The brain

The brain is essential to our daily functioning. And when something goes wrong with it the consequences are serious – not just in terms of physical coordination and mental capacity, but also of character. At the same time the brain is the part of the human body we still know least about. This is why we seek to promote knowledge and innovation in improving brain health.

The impact of brain disorders and mental illness

In the Netherlands one in every four people has a brain disorder and/or mental illness. These have a great impact on daily life – both for them and for those around them. Many of the disorders in which the brain plays a role arise early in life and can be the cause of lifelong problems. Examples include migraine, anxiety disorders, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and less common complaints. The same naturally applies to brain damage sustained at birth or by a childhood accident. Moreover, people often suffer from more than one disorder; Parkinson’s Disease and depression, for instance. It is also sometimes harder for people with a brain disorder or mental illness to live in a healthy way, and this lowers their life expectancy.

Nationaal Plan Hoofdzaken

More research is needed to improve brain and mental health in the Netherlands. For this reason, together with the Dutch Brain Foundation, MIND, NWO and Health~Holland we have taken the initiative of creating the Nationaal Plan Hoofdzaken (NPH). Working with patients and their loved ones, researchers, care professionals, knowledge institutes, private companies, and social and governmental organisations, we aspire to people with a brain disorder or mental illness having five additional years of good health by 2040. To achieve this ambition we will try to take three opportunities:

Opportunity 1: provide more rapid solutions for patients. This means:
  • involving patients and carers as collaboration partners in every phase of scientific research into care practice, and
  • accelerating the knowledge cycle by stimulating entrepreneurship.
Opportunity 2: combine knowledge on disorders. This means:
  • investing in research into disorder-overarching commonalities in complaints, causes, underlying mechanisms and solutions, and
  • creating new techniques that promote ‘precision medicine’ and individualised lifestyle interventions.
Opportunity 3: share knowledge and data better. This means:
  • stimulating collaboration and the sharing of knowledge, techniques and data at all levels and between all disciplines, and
  • organising networks and interdisciplinary communication.

NPH programme to start at ZonMw

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has made a starting fund available to kick-start the ambitions of the Nationaal Plan Hoofdzaken by funding its first projects. ZonMw will soon be launching a programme with this funding (2023-2025, budget €11.5 million). This programme will focus on practices having a direct impact on present patients (opportunity 1). A start will also be made on an improved knowledge and innovation structure (opportunity 3). Alongside the sharing of knowledge and data, this will involve bringing people together, since to be able to work in an integrated, interdisciplinary and transdiagnostic way, it is necessary that the various disciplines and parties involved can meet at every level and instigate productive interactions.

More information on this programme and its initial funding opportunities will be published in the coming period.


If you have any questions, you can find our contact details below.

Merel Keizer
Programme Manager
Keizer [at]