brain structure occur with normal aging and are visible on MRI scans of the brain. These changes resemble brain changes seen in people with neurodegenerative brain diseases such as MS. Evidently these disease related brain changes occur at a faster pace as would be expected in normal aging individuals.This has lead to the “brain age” concept, in which accelerated aging of the brain is considered to be a sign of neurodegeneration.

New machine learning techniques can determine ‘brain age’ from an individual MRI scan of the brain. Subtraction of this predicted brain age from the actual age, results in the brain predicted age difference (brain-PAD) as an indicator of premature aging of the brain.

The aim of this project is to establish that brain-PAD is a comprehensive, robust marker and predictor of disease severity in MS that represents all aspects of MS pathology, including neurodegeneration, that can be used as a monitoring tool of individual pwMS in a clinical setting.

The first objective is to establish the clinical and pathological relevance of brain-PAD in an existing well documented cross-sectional birth cohort of pwMS and healthy controls of practically the same age.

The second objective is to evaluate whether brain-PAD changes over time, and whether these changes are related to disability progression in a well characterised longitudinal research cohort.

The third objective is to evaluate whether brain-PAD is related to disability progression and treatment in a real world outpatient clinical cohort of pwMS.


What will you do

  • Collate MRI, clinical and laboratory data of the existing cross-sectional birth cohort, existing longitudinal research cohort, and the ongoing real-world outpatient cohort.
  • Implement and apply the latest brain age models developed at University College London by Dr. James Cole and his team in collaboration with Dr. Ir. Alle-Meije Wink.
  • Analyse MRI images with various software packages to quantify lesion volume, brain volume and use advanced DTI analysis to measure brain tissue integrity.
  • Perform statistical analysis to elucidate the relation ship of brain-PAD with measures of physical and cognitive disability, MRI measures of lesion burden, brain volume and brain tissue integrity, laboratory measures of neurodegeneration, and different treatment modalities.
  • Conceptualise the implementation of brain-PAD in routine clinical care.
  • Report findings in peer-reviewed papers and at conferences.
  • Contribute to the department’s teaching activities.


What do we expect?

We are looking for a candidate with the following qualities:

  • You hold an MSc degree in (medical) physics, (bio)medical technology, medical natural sciences or equivalent;
  • Knowledge of, or experience with MRI analysis software and systems is an advantage;
  • Experience with software programming is an advantage;
  • Mastery of the Dutch language is not compulsory;
  • You have a positive, flexible attitude, combined with great team spirit.


What we offer you:

  • We offer a 3-year contract, with an intermediate evaluation after 1 year.
  • Additional benefits include an 8.3% end-of-year bonus and 8.0% holiday pay.
  • The opportunity to follow further training and development.
  • Pension is accrued at the ABP. VUmc contributes a large part of the premium (70%).
  • In addition to excellent accessibility by public transport, we reimburse 75% of your OV travel costs (commuting costs).


Your working environment

You will be employed at the department of Radiology and Nuclear Medicine.
This project is a close collaboration between the department of Radiology and Nuclear medicine, department of Neurology and department of Anatomy and Neurosciences at the AmsterdamUMC/NL, as well as the Department of Computer Science, University College London/UK.

Your physical work environment will be at the Radiology department of the AmsterdamUMC/NL.

The involved departments at the AmsterdamUMC are embedded in the MS Center Amsterdam headed by Prof. Dr. B. Uitdehaag and the Structural Brain Imaging group lead by Dr. H. Vrenken, ensuring an optimal multidisciplinary collaboration with regard to research and clinical activities in MS.

Dr. James Cole of University College London is one of the leading proponents of the brain-age paradigm, and will provide the brain age models and his expertise on the state-of-the-art in the field as a member of the project team.

Your project is supervised jointly by Dr. Jasperse (neuroradiologist) Dr. Moraal (neuroradiologist), Prof. Dr. B. Uitdehaag (neurologist) and the expert technical supervision of Dr. Alle-Meije Wink (computer scientist).


MS Center Amsterdam (MSCA)

The MS Center Amsterdam is a multidisciplinary center within Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc in which more than 100 researchers from different disciplines cooperate. Our mission is to give people with MS a normal daily life without being limited by their disease. The combination of fundamental, applied and clinical research gives us the possibility to quickly apply results into the care for people with MS. The center has an excellent international reputation and is one of the top three MS research centers in the world.

Structural Brain Imaging Group

The structural brain imaging group focuses on quantifying structural changes in the brain and spinal cord in MS and different types of dementia. In addition to pursuing clinical research questions to unravel the pathological changes in MS and AD, we develop and validate new methods, and attempt to facilitate transfer of research imaging methods to a clinical setting. A large part of our research concerns the analyses of the images once they have been obtained. The Structural Brain Imaging group is embedded in the clinical routine of the Radiology department and as such you will also learn on how to report on MS studies.

Working at Amsterdam UMC means working in an inspiring and professional environment where developing one`s talents and academic skills are encouraged. We offer you ample opportunity for development, deepening and broadening, additional training, and a place to grow!


Let’s meet…

In principle due to holidays you will receive a response to your application after the close of the publication deadline. In addition, applications are processed continuously during the publication period. Once the vacancy has been filled, it will be closed prematurely.

The first round of interviews is scheduled for Monday morning, 12 September.
The second round is tentatively scheduled for Monday morning,19 September. 

We ask you to take this into account and thank you in advance.

Start date is preferably per 1 November 2022.

For more information about this position, you can contact Dr. Jasperse via
For more information on the procedure you can contact Tanja Hart, Recruitment Advisor, via or via 06-21603178.
A reference check and screening can be part of the procedure. Read here what this entails. If you would join us, we will ask for a VOG (Verklaring Omtrent Gedrag).

Internal candidates will receive preference to external candidates, if equally qualified. Acquisition regarding this job opening is not appreciated.



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