Kaat Alaerts

Born in: Belgium
Primary research category: Neuro-Imaging, Social Neuroscience, Autism
Research location / employer: University of Leuven, Belgium and ETH Zurich, Switzerland
Fellowship dates: 2014-2020

Academic Career

  • Assistant Professor, University of Leuven, Belgium 2014-present
  • Post-doctoral research fellow, New York University, USA 2012-2013
  • Post-doctoral research fellow, University of Leuven, Belgium 2009-2012
  • PhD in Biomedical Sciences, University of Leuven, Belgium 2005-2009
  • Master & Bachelor degree in Biomedical Sciences, University of Leuven, Belgium 2000-2005

Fellowship Research

At present, neuro-modulating approaches mainly rely on behavioral therapies. With her research, Dr. Kaat Alaerts will explore novel avenues for enhancing neuro-modulation of the social networks in the autistic brain. Initial promising results have emerged for intranasal administration of the ‘social’ neuropeptide oxytocin for promoting social functioning. Also strong therapeutic potential is anticipated for applying noninvasive excitatory brain stimulation over key brain loci in the autistic brain. A specific interest of Dr. Alaerts lies in assessing whether these novel intervention approaches can enhance the neural communications or ‘connectivity’ within social brain networks. In normal development, the neural circuits that underlie human social behavior are not fixed, but constantly change from interactions with our surroundings. This project will define whether plastic neural changes can be specifically enhanced from neuropeptide treatments and/or non-invasive brain stimulation.

Major Awards

  • University of Leuven, International Mobility Grant 2013-2014
  • Research Foundation Flanders, Postdoctoral Research Fellowship 2009-2012 and 2012-2015
  • Research Foundation Flanders, Competitive Research Grant, 2012-2015
  • Belgian American Education Foundation, International Fellowship 2012-2013
  • Research Foundation Flanders, International Mobility Grant 2012-2013
  • Travel awards awarded by the European Science Foundation, Organization for Human Brain Mapping, University of Leuven, Research Foundation Flanders, and the Academische Stichting Leuven