LIBC-Pharma comprises two themes:
Pharmacology as a method for investigating cognitive brain function.
Neuropsychopharmacology is the study of drug-induced changes in brain, mind and behavior -- a prominent research approach in the LIBC. This approach allows researchers to generate and test detailed predictions about the neural basis of cognitive brain function. Research participants are administered a substance with largely known effects on neuromodulatory and/or hormonal systems. Researchers record the effects of this substance on measures of brain activity, mood, or cognitive function. Effects of the substance, relative to a placebo treatment, inform the researchers about the neuromodulatory or hormonal basis of the tested phenomenon of interest. This method provides a powerful complement to widely conducted, non-pharmacological, human brain-imaging studies. Experimental manipulation allows one to discover causation (instead of only correlation). And the method allows conclusions about a lower neural-level of description than system-level neuroscience methods. This level of description is of prime importance for understanding cognitive function.
Cognitive neuroscience methods for investigating effects of pharmacological compounds on cognitive brain function.
Drugs that can cross the blood-brain barrier and act on the central nervous system can significantly affect our brain functions. These effects are not always understood and can be both desired and undesired. Several research groups in the LIBC study these drug effects on brain and cognition, with the aim of increasing our understanding of specific drugs, including their acute side effects and effects of long-term use. This research approach may also support faster drug development and lead to better drugs. Researchers from the Department of Radiology/LUMC and Centre for Human Drug Research in Leiden develop and apply brain imaging methods to increase our understanding of the effects of various pharmacological compounds on the brain. In the Institute of Psychology, researchers from the Cognitive Psychology Unit use experimental psychology methods to examine the effects of recreational use of cocaine, cannabis and other drugs on cognitive function.