I am fascinated by the interaction between social environment and the development of social cognition. This interaction is particularly evident during adolescence. During this phase, the complexity and importance of social relationships with peers increases, and in parallel social cognition and the brain mechanisms involved in these functions continue to develop. In 2014 I received a Consolidator Grant of two million euros from the European Research Council to do research to investigate the interaction between these processes. In a longitudinal study we will assess the social cognitive development of a large group of adolescents with brain scans and cognitive tasks, as well as the social networks around the adolescent and his or her social behaviour in daily life (http://www.so-connect.net/ ).
In January 2012 I received an NWO Vici grant to investigate how cultural orientation affects the development of social cognition and underlying brain mechanisms. For example, can we observe differences in the development of social cognition and underlying brain mechanisms in individuals growing up in a more individualistic culture compared to individuals growing up in a culture in which the collective is most important? We examine this question by comparing individuals from different cultures, but also by generating a certain cultural orientation in an experimental situation (priming).
On March 23, 2012, I presented my inaugural lecture titled "No man ever steps in the same river twice”, and accepted the post as professor of neuropsychology at the Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amserdam (VU), first at the Department of Educational and Family Studies, section Educational Neuroscience, and by January 1, 2017 at the Department of Clinical, Neuro and Developmental Psychology, section Clinical Developmental Psychology. I am also a member of the research institutes iBBA and LEARN.
After graduating in neuropsychology, I did my PhD at the University of Maastricht, investigating neuropsychological disorders in psychopathology, in particular psychosis. Then I worked for several years as a neuropsychologist in clinical practice and received my registration as a health psychologist. After that, I worked for seven years at Maastricht University, School for Mental Health and Neuroscience. In 2009 I started as an associate professor at the Department of Educational and Family Studies. The same year, I obtained my BIG registration as a clinical neuropsychologist. I was offered my current position as a professor in 2011.