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Educational Neuroscience - brain, learning and development

How can developmental and biological perspectives help us understand learning and behavior of children and adolescents in educational contexts? Our research focuses on social-emotional, motivational and meta-cognitive factors to understand what is needed for children to do well and feel well in school. In addition to child factors, our program increases insights in how individual development is influenced by the environment, such as the peer context in the classroom, and gene-environment interplay. Throughout our work we use, and further develop, research approaches which are ecologically valid (i.e., situated and implemented in real-life settings, rather than lab environments) to ensure our findings have direct relevance for education.

Projects include:

  • Individual differences in social cognition

    We study 1) individual differences in social cognitive skills such as empathy and theory of mind, and their association with social network dynamics; and 2) the influence of cultural orientations (e.g. individualism, collectivism and honour) on social cognitive skills. 

    Contact: prof. dr. Lydia Krabbendam

  • Motivation, performance and brain development

    We study the interplay between students’ beliefs about their abilities (e.g. mindset, self-efficacy), the functioning and development of their brain when processing errors and feedback, and their actual learning trajectories and well-being in school, including the role of peers and parents in these processes.

    For more information, see

    Contact: dr. Nienke van Atteveldt

  • Reading

    Our focus is on the role of higher-order cognitive processes in language and reading comprehension, word problem solving and mathematics. We study how learners construct deep-level, meaning-based mental representations of the subject area they are studying, including work on situation models, mental imagery, embodied cognition and abstract reasoning. 

    Contact: dr. Menno van der Schoot

  • Executive functions

    Children vary greatly in the developmental pattern of their executive function and how they develop “goal-directed behaviour”. What causes this difference? How can the educational context help foster the development of executive functions? And how important are goal-directed behaviours for academic performance?

    Contact: dr. Mariette Huizinga 

  • Gene-environment interplay

    We study individual differences in children’s behavioural and cognitive development. We focus on environmental factors (e.g., home and school factors) as well as child characteristics (e.g., ADHD,  dyslexia, self-control). In our studies we take genetic differences between children into account.

    Contact: dr Elsje van Bergen