Many inventions arise by coincidence or in error. Only a well-prepared mind would recognize a scientific breakthrough in this scenario. An abandoned petri dish containing mold led to the discovery of antibiotics. At the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus, different disciplines learn from and with one another, enabling us to give coincidence a helping hand.
Neuroscientist Job van den Hurk is affiliated with the Scannexus neuroimaging center at the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus as a brain and data scientist. He believes in the power of interaction andserendipity. “At Scannexus, we work with the most diverse medical research groups. With our brain scans, we can provide them with conclusive measurements on the link between brain, mind and body. This can yield some interesting insights. Working together with others outside of your field can force you to think differently. A coincidental meeting at Bandito’s can definitely help, but if it were up to me, we would be breaking through walls and actively seeking contact with each other even more.”
“The campus should have fewer walls”
He had his very own “Eureka moment” in Louvain, where he was doing research a couple years ago on how visual areas of the brain are structured in people who have been blind from birth. “Small islands in the brain become active if we see certain categories. In order to find out whether we are born with these visual areas, I compared the brain activity in people who have never been able to see with the activity of sighted people. The sounds certain objects or environments make were played for people lying in the scanner. Job then recorded their brain activity. “Initially, this didn’t produce any results. Incredibly annoyed, I tried one more thing, correcting for a certain factor in the data. Even though it was rather unconventional, it was apparently important. I was suddenly able to see that the islands were in fact alike in both groups, and could arrive at my conclusion: we are born with these visual areas.” His publication was a success, but it didn’t end here. “This method of looking at results can also work for other people. I am currently writing a method paper on this.”