Do Tromp, PhD.

Do was born and raised in the Netherlands, where she received her college education at Utrecht University in the fields of Science & Innovation Management, Psychology and Neuroscience. She then continued her education in the United States and received her PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Her interests are focused on the intersection between technology and health, and how individual factors conspire to influence mental health outcomes. About a decade ago she saw the potential of diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a state of the art technology that maps white matter microstructure, to investigate how white matter alterations may influence our mental health. Her work has demonstrated that microstructure in a specific fiber pathway important for emotion regulation is altered in individuals with high anxiety, that this effect is evolutionarily conserved, and that alterations to this pathway are mostly caused by environmental factors. The work she was involved in has been cited by nearly 1000 publications.

While acquiring the skills to analyze this data she noticed the lack of guidelines and support for novice neuroimaging scientists in this field. In order to lower the barrier for entry and make this knowledge publicly available, she decided to document all the skills she picked up from working in close collaboration with MRI physicist and DTI experts for nearly a decade and share them online at diffusion-imaging.com. By offering step-by-step tutorials and providing an online community of peers this website now provides support for academics worldwide who may otherwise not have had access to this knowledge. To date diffusion-imaging.com has accumulated over half a million views.

As a next step Do is interested in using new technologies to not just understand mental health, but to try and improve peoples mental health by targeting their white matter integrity. Research on improving white matter microstructure points toward the importance of aerobic exercise, sleep and enriched environments, as well as enhancing neuronal activity through target pathways. With the emergence of smartphones, smart watches and other health tracking devices, 1 in 5 adults in the US are now actively tracking their behaviors. However, right now this data is static, you can see how one measure changes over time, but it is unclear how change in 1 measure, like the number of minutes your work out each week, are likely to influence measures such as your day-to-day mood scores. By designing an interactive application that will help track, instigate and forecast health outcomes, we might be able to target these white matter pathways and improve mental health outcomes.