Maartje C. de Jong
Postdoctoral researcher at University of Amsterdam and Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Maartje          -     -


Maartje
Welcome to my website. My research focuses on the way our brain organizes and interprets visual information to build a meaningful image of the world around us. I investigate this by measuring brain activity while participants view multi-interpretable visual images, optical illusions or visual cues.

I use magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), intracranial electro-encephalography (ECoG) and scalp electro-encephalography (EEG). My research interests include visual ambiguity, binocular rivalry, perceptual learning and face perception.



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Interview Hersenletsel Magazine (in Dutch) [link]
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Amsterdam Brain and Cognition centre (ABC) Talent grant awarded in 2019 (125K euro) [link]
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Interview Trouw Levenslessen (in Dutch) [link]
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PhD thesis [PDF]
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Article about my PhD research by
NEMO kennislink (in Dutch) [link]
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Article about my PhD thesis by
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research
(in Dutch) [link]
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Dance Your PhD Contest [video]


Like a camera your eyes register light that is reflected from the things you look at, such as the text you are reading right now. Yet, your eyes do not make you 'see'. To consciously experience what you are looking at you need your brain to make sense of the incoming information. Like putting together the pieces of a puzzle, your brain reconstructs reality and builds a mental image that represents the outside world in a meaningful way. My ultimate goal is to understand how this happens and how it can go wrong in ophthalmological, neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.

I focus on vision, because vision is our dominant sense and most of our communication involves a visual component. One of the major obstacles in the study of visual experiences is the one-on-one relation between experience and visual input. I use optical illusions and ambiguous images to tackle this problem and dissociate brain activity related to the experience from brain activity related to the visual input.

Modern technology provides us with several techniques to measure brain activity in awake humans and investigate the transition from input to experience that occurs in the brain. I use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI; magnetic properties of brain tissue measured using very strong magnets that are built in an MRI-scanner), scalp electro-encephalography (EEG; electrical signals caused by neurons in the brain measured from electrodes placed on the scalp) and intracranial electro-corticography (ECoG; electrical signals measured from electrodes that are implanted inside the head, directly on or in the human brain). By combining the unique information that different recording techniques provide I aim to get a complete and multi-dimensional view of the calculations that take place in our brain.

Reflecting the multi-disciplinary nature of my research topic, I have worked at various institutes either specialized in clinical research, fundamental research or methodological advances (a complete list is provided in my CV [click here] ). I performed my PhD research at the Physics of Man dept. of Utrecht University (Science faculty). One of my key findings was that regions in the brain that are dedicated to analyzing visual input also have a role in relating this input to visual experiences from the past ( [PDF], [more info] ). This indicates that memory and sensory processing are intimately intertwined in the brain, corroborating the subjectivity of visual experiences. At the dept. of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, I showed atypical effects of visual social cues on behavior and brain responses in a clinical population with autism spectrum disorders ( [more info] ). This study shows how knowledge about visual processes can help us to understand social interactions and related clinical disorders.

Currently, I am based at the Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging, which is specialized in magnetic resonance imaging. I recently obtained an Amsterdam Brain and Cognition Centre (ABC) Talent grant to lead a new collaborative project between Spinoza Centre, University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Amsterdam University Medical Centre (AMC, [more info] ). In this project I combine state-of-the-art imaging techniques with a pharmacological intervention that interferes with visual processing to directly link the system-level (brain regions) with the biochemical (neurotransmitters) mechanisms underlying conscious perception. I also set up a collaboration with the University Medical Centre Utrecht and Free University Amsterdam to expand my ECoG project on the brain's responses to visual illusions ( [see my earlier work] ).



Collaborations:
Serge Dumoulin
Tomas Knapen
Simon van Gaal
Anouk Schrantee
Jan Brascamp
Chris Dijkerman
Frans Verstraten
Raymond van Ee
Chantal Kemner
Zoe Kourtzi
Nick Ramsey
Frans Leijten
Tom de Graaf
Helmholtz Institute
Spinoza Centre for Neuroimaging