Faculty Profile: Sven Vanneste, PhD
StoryAltTagHereDr. Vanneste is originally from Belgium, and did all of his education there. He studied criminology and psychology for both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Ghent University, and went on to earn his PhD in neuroscience from the University of Antwerp. While working towards his PhD, Vanneste did a lot of research on tinnitus, and his supervisor worked for Dr. Aage Moller, a professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS). Dr. Moller and Dr. Michael Kilgard, another professor in the School of BBS, did research on vagus nerve stimulation as a potential treatment for tinnitus, and thought Vanneste would be a good fit to join the study at UT Dallas. “UT Dallas is open to new ideas and I was attracted to a lot of possibilities including research and access to funding. The resources are really unlimited,” says Vanneste.

Vanneste’s interest is in neuromodulation, where a neuron uses chemicals to regulate varied populations of neurons. One technique is known as vagus nerve stimulation, where electrical currents are sent to the nerve in an effort to change brain activity or brain connectivity. “We apply this technique to different disorders,” says Vanneste. “A lot of disorders have a hyperactivity component, as in tinnitus you see hyperactivity in specific areas that are related to hearing, like in the auditory cortex.”

Vanneste studies a host of other neurological disorders including dyslexia, depression and fibromyalgia, which is associated with bodily spread pain. Changes can be seen in brain dynamics, so his research works to manipulate those changes in an effort to help people who suffer from the disorder.

Vanneste teaches an undergraduate lab course where students learn how to collect, process and report data. “Students seem to like this course because of its practicality,” says Vanneste.

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