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Research Clinical, Neuro- & Developmental Psychology

Our research is aimed directly or indirectly at the onset and diagnosis of mental disorders and the subsequent treatment and prevention. Cooperation with institutions that provide care to people with mental or developmental problems is of the highest importance.


We focus on all age groups from conception to old age. Our research is always directly or indirectly aimed at improving the quality of life of people with mental health problems. Our education is focused on educating psychologists who will find employment in health care or continue in research on mental health problems from a life course perspective.

Research

  • Clinical Psychology

    The research in the section Clinical Psychology is aimed at the improvement of prevention and treatment of common mental disorders, and the reduction of the disease burden of these disorders. Many of the studies in the Department are aimed at examining the effects of innovative interventions through randomized controlled trials, but we also aim to conduct epidemiological and cohort studies, experimental testing of components of interventions, meta-analyses of intervention studies, and the development and implementation of innovative treatments. At this moment we have several more specific research programmes:

    • Prevention and treatment of depression and anxiety disorders (prof. dr. Pim Cuijpers)
    • Internet-based treatments of common mental disorders (prof. dr. Heleen Riper)
    • Suicide and suicide prevention (prof. dr. Ad Kerkhof; description is in Dutch)
    • Primary mental health care (prof. dr. Annemieke van Straten)
    • Living together with cancer (prof. dr. Irma Verdonck)
    • Emotion regulation (dr. Sander Koole)
    • Psychotherapy in specialist care (prof. dr. Marcus Huibers & prof. dr. Jack Dekker)

    Apart from these research programmes, there are several other researchers who are working parttime at the section Clinical Psychology on the following research topics:

    • Psychosis (prof. dr. Mark van der Gaag; description is in Dutch)
    • Clinical geropsychology (prof. dr. Anne Margriet Pot)

    Projects at the department

    • IT4Anxiety
      IT4Anxiety aims to support the implementation of innovative solutions through start-ups with the objective of reducing the anxiety of patients suffering from mental disorders. Read more about IT4Anxiety. 
  • Clinical Neuropsychology

    The Clinical Neuropsychology section focuses on research into the relationship between brain, cognition and behavior (including motor skills, cognition and emotion). Within the section, different patient groups are studied that demonstrate neuropsychological impairment, among which people with congenital and/or acquired brain damage, as well as healthy (talented) individuals.

    The research covers the entire lifespan, that is: from premature children to old-age diseases including dementia. Behavior and brain functions are captured using advanced techniques, through which we investigate the impact of premature birth, physical or psychiatric illness, loneliness, chronic stress, chronic pain and/or traumatic injury. In addition, we examine the consequences of neuropsychological impairment on behavior and daily functioning. The section focuses on research into (a) assessment of neuropsychological functioning, (b) underlying mechanisms of dysfunction, (c) interventions aimed at maintaining (brain and or neuropsychological) functions or enhancing them (rehabilitation). Our goal is to implement findings in clinical practice.

    Pediatric Neuropsychology

    The Pediatric Neuropsychology research group is led by dr. Marjolein Luman and prof. dr. Jaap Oosterlaan. One of the lines of research focuses on the etiology, assessment and treatment (pharmacological and psychosocial) of externalizing behavior in children, including ADHD. The research group is affiliated with the ADHD Consortium, a collaboration that studies psychosocial interventions for children with (symptoms of) ADHD. The research group is also part of the Academic Workplace ADHD and hyperactive behavior, where practice and science collaborate. A second line of research studies the effectiveness of physical activity on school performance, neurocognitive and brain functioning.

    The studies within the pediatric neuropsychology group focus on a wide range of neurocognitive functions, ranging from motor skills to higher order cognitive control processes. The program is renowned for the development of advanced computerized paradigms (see for example www.cotapp.nl). The relation between neurocognitive measures and central nervous system structure and function is studied using psychophysiological measures and imaging techniques including EEG, (f)MRI and DTI.

    Prof. dr. Jaap Oosterlaan is also affiliated with the Emma Neuroscience Group of the Emma Children's Hospital, Amsterdam UMC. Together with dr. Marsh Königs, he is responsible for research into the effects of disease and treatment on the central nervous system in children, including research into the effects of premature birth and traumatic brain injury.

    Involved research staff:

    B.F. (Barbara) Haverkamp, PhD student
    S. (Suzanne) de Jong, PhD student
    Dr. M. (Marjolein) Luman, Associate professor
    A. (Anna) Meijer, PhD student
    Dr. S.D.S. (Siri) Noordermeer, Assistant professor
    Prof. dr. J. (Jaap) Oosterlaan, Professor
    A.I. (Anouck) Staff, PhD student
    G. (Gerben) Vermeulen, PhD student
    K. (Karen) Vertessen, PhD student and child psychiatrist in training

    Neuropsychology of Neurodegenerative Diseases

    The Neuropsychology of Neurodegenerative Diseases program is led by professor Erik Scherder. One line of research is concerned with studying the relationship between physical activity (e.g., walking, chewing) and behavior (e.g., cognition) in people with dementia; the second line of research concerns the relationship between pain, physical activity, and behavior in people with cognitive vulnerability (people with dementia or an intellectual disability). The third line of research focuses on brain injury in (top) sports (e.g., football) and when people can return to the field ("return to play"). A fourth line of research concerns research into the effect of music on the functioning of the brain in children without and with brain injury (research aimed at school performance or better motor skills in children with brain injury), in elderly with and without a brain disease such as dementia (research focused on mood and day-night rhythm) and among detainees (research focused on emotion regulation). 

    OVERVIEW OF CURRENT PROJECTS 

    • Enriched environment in the nursing home; the effect on cognition, mood and sleep-wake rhythm of elderly with dementia. The nursing home environment can be characterized by an "impoverished" environment in which the resident is optimally cared for, but in which there is little challenge and stimulation. Stimulation through enrichment  can mean that the resident participates in exercise programs, training the daily life activities, is sitting in rooms that are extra brightly lit during the day and that the nursing home itself is located in a green environment.
    • Pain perception in people with a neurodegenerative disease. The projects that are linked to this line involve research into the relationship between pain, cognition and motor skills in people with a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. To date it is unclear whether in neurogenerative   diseases the perception of pain changes (become more or less severe) when cognitive functions deteriorate.
    • The prison as an impoverished environment. In this line of research we focus on the negative effects of the prison as an extreme form of impoverished environment on the cognitive and behavioral/emotional functioning of the prisoners. Prisoners' brains would be vulnerable in multiple areas, including regulation of impulses. The question is  whether vulnerability of brain functions in prisoners increases or decreases during imprisonment. Only in the latter case would  the chance of repeat offending decrease.
    • Music and brain functions in children, adults and the elderly. Music is an ultimate form of enriched environment; every time the experience is different, and especially singing and playing an instrument requires effort; the latter aspect is important for brain training. Various studies are underway: the effect of music experience and rap on executive functions and mood, the effect of music on emotion regulation of prisoners, and the effect of music on the walking of children and elderly with a cerebral palsy.
    • Multicomponent intervention for informal caregivers of people with dementia. The 2010 World Alzheimer Report already emphasized the urgent need to develop accessible and cost-effective care for people with dementia and their caregivers. The intervention being evaluated combines two approaches shown to be effective in supporting caregivers: 1. multiple component approach; 2. actively engaging caregivers to involve the person with dementia in activities. Effectiveness and cost-effective of the intervention to improve well being in caregivers and the person with dementia and caregivers’ feelings of competence is assessed in a randomized controlled trial.  

    Research staff involved:

    S.C.E. (Sanne) Balvert, PhD student
    T. (Tarik) Binnekade, PhD student
    J.G. (Gerdine) Douma, PhD student
    S.A. (Sara) Galle, PhD student 
    M.E. (Marlijn) Janson, PhD student
    dr. F.A. (Frank) Jonker, teaching staff and post-doctoral researcher
    N. (Niki) Kuin, PhD student 
    E.C.S. (Roos) Meijer-van Dun, PhD student 
    Dr. M.V. (Maarten) Milders, assistant professor 
    A. (Angela) Prins, PhD student 
    Prof. dr. E.J.A. (Erik) Scherder, professor 
    R. (Rogier) Scherder, MD 
    M.E. (Elise) van der Sluys, PhD student 
    dr. S. (Sietske) Sikkes, assistant professor 
    E.T. (Evelien) Wolf, PhD student and teaching staff
    J.A. (Jule) Zuiderbaan, PhD student

    Endocrinological Neuropsychology

    The Endocrinological Neuropsychology research program investigates in a collaboration between the Clinical Neuropsychology section of the Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences and the Endocrinology section, Department of Internal Medicine of the Amsterdam UMC, location VUmc, the relationship between hormonal status and neuropsychological functioning in healthy adults, during aging and in patients with specific (endocrinological) diseases. The emphasis is on hypothalamic-pituitary-hormone axes and disorders of the pituitary gland, including treatment and long-term consequences. There is a special interest in the growth hormone/IGF-I axis. In addition, research is being carried out into adipokines and cognitive functioning and mood. The research uses fMRI and neuropsychological tests. Further, there is collaboration with the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (LASA) and the Dutch Study of Depression and Anxiety (NESDA).

    Involved research staff:

    M. (Merel) van Andel, PhD student 

    Dr. C.C. (Christa) van Bunderen 

    Dr. J.B. (Jan Berend) Deijen

    Prof. dr. M.L. (Madeleine) Drent, professor 

    S.A. (Sara) Galle, PhD student

    I.C. (Caroline) van Nieuwpoort, PhD student 

    T. (Tessa) Slagboom, PhD student 

    E.T. (Evelien) Wolf, PhD student and teaching staff

  • Clinical Developmental Psychology

    The research of the Clinical Developmental Psychology section aims to identify social and biological influences in the development of common emotional and behavioral problems and behavior in children and adolescents. We want to understand which factors contribute to or protect against a deviant development, and how these factors can influence further development during important development transitions. In addition to fundamental research aimed at the mechanisms through which problem behavior arises, we also conduct intervention research with pregnant women, children, young people and their parents, and (young) adults. We examine the effectiveness of interventions and also gain more insight into the effectiveness of modifiable factors in the development of emotional and behavioral problems and health behaviour. The section's more fundamental research consists of research in longitudinal cohorts from pre-birth to young adulthood, often supplemented with intensive and experimental lab studies. We currently have a number of specific research programs: