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Meike van der Heijden, Ph.D.

Meike van der Heijden, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Meike van der Heijden, Ph.D.

“We want to know how the developing cerebellum contributes to developmental motor and non-motor milestones.”


Development of Cerebellar Function in Health and Disease

How does the developing cerebellar guide new behaviors after birth? How does abnormal cerebellar development cause motor and neurodevelopmental disorders?

Dr. Van der Heijden studies the development of cerebellar function in health and disease. Abnormal cerebellar development is associated with pediatric movement disorders, like ataxia and dystonia, and neurodevelopmental disorders, like autism spectrum disorder. She seeks to understand how the healthy cerebellum contributes to the postnatal development of behaviors so that we can predict, prevent, and reverse neurodevelopmental disabilities caused by abnormal cerebellar development.

The cerebellum is one of the slowest brain regions to develop – many of its neurons are born after birth. As a result, cerebellum-dependent behaviors do not mature until later in life. These functions include motor control and neural functions less known to involve the cerebellum, like social and emotional processing, language, and cognition. Because the healthy cerebellum is important for many behaviors, developmental perturbations to the cerebellum can cause impairments in different behavioral domains.

  • Assistant Professor, Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC
  • Assistant Professor, School of Neuroscience, College of Science

Van der Heijden, ME*^, Brown, AM*, Kizek, DJ, Sillitoe, RV^. (2023) Neural spike signatures determine the behavioral presentation of cerebellar disease. Preprint on: bioRxiv. DOI:10.1101/2023.05.07.539767. Reviewed preprint at eLife. PMID: 37214855

Van der Heijden, ME*, Rey Hipolito, AG*, Kim, LH, Kizek, DJ, Perez, RM, Lin, T, Sillitoe, RV. (2023) Glutamatergic cerebellar neurons differentially contribute to the acquisition of motor and social behaviors. – Article in: Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38475-9. PMID: 37188723
Van der Heijden, ME, Kizek, DJ, Perez, R, Ruff, EK, Ehrlich, ME, Sillitoe, RV (2021). Abnormal cerebellar function and tremor in a mouse model for non-manifesting DYT6. Article in: Journal of Physiology – DOI: 10.1113/JP280978. PMID: 33369735 

Van der Heijden, ME, Lackey, EP, Perez, R, Ișleyen, FS, Brown, AM, Lin, T, Zoghbi, HY, Sillitoe, RV (2021). Maturation of Purkinje cell firing properties relies on neurogenesis of excitatory neurons. Article in: eLife – DOI:10.7554/eLife.68045. PMID: 34542409

Van der Heijden, ME^, Gill, JS, Sillitoe, RV^ (2021) Abnormal cerebellar development in autism spectrum disorders. Review in: Developmental Neuroscience – DOI: 10.1159/000515189. PMID: 33823515 

Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Pathology and Immunology, Postdoctoral Fellow

Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Opthalmology, Research Assistant

Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Neuroscience, Graduate Student

  • Ph.D., Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine
  • B.S., Psychobiology, University of Amsterdam
  • Leading Edge Fellow – HHMI/Janelia Research Campus, 2021
  • Rush and Helen Record Fellow in Neuroscience – Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, 2018
  • McNair Teaching Fellow – McNair Education Collaborative, 2016
  • Outstanding Educator Award: Teaching Assistant – Department of Neuroscience, Baylor College of Medicine, 2016