Dr Sietske Sikkes
Assistant Professor & Alzheimer’s Association PIA Representative
Place of work / study:
Alzheimer Centre Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Medical Centre & VU University, Department of Clinical Neuropsychology
Area of Research:
Neuropsychology, cognition, instrument development, psychometrics, non-pharmacological interventions
Tell us a little about yourself:
I’m a clinical neuropsychologist and epidemiologist. During my PhD at the VUmc Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, I focused on the measurement of cognition in everyday life in the context of neurodegeneration. I developed a measurement tool, the Amsterdam IADL, that I’ve been validating ever since (I’m quite passionate about measurement of clinical symptoms).
After graduating in 2011, I joined the Alzheimer Centre Amsterdam, and performed post-doctoral fellow studies into cross-cultural differences and how they affect clinical measurements at the teams of Professor Dubois (Salpetiere Hopital, Paris) and Professor Maruff (University of Melbourne).
In 2018, I spent a year as a research fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, where I worked with Dr Sperling (Harvard Medical School), and further refined my interest into subjective measurements of clinical symptoms using data from the Harvard Aging Brain Study.
My research missions are 1) to find optimal measurement methods for cognition, everyday functioning and behaviour in neurodegenerative disorders, both as early diagnostic markers and markers for disease progression and 2) to optimise non-pharmacological interventions for the prevention of AD.
I’ve led several research projects, including research into:
- Non-pharmacological interventions: I have worked on several projects with a focus on non-pharmacological interventions, particularly prevention in people with subjective cognitive complaints: https://www.neurodegenerationresearch.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/EURO-SCD.pdf, which resulted in the PhD thesis by Linda Wesselman ‘lifestyle & brain health’ https://research.vu.nl/en/publications/lifestyle-and-brain-health-exploring-possibilities-of-an-online-i. And we’re very excited to start working on the Dutch branch of the FINGER study.
- Instrument development & validation: Besides the Amsterdam IADL Questionnaire, I’ve led research into the cognitive-functional composite, which is the first study of its kind: a data-driven cognitive test & a data-driven short version of the Amsterdam IADL were tested in an independent validation study (several papers described in the thesis by Roos Jutten https://research.vu.nl/en/publications/capturing-changes-in-cognition-refining-the-measurement-of-clinic)
- Subjective cognitive decline: I’m involved in the SCIENCe cohort, https://research.vumc.nl/en/publications/subjective-cognitive-impairment-cohort-science-study-design-and-f, which follows people with subjective cognitive decline over time. I have a particular focus on how to identify those complaints indicative for neurodegeneration.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself:
I originally aspired a career as an artist and was admitted to art academy, before I decided to study psychology.
Why did you choose to work in dementia?
My grandmother had Alzheimer’s disease, due to which I was confronted at an early age with the mysteries of the brain and the disease.