Vanessa studied Psychology at the University of Frankfurt where she used EEG connectomes to investigate the neural representation of trust and worked as a research assistant at the University of Tübingen, investigating the predictive value of resting-state MRI connectomes for the classification of depressive patients and healthy controls.
She then went on to work on her PhD in the lab of Nils Kroemer (neuroMADLAB) at the University of Tübingen where she used non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve (the main pathway connecting the brain to the viscera) to investigate how the brain deals with disturbances in energy homeostasis, a concept frequently associated with depression as individuals report changes in their appetite and sleep as key symptoms.
In 2021 she joined the GillanLab at Trinity College Dublin with the aim to build more appropriate models of individual behavior in key dimensions of cognition which can (a) help to elucidate neurobiological mechanisms driving psychiatric disorders and (b) help to develop predictive measures to identify individuals at risk and tailor treatment.
She believes that psychiatric disorders are complex and highly individual, necessitating the study of individual vulnerabilities in large, heterogeneous samples including individuals transitioning in and out of states of disease and health. To support this approach, she follows the principle of “garbage in – garbage out” and likes to dissect tasks and psychometric measures by investigating their reliability and suitability for prediction on the individual level. As she believes that data and scientific results need to be a common good, she strongly advocates against science as a black box and, thus, implements her projects with a focus on reproducibility and open sharing.
Sparked by her interest in programming and hardware she also loves to build fancy stuff in her spare time of which some things, like a MATLAB controlled candy dispenser, even make it to the lab setting while others, like a 3D printed model of her brain and heart, happily reside at home.