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prof. dr. Nienke van Atteveldt

Full Professor, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Clinical Developmental Psychology

Full Professor, IBBA

Full Professor, LEARN!, LEARN! - Educational neuroscience, learning and development


Why do some adolescents avoid challenges, while others thrive at challenging school tasks? Why are some students more resilient to setbacks at school than others?

In my research program, we address these questions, with the ultimate and overarching goal to stimulate that children enjoy learning. We approach learning as a multi-level phenomenon, as learning in the complex school setting cannot be reduced to one level only. One level of importance is the neurobiology of learning, but at school it is never one isolated brain learning one isolated skill. Learning processes at the neurobiological level are shaped by a child’s individual learning history, beliefs and goals, but also by their social environment (peers, parents).

To capture the complexity of learning in school, we combine multiple levels of measurement and analysis by using different methodologies. We study neural processes related to effort and feedback processing, and how these develop, using fMRI and EEG. To also capture physiological responses during learning, we combine the lab EEG work with measuring heart rate. At schools, we have children play games on the computer, to measure learning behavior (e.g., choosing for easy or challenging tasks, responses to mistakes, explore vs exploit behavior). In addition, we use questionnaires as self-report measure of motivational constructs (e.g. goal orientation, academic motivation, mindset) and social networks (e.g. peer nominations).  In one of our projects, we take neuroscience into the classroom, using portable EEG headsets.

For more detailed information about our current projects, see:


Mind, Brain and Education (Bachelor 3 - Minor)

The aims of the course Mind Brain and Education are to provide an introduction into neuroeducational research, and to teach students to reflect critically on how neuroscientific research can be translated to the educational practice.

Overview: Many scientists, policymakers and teachers share the belief that knowledge of the brain is relevant to educational practice. Yet, implementing neuroscientific findings in the classroom is by no means straightforward. Experts in the different fields seem to speak a different language. This course will provide an introduction into the new scientific domain of neuroeducational research. It will highlight insights from neuroscience that are relevant to educational practice. It will try to bridge the gap between the two fields. Using examples of recent interdisciplinary studies, it will demonstrate how diverse methodological approaches, ranging from neuro-imaging laboratory experiments used in cognitive neuroscience, to the approaches used in educational sciences, can be integrated. The course will outline the ways education can be improved using knowledge of the brain, but also point to the risks involved in this endeavour, specifically the proliferation of so-called neuromyths. Topics that will be covered are for example learning and plasticity, development of cognitive skills such as reading and math, development of metacognitive and social skills, neuro-imaging methods (myths and opportunities), and ethical discussions on the use of neuro-enhancement and early biomarkers of learning disorders.

Forms of tuition: Lectures (2 per week), Tutorials (1 per week, mandatory).

Period: Semester 1, period 2. English course.

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prof. dr. Nienke van Atteveldt