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Here, the dates, speakers and topics for past Rita Vuyk lectures are listed.
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15 December 2022 | Thijs Bol (University of Amsterdam) | Inequality of opportunity in education

In this talk I will focus on inequality of educational opportunity and discuss some empirical studies on this topic. More specifically, I will focus on the role of early tracking and selection and its relation to the unequal opportunities of children in their educational careers. How does selection affect the performance gap between children from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds? Next to this, I will highlight my research on how Covid-19 has affected existing gaps between children from different socio-economic backgrounds.

12 March 2020|Prof Kris Anderson, Adolescent Health Research Program, Reed College, USA | Assessing peer social influence in the lab: Findings from the SIDE paradigm 

Social context is an important determinant of human behaviour. Peer contexts can constitute developmentally-specific risks for potentially hazardous behavior in adolescents and emerging adults. Our work seeks to understand the interplay of social, contextual, and cognitive factors on decision making regarding alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis use in these age groups. As in vivo examination of these processes is often impractical, ecologically valid simulations provide opportunities for process-oriented assessment in the laboratory. The SIDE paradigm (Anderson & Parent, 2007; Anderson et al., 2013; 2014) is a laboratory-based procedure that affords the opportunity to assess in-the-moment decision making in peer contexts in a reliable and valid manner. In this lecture, findings from the SIDE paradigm examining the interplay of social anxiety, peer rejection, and media engagement on alcohol and other drug decision making for youth in North America and the Netherlands will be described. This talk is geared toward developmental, cognitive, and behavioral scientists engaged in the study of decision making.

18 November, 2019, - Pieter Van Dessel, Ghent University - Do inferences determine our preferences? The role of inferential processes in evaluative learning and automatic behaviour: theory and application

Evaluation is at the core of our lives. It not only guides our judgments and decisions, but also dictates how we treat other people, which politicians we vote for, musicians we listen to, or products we consume. Moreover, much of our more automatic (e.g., habitual, addictive, or unintentional) behaviour is thought to strongly depend on evaluative processes. It is therefore of critical importance to understand how, when, and why evaluations are established and what factors determine their change.

Many theorists have argued that the learning of our likes and dislikes and related automatic behaviour is the outcome of implicit processes that operate on the basis of mental associations rather than explicit, belief-based processes that drive more controlled behaviour.  In applied fields, intervention studies targeting maladaptive (e.g., addictive) behaviour have often used associative learning procedures designed to facilitate automatic changes in mental associations. Yet, recent findings from fundamental and applied research do not fit well with dominant associative (or dual-process) theories and have challenged key underlying assumptions of these theories.

Building on recent theoretical developments in the field of cognitive (neuro-) science, we recently proposed an alternative single-process view, that evaluative learning is determined by automatic inferential reasoning processes. From this perspective, automatic inferences determine  how we feel and act in response to stimuli. For instance, spontaneous liking of cigarettes and actual smoking behaviour might result from smokers’ automatic inferences that smoking cigarettes will produce positive outcomes.

This inferential theory represents a shift in thinking about human behaviour and how we can most efficiently promote behavioural change that benefits our environment at the individual and societal level (e.g., to improve people’s well-being, treat clinical disorders, or facilitate protection of our natural environment). I will discuss recent research testing the predictive value of this theoretical framework and its applied potential (for changing maladaptive behaviour such as unhealthy food consumption).

October 1st, 2019, Dr. Szymon Wichary, Leiden University -How does arousal impact decision processes?

Research in psychology and neuroscience provides a rich amount of data on the ways in which humans make decisions. Behavioural studies on multi-attribute choice show that in order to overcome limitations in time, knowledge and cognitive abilities, people often use heuristics - simple strategies that require little information to make choices. I will present studies investigating how arousal, and the neural systems governing it, shape decision strategy use. In study 1, I induced arousal with highly-aversive pictures presented before each of a number of four-alternative choice problem. Self-reports and skin conductance data indicated that emotionally aroused participants focused on the most important information and selected simpler decision strategies relative to less aroused participants. This supports the hypothesis that attention narrowing is induced by highly aversive pictures and leads to limited predecisional information processing. In study 2, I used EEG to investigate the relationship between the use of decision strategies, focusing on P300 ERP, which is modulated by locus coeruleus (LC) – a brainstem nucleus governing arousal. I showed that participants that prefer simpler decision strategies show lower P300 amplitudes in general, and also show substantially decreasing P300 amplitudes to consecutive decision cues. Based on these combined findings, I outline a mechanistic model of decision strategy selection that links decision strategies with neural signals.

This lecture is hosted by Marieke Jepma

September 3rd, 2019, Prof. dr. Bram Orobio De Castro, Utrecht University - If you want to understand something, try to change it! Using experimental intervention designs to unravel transactional processes in the development of psychopathology.

Mental health problems tend to develop early in life. The past decades much progress has been made in describing how such problems develop over the life course and which factors are correlated with their escalation and chronicity. Yet we know far less about the causal processes that drive these processes. This is unfortunate, because effective prevention and treatment require a thorough understanding of the mechanisms involved in the development of psychopathology. Moreover, the apparent confusion between descriptions of problems and their explanation has led to an abundance of vague labels with concomitant interventions, that may actually do more to stigmatize children than to effectively help them. 

Thus, we urgently need to understand which processes drive the development of psychopathology and how mendable these processes are. Possibly, multiple adverse developmental pathways are actually driven by similar mechanisms: transactions between child and environmental characteristics that evoke and maintain each other. If so, intervening on these mechanisms may help prevent and treat a broad array of psychological and behavior problems.

To test whether such transactional mechanisms actually drive problematic development (or are mere passive correlates), we can use experimental designs to target these mechanisms. The past years we – and others – have been trying to do so, with a focus on family processes, social cognitive processes, and classroom peer relations. I will use this research to illustrate how we can use experimental intervention research to understand causal processes and to develop cost-effective early prevention and intervention for psychological and behavior problems like bullying, aggression, delinquency, school drop-out, and intergenerational transmission of such problems.

This lecture is hosted by Marija Maric

July 4th, 2019, - Prof Lynne Cooper, University of Missouri -Why do people drink? Thirty years of research on drinking motivations .

This lecture is Hosted by Reinout Wiers.

June 11th, 2019 - dr. Anna van Duijvenvoorde, Brain & Development Research Center, Leiden University - The changing brain: adolescent's learning in social contexts.

Adolescence is a life-phase in which social behavior shows remarkable changes. For instance, during the teenage years peers gain importance and we increasingly gain skills important for understanding others. How do these changes interact with our ability to learn from observing other's behavior? Samen Leren (social learning) is a project that sets out to study how adolescents learn from, for, and about other people. How do we learn who we can trust and cooperate with? A main goal is to test when and how changes in social learning emerge and which neurocognitive changes accelerate social learning across adolescence. During this task, dr. Van Duijvenvoorde will summarize key finding and critically discus future implications.

This lecture is hosted by Wouter van den Bos

April 16th, 2019 - Dr. Jeffrey Glennon, Radboud University Medical Centre, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, Nijmegen - Inattention is causal to aggression: evidence from preclinical, population and clinical studies

Overt aggression in oppositionalcur with and without comorbid attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The substrates of aggression are complex but are often prescribed to failures in self-control, empathy, morality and reasoning. Underlying these constructs are cognitive and emotional constructs including perception processing, sensory integration of (social) information, reward sensitivity and the ability to learn. In particular, the inability to learn from punishment is a hallmark of callous unemotional traits which when present renders the clinical management of these cases to be more problematic. Here we Bayesian machine learning, phenotypic data sets in two ADHD (1 childhood (ADHD200) and 1 adolescent (NeuroIMAGE) cohorts and controls; n=245 and 305 respectively. Using the same approach, we confirm this in the adolescent ALSPAC population cohort (N=5987) which suggests that gender influences inattention which in turn has a causal relationship with aggression. In addition, data from the ACTION consortium within the Dutch Twin register confirms a correlation between inattention and aggression in adolescents in a sample of 11,500 twins. In rodents, inattention is seen in aggressive mice (5-choice serial reaction time task & continuous performance task (CPT) in BALB/cJ mice.
Interestingly, while pharmacological interventions are secondary interventions in CD management, the dopamine / noradrenaline reuptake blocker methylphenidate (used to treat ADHD) improves the false alarm rate probability in the CPT in BALB/cJ at the same dose which decreases aggression.
Within the MATRICS consortium, sustained inattention is present in ODD/CD cases (n=211) in the rapid visual processing task in the CANTAB independent of ADHD diagnosis. Taken together, we demonstrate that inattention may be an important mechanism underlying aggression and its remediation by methylphenidate. This may involve improvement of error detection / sustained attention to social cues enabling improved social cognition which acts to reduce antisocial behaviour.

This lecture was hosted by Reinout Wiers

March 12th, 2019 - Dr. Jody Polleck, Hunter College, NY. Bibliotherapeutic Book Clubs as Culturally Sustaining Practice

This research talk will focus on 15 years of data collection on the impact of bibliotherapeutic book clubs with ethnically, linguistically, and neurally diverse urban adolescents.  Contributing to the field of bibliotherapy and social-emotional and academic development (Elias, 2006; Gil-Olarte, Martin, & Brackett, 2006), Dr. Polleck’s (2010; 2011; 2016) qualitative research has investigated how book clubs can be used with diverse urban youth to enhance not only their literacy skills but also to promote social and emotional development along with a sense of agency.  She collected longitudinal data from 20 students over a five-year period, documenting their lived experiences and the impact the book club had on their successes after secondary school.  Her data analysis demonstrated how book club interventions enhance students’ literacy skills by allowing them to collaboratively develop deeper textual analyses.  Additionally, her research shows how book clubs that used culturally relevant and sustaining texts became a mediating tool for marginalized youth to discuss critical issues in their own lives.  Her conclusions illustrate how the youth participants used characters in the books as catalysts for reflecting on and developing solutions to their own difficulties, from dealing with familial situations (Polleck, 2011) to improving peer relationships (Polleck, 2011).  She will also share research on an intervention that analyzed how young urban adolescents of color utilized the book club to discuss how race, class, and gender impact their lives and the lives of the characters in the novels (Polleck & Epstein, 2015).  Most recently, Dr. Polleck collaborated with Dr. Jurgen Tijms, using book clubs with adolescents in Amsterdam from urban, low socioeconomic areas in their first year of secondary education (Tijms, Stoop & Polleck, 2018).  Results revealed that the intervention enhanced students’ reading attitudes and comprehension and their social-emotional competencies.  Finally, Dr. Polleck will introduce her current collaborations with Dr. Tijms where they are studying how book clubs can be implemented with adolescents with ASD who are transitioning into college and career.  The objectives of this most recent research project are to examine the ways the bibliotherapeutic book club interventions impact diverse adolescents with ASD, specifically their social and emotional skills and reading dispositions.

This lecture was hosted by Patrick Snellings.

11 december, 2018 - Dr. Ad Dudink, gepensioneerd UHD, UvA. Rita Vuyk: de alleenstaande, stimulerende en weerbare professor

Waarom is Rita Vuyk één van de 1001 beroemde vrouwen in de 20ste eeuw? 

Mijn verhaal over haar leven heeft verschillende invalshoeken. In haar kindertijd heeft ze een opmerkelijke moeder. Na haar schoolperiode kiest ze in 1935 voor de studie psychologie. Haar proefschrift schrijft ze in de oorlogstijd. Ze promoveert in 1945 en begint als assistente van Géza Révész. In 1951 wordt ze lector in de ontwikkelingspsychologie en in 1960 hoogleraar.

De visie van Rita komt tot uitdrukking in de vele leerboeken die ze heeft geschreven. Speciale aandacht krijgt haar mening over de relatie van de leraar tot zijn klas (1963) en haar keuze voor de onderwerpen in het Leerboek der Psychologie in 1970. De zienswijze van Vuyk over studielessen hebben invloed gehad. Haar kennis over Jean Piaget en het contact met hem zijn zeer opvallend geweest. En natuurlijk zijn er een aantal persoonlijke belevingen van mijn professor die aan de orde komen.

November 27th, 2018 - dr. Willem Frankenhuis, Radboud University Nijmegen. Cognitive Adaptations to Harsh Environments: Memory and Reasoning about Social Dominance

Although growing up under stressful conditions can undermine mental abilities, recent research suggests that people in harsh environments may develop intact, or even enhanced,social and cognitive abilities for solving problems in high-adversity contexts (i.e., ‘hidden talents’). We examine whether childhood and current exposure to violence predict memory (number of learning rounds needed to memorize relations between items)and reasoning performance (accuracy in deducing a novel relation)on transitive inference tasks involving both violence-relevant and violence-neutral social information (social dominance vs. chronological age). We hypothesized that individuals who had more exposure to violence would perform as well or better than individuals who had less exposure to violence on transitive inference tasks involving dominance. We tested this hypothesis in a well-powered, preregistered study in 100 Dutch college students and 99 Dutch community participants with varying violence exposure. We found that more exposure to violence predicted lower overall memory performance, but did not predict reasoning performance. However, the main effects of current (but not childhood) exposure to violence on memory were qualified by significant interaction effects: More current exposure to neighborhood violence predicted worse memory for age relations, but did not predict memory for dominance relations. By contrast, more current personal involvement in violence predicted bettermemory for dominance relations, but did not predict memory for age relations. This pattern of results, which provided some support for both deficits and “hidden talents,” is striking in relation to the broader developmental literature, which has nearly exclusively reported deficits in people from harsh conditions.

This lecture was hosted by Annemie Ploeger

November 26th, 2018 - dr. Celeste Kidd,  University of California, Berkeley. Core cognitive mechanisms in learning and development.

The talk will discuss approaches aimed at understanding the computational mechanisms that drive learning and development in young children. Although infants are born knowing little about the world, they possess remarkable learning mechanisms that eventually create sophisticated systems of knowledge. We discuss recent empirical findings about learners’ cognitive mechanisms—including attention, curiosity, and metacognition—that permit such striking learning throughout infancy and childhood. We will review evidence that infants enter the world equipped with sophisticated attentional strategies that select intermediately complex material to maximize their learning potential (the “Goldilocks effect” of infant attention, e.g., Kidd, Piantadosi, & Aslin, 2012, 2014; Piantadosi, Kidd, & Aslin, 2014). We will also discuss more recent work on the dynamics of idealized attention in complex learning environments, with a focus on attentional-switching patterns and their implications for understanding learning (e.g., Pelz, Piantadosi, & Kidd, 2015; Pelz, Yung, & Kidd, 2015; Wade & Kidd, under review). We will also touch on how these general mechanisms facilitate not only smart attentional decisions, but also good decision-making in general (e.g., Kidd, Palmeri, & Aslin, 2013). 

This lecture was hosted by Marieke Jepma

October 9th, 2018 - dr. Maarten Speekenbrink, UCL. Exploration and generalization in experience-based decisions

Research on decision making has traditionally focused on how people make "decisions under risk" in well-described problems (e.g., choosing between gamble A, with a 25% chance of winning 7 Euro, or gamble B, with a 30% chance of winning 6 Euro). In everyday life, decision problems are rarely encountered in such a neatly packaged format. Instead, people need to experience the outcomes of their actions and learn which actions are more rewarding. This leads to the so-called exploration/exploitation dilemma: do you choose the action which you currently think is most rewarding, or another more uncertain action so that you can learn about it, potentially helping you obtain better outcomes in the future? In this talk, I will discuss our research on how people resolve this dilemma. I will focus on situations where exploration remains beneficial because the quality of options varies over time ("restless bandits"), and situations where there are noisy cues towards reward ("contextual bandits"), such that clever exploration can help generalize experience to novel options. Behavioural experiments and computational modelling show that, in both situations, exploration is guided by uncertainty, consistent with Bayesian accounts of learning and decision making. 

This lecture was hosted by Ingmar Visser

June 5th, 2018 - Claire Goriot, Centre for Language Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen. How early-English education influences pupils’ cognitive and linguistic development 

The number of Dutch primary schools that provide early-English education has grown tremendously in the past decades. These schools provide English education from the moment that children enter kindergarten at the age of four. Generally, they provide one hour of English per week. The main goal of this type of education is to increase children’s knowledge of English, and their abilities to communicate in that language. It may be that early-English education has a beneficial influence on multiple other domains of development, too. Previous research has shown that growing up with two languages instead of one may affect children’s linguistic and cognitive development. However, these studies mainly focused on children who acquired the second language in a (relatively) naturalistic way. The question remains if the same benefits also hold for early-English pupils in the Netherlands, who acquire a second language in an instructed setting, and who are getting relatively little exposure to that language. I will present the results of multiple studies investigating whether the linguistic and cognitive development of early-English pupils differs from that of mainstream pupils and resembles that of early Dutch-English bilingual children. The focus will be both on children’s cognitive development (executive functions), and language development (vocabulary, perception of English phonetic contrasts). The results show that early-English education may be beneficial to some of the investigated developmental domains, but certainly not all of them. 

May 22th, 2018 - dr. Delphine Sasanguie - Ontwikkelingspsychologie - KU Leuven. The key role of cognitive control in the relation between basic numerical skills, math anxiety and math performance.

In this talk, I will start with discussing the (predictive) association between the performance on basic numerical processing tasks and mathematics achievement. I will show that, to date, it is clear that symbolic number processing is far more predictive for future math development than non-symbolic processing. Next, I will focus on symbolic processing per se. Based on the results of several studies, I will show that the dominant hypothesis which states that symbols are ‘mapped’ onto their non-symbolic counterpart can be questioned and instead propose the existence of distinct mechanisms for processing symbolic and non-symbolic number. Subsequent, I will show that, if symbolic number processing is further unraveled, in both adults and children, especially number ordering in this processing is responsible for the association with mathematics achievement. Finally, I will argue that in this ordering ability, cognitive control might play a role and that a deficiency in cognitive control also has been reported in theories explaining math anxiety. I will present a first study demonstrating the key role of cognitive control in the interaction between cognitive and affective factors predicting math achievement, and implications for our understanding of symbol grounding and focus in math instructions will be discussed.

This lecture was hosted by Brenda Jansen.


May 14th, 2018 - Dr. Nicolas Chevalier (University of Edinburgh). Modeling Scientific Reasoning: Psychometric Issues and Developmental Heterogeneity

Emerging cognitive control of thoughts and actions during childhood predicts later success in life. A key challenge for children is to engage control in a way that matches ever-changing demands of tasks. In this talk, I will present evidence suggesting that cognitive control progress during childhood does not necessarily reflect engagement of more control, but more flexible and efficient engagement of control with age, including better coordination of available control strategies. More optimal coordination of control ensures dynamic adjustment of control engagement to match more effectively moment-to-moment variations in the demands of tasks and may result in more economic cognitive functioning.

This lecture was hosted by Hilde Huizenga and Marieke Jepma.

Kind regards,

Helle Larsen

Maien Sachisthal

October 3rd, 2017 - Dr. Peter Edelsbrunner (ETH Zürich, Switzerland) Modeling Scientific Reasoning: Psychometric Issues and Developmental Heterogeneity

Scientific reasoning encompasses a multitude of psychological skills and abilities necessary for scientific inquiry. In Study 1 of this talk, I present a review of psychometric modeling practices in research on scientific reasoning. It turns out that researchers mostly follow a strict Raschian approach, applying exclusively the (unidimensional) Rasch model and approaching model fit from a lenient perspective. Based on simulations, it is discussed how these practices can lead to unwarranted statistical and theoretical inferences about scientific reasoning. In a discussion of the foundations of Rasch modeling, it is conjectured why a recent increase in similar Raschian approaches is conquering Europe, and what to do about this. In Study 2 of this talk, the long-going debate about whether children are able to understand the control-of-variables strategy (CVS) in experimental designs is tackled by assuming that there is both intra- and interindividual variance in this understanding, offering a more complex, yet supposedly more precise answer. Based on two cross-sectional datasets encompassing more than 5000 children, a multilevel mixture modeling approach reveals evidence of such heterogeneity. Both within and between school grades, children differ strongly in their understanding of (multiple choice-based) application tasks, and (open answer-based) explanation tasks of the CVS. This approach thus allows quantifying differing patterns of understanding the CVS, concluding with a discussion of developmental, educational, and methodological implications.

This lecture is hosted by Ingmar Visser.

September 5th, 2017 - dr. Yehuda Pollak (The Seymour Fox School of Education, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem). ADHD-linked risk-taking behavior: a decision theory-based analysis

Clinical evidence demonstrates the link between ADHD and increased engagement in risk-taking behavior. This talk will highlight findings, aiming to characterize this link, using real-life, self-report, frequency and probability measures of various risk taking behaviors. Next, the talk will discuss experimental findings, targeting underlying specific decision-making variables, using the conceptual frameworks of risk-return, discounting, and construal level models. 

This lecture is hosted by Hilde Huizenga.

May 23rd, 2017 -  dr. Nienke van Atteveldt (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). Proving or improving yourself: How beliefs and goals influence learning processes

To successfully complete education, persistent learning behavior is essential. Why are some adolescents more resilient to setbacks at school than others? In addition to actual ability, students’ implicit beliefs about the nature of their abilities have major impact on their motivation and achievements. Ability beliefs range from viewing abilities as “entities” that cannot be improved much by effort (entity beliefs), to believing that they are incremental with effort and time (incremental beliefs). Importantly, ability beliefs shape which goals a student pursues at school: proving themselves (performance goals) or improving themselves (learning goals). To investigate how beliefs and goals result in different learning behavior, we start from the proposition that  a child’s goal at school may determine which learning-related information is attended. This is based on previous neuro-imaging evidence for the profound top-down influence of behavioral goals on selective information processing. In this talk, I will present an overview of our ongoing behavioral and neuro-imaging studies into how beliefs and goals influence learning processes at the behavioral and neuronal level in the developing adolescent’s brain.

This lecture is hosted by Hilde Huizenga.

We hope to see you all the 23rd!

March 28th, 2017 - Dr. Jorien Treur (Radboud University Nijmegen) Addictive behaviour: Genetic underpinnings and associations with mental health

From decades of research we know that addictive behaviour is moderately to highly heritable. The relative influence of genes and environment on addictive behaviour has traditionally been assessed with twin-family studies. More recently, genome wide association studies (GWAS) became popular, whereby hundreds of thousands of genetic variants are tested for their association with a certain trait, such as addictive behaviour. GWAS allow us to better assess the genetic underpinnings of addictive behaviour, but have also introduced new methods to study genetic overlap between different traits, test gene-environment interactions and determine the causal nature of observational associations (Mendelian randomization). Such methods may especially be useful to disentangle associations between addictive behaviour and mental health, which are highly co-morbid. During this lecture I will present some recent studies utilizing these methods,with a focus on smoking behaviour and its association with mental health.

This lecture is hosted by Reinout Wiers.

We hope to see you all the 28th!

February 28th, 2017 - Dr. Sabine Hunnius (Donders Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen). Becoming a Social Partner. The Early Development of Action Understanding and Action Coordination

From early in life, infants pay attention to the people around them and the actions they perform. They enjoy interacting with others and – as they grow older – take pleasure in cooperating with adults in a playful manner. But how do infants acquire knowledge about their social environment? How do they develop the ability to understand actions they observe in others? And which mechanisms play a role in toddlers’ developing ability to act jointly with others? In this talk, I will present a series of behavioral and neurophysiological experiments which examine the emergence of social understanding and cooperation in early childhood.
Although the actions we observe in others form a continuous, intricate stream of complex information, even young infants show indications of understanding other people’s actions. However, how exactly infants come to make sense of actions they observe is still a topic of investigation. I will discuss different mechanisms that are thought to play a role in infants’ emerging understanding of others. In particular, I will present evidence for the importance of infants’ own active action experience for their action understanding. Also, infants come to an understanding of others’ actions through the repeated observation of actions and the effects associated with them. In their daily lives, infants have plenty of opportunities to form associations between observed events and learn about statistical regularities of others’ behaviors. I will then describe how – based on active action experience and observational experience – infants gradually develop more complex social-cognitive capabilities.

November 9th, 2016 - Dr. Patrick Clarke (School of Psychology and Speech Pathology, Curtin University, Australia.) 

In the Rita Vuyk lecture, dr. Clarke will present his work on how understanding the neural and cognitive underpinnings of attention control potentially can inform methods of changing biased attention (abstract below).
This lecture is hosted by the group of Reinout Wiers.

September 1st, 2016 - Dr. Linda Geerligs (MRC Cognition and Brain Science Unit). Functional interactions in the aging brain 

Cognitive functions are carried out within interacting brain networks. Therefore, adequate communication (connectivity) within and between different networks is important for maintaining cognitive performance throughout the life span. I will talk about how the brain network architecture changes with advancing age and what this can tell us about age-related changes in cognition. In addition, I will illustrate a number of new theoretical insights and statistical techniques that can help to further advance this field of research. In particular, I will show that functional connectivity measures both state and trait characteristics of participants and I will illustrate a new multivariate technique that can be used to measure functional connectivity in more reliable and robust way.

April 20th, 2016 - Dr. Lee Hogarth (Exeter University, UK). What dimension of drug conditioning is most closely associated with individual differences in level of drug dependence? Identifying the core learning process in addiction

Dr. Lee Hogarth is an experimental psychologist studying the learning mechanisms that underpin human addictive behavior. At the intersection of behavioral neuroscience and clinical psychology he has systematically and critically examined the role that attention to external drug cues plays in the control of drug-seeking behavior, the decision processes by which external drug cues control drug-seeking behavior and the role of habits in addiction. During his lecture he will discuss recent research focused on identifying the core learning process(es) that underlie human addictive behavior.

March 22nd, 2016 - Dr. Wouter van den Bos (Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin). Impulsive Decision-Making in Adolescence: A Neuro-Computational Account.

Adolescence is a developmental period associated with an increase in impulsive behavior. Although, this is crucial for the acquisition of skills needed for adult life, it also leads to maladaptive outcomes. For instance, compared to both children and adults, more teens need emergency room services because of accidents or experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Despite the clear importance of understanding impulsive behavior during this critical developmental period, the underlying psychological and neural mechanisms remain poorly understood. In this talk I will present the results of a series of studies that focus on computational and neural correlates of inter temporal decisions. More specifically we zoom in on the role of pubertal hormones and affect on impulsive behavior. Taken together, the results suggest that developmental changes in decision-making are the results of several interacting cognitive and affective processes, each with its unique developmental trajectory. In addition, they suggest that adolescent impulsivity is context dependent.

November 17, 2015 - Dr. Patrick Clarke & Dr. Lies Notebaert (University of Western Australia). Innovations in cognitive bias modification: Changing the how and the when.

Anxiety vulnerability and dysfunction are characterized by cognitive biases favouring the processing of threatening information. Cognitive training procedures designed to modify selective processing of threat originally were developed to test the hypothesis that these biases causally contribute to anxious disposition. The capacity of cognitive bias modification (CBM) training to alleviate dysfunctional anxiety has since attracted growing interest, and many studies have reported promising findings. However, other CBM studies have failed to obtain the intended change in the targeted bias, and consequently did not succeed in affecting anxiety symptoms. Clearly, there is a need for research to move beyond the current tasks and procedures used in CBM research, and develop innovative ways in which the benefits of CBM can be maximised.

In this talk, two novel directions in CBM research will be presented.

The first line of research focuses on how CBM is delivered. Most studies to date deliver attentional bias modification through a modified version of the dot-probe task, which was developed to test the causal relationship between attentional bias and anxiety, and was never intended to be implemented as a treatment program. We have developed several novel, gamified bias modification tasks (both for attention and interpretation), and will demonstrate their effectiveness in modifying the targeted cognitive bias and anxiety vulnerability.

The second line of research focuses on when ABM is delivered. The majority of CBM studies in clinical settings require participants to complete the CBM task multiple times a week across several weeks, with the aim of inducing an enduring change in bias. As laboratory research has shown that a single session of CBM can produce a transient change in bias and emotional vulnerability, and alternative implementation of CBM is to target those times in which biased information processing and anxiety are likely to be most problematic. We will demonstrate the effectiveness of such a targeted approach in the domain of worry-related sleep disturbance.

The lecture is hosted by the group of Reinout Wiers.

November 3rd, 2015 - Dr. Veronika Job (University of Zurich, CH). Implicit Theories about Willpower

Research suggests that self-control depends on people’s beliefs —or implicit theories—about willpower. Some people believe that their willpower resembles a limited resource that gets easily depleted (  limited theory), whereas others believe that willpower is nonlimited and can get energized by exerting self-control (  nonlimited theory). Having a nonlimited theory has been found to be beneficial for self-control in laboratory settings and for self-regulation in everyday life. Investigating mechanisms that may explain these effects we found that people who think that willpower is a limited resource are sensitive to cues about the availability of resources (i.e., glucose) and motivated to preserve and replenish their resources after they experience a task as exhausting. People who view willpower as nonlimited show no such motivational shifts. Latest studies explore the development of implicit theories about willpower. They suggest that willpower theories are shaped by cultural context, parent’s beliefs and behavior, and by repeated experiences with self-regulatory tasks.

October 29th, 2015 - Prof.dr. Andy Wills (Plymouth University,UK). Rules and similarity in learning and generalization

Using techniques such as the criterial-attribute procedure (Kemler Nelson, 1984), previous researchers have argued that children, and non-human animals,  learn and generalize on the basis of overall similarity, whilst adult humans use rules. In this talk, I start with a re-evaluation of Kemler Nelson's work with adults, and then consider other, less confounded, ways the issue of rules vs. similarity might be addressed. This consideration includes recent behavioural and neuroscience investigations of rule- and similarity-based generalization from my lab.

Kemler Nelson, D. G. (1984). The effect of intention on what concepts are acquired. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 23, 734-759

June 29th, 2015 – prof.dr. Bea R.H. Van den Bergh (Tilburg University, Department of Developmental Psychology; Catholic University of Leuven, Research group on Health Psychology; Flemish Government, Brussels, Belgium, Department of Welfare, Public Health and Family).The emotional state of the mother during pregnancy and offspring brain and behavior development: the state of the art.

In this presentation I give an overview of important concepts in the 'Developmental Origins of Behavior, Health and Disease (DOBHaD) research field.  Main findings regarding the influence of maternal emotions - namely anxiety, stress, depression and mindfulness – during pregnancy on offspring brain and behaviour development are presented. I explain the relevance of epigenetic mechanisms and illustrate how brain function can be studied in the first year of life.

March 31st, 2015 – Dr. Jennifer H. Pfeifer (University of Oregon, US). Towards a Social Neurobiology of Adolescent Development

Dominant biological models of adolescent development emphasize the neural foundations of various trends in teenage behavior that are of significant concern to parents and society. Specifically, these models focus on an imbalance between prefrontal systems for cognitive control and subcortical systems implicated in affect and reward. Although imbalance models have provided a productive framework for advancing discovery in the field, there is a growing initiative to refine them. One important advance is to move towards greater breadth and ecological validity in our assessments of adolescent reactivity, regulation, decision-making, and so on. Another critical next step is to include other key brain regions and systems in these neurobiological models, particularly those supporting social cognition. These two new directions converge in their focus on social processes that play a central role in adolescent development. In this talk, I briefly highlight some themes of my research program, which include i) building our knowledge base about 'social brain' development in adolescence, ii) integrating social elements when testing assumptions of imbalance models, and iii) considering social context effects on more basic affective, motivational, and regulatory processes. The overarching goal is to build improved and more comprehensive neurobiological models of normative and atypical adolescent development that help usher in a new era of basic and translational research. 

March 10th, 2015 – Dr. Frini Karayanidis (The University of Newcastle Australia). Abstract will follow.

Cognitive control processes are crucial for goal-directed behaviour and decision-making across the lifespan. Like prefrontal brain networks, these processes show a ‘last-in, first-out’ pattern of development, maturing late and declining early in life. My research program has sought to characterise individual variability in cognitive control ability at different stages of life and it impacts adaptive/maladaptive outcomes. I will present work that seeks to establish lifespan variability in one aspect of cognitive control, the ability to flexibly adapt to rapid changes in task context, and to examine whether individual variability in cognitive flexibility is related to variability in a range of age-appropriate outcome measures. 

December 5th, 2014 – Prof.dr. Susan Tapert (University of California San Diego, Department of Psychiatry). Neuroimaging Findings in Young Drinkers: Does Teenage Drinking Harm the Brain? 

Alcohol use is common in adolescence and young adulthood, and rates of binge drinking are particularly high. Recent neuropsychological and brain imaging research have shown that the brain is continuing to develop throughout adolescence and into young adulthood (i.e., through the 20s), and that the brain may be more vulnerable to the effects of heavy doses of alcohol at this developmental phase. In this lecture I will discuss how a healthy brain progresses through adolescence and young adulthood.  We will explore data from three projects in my lab showing that binge drinking appears to affect the brain, and is linked to changes in thinking abilities over time. Finally, we will examine the role of the media in alcohol use decisions of young people. Implications for prevention will be reviewed.

November 5th, 2014 – Prof.dr. Lydia Krabbendam (Educational Neuropsychology, VU University). The development of trust in adolescence

Trusting others can be risky, and therefore requires a sensitivity to the other person’s perspective. During adolescence, the increasing complexity of the social environment puts even higher demands on trust decisions. There is evidence that adolescent perspective-taking skills are still developing. How does this impact on their disposition to trust and cooperate? In my presentation, I will draw on behavioural and neuroimaging studies investigating trust during the adolescent years. In the first behavioural study, trusting behaviour and perspective-taking were assessed in 200 adolescents. Trust was experimentally assessed using a trust game, in which the first player can express trust in the second player by investing money. The results suggest that increased perspective-taking ability was negatively related to expression of trust, but only in adolescents with a proself orientation.  In the second study, better perspective-taking was associated with a stronger decline in trust in response to unfair behaviour from the other player in the trust game. In the third study, we used two trust games with a trustworthy and an unfair partner to explore the neural mechanisms underlying trust in subjects ranging from adolescence to mid-adulthood. Increasing age was associated with higher trust at the onset of social interactions, increased levels of trust during interactions with a trustworthy partner and a stronger decline in trust during interactions with an unfair partner. The findings demonstrate a behavioural shift towards higher trust and an age-related increase in the sensitivity to others' negative social signals. Increased brain activation in mentalising regions, i.e. temporo-parietal junction and precuneus, supported the behavioural change. Together, the results suggest that sensitivity to the other person’s perspective is crucially involved in decisions to trust or not trust in adolescence.

September 25th, 2014 – Dr. Kasay Cresswell (University of Pittsburgh, USA). Mechanisms of Self-Regulation Failure: Laboratory Studies of Cigarette Craving and Alcohol Intoxication

Broadly, my program of research aims to understand the social, emotional, and genetic aspects of addictive behaviors.  My research focuses on uncovering basic affective and cognitive mechanisms of cigarette craving and alcohol use, emphasizes the importance of social mechanisms in the etiology of alcohol use disorders, and considers the role of gene by environment (G x E) interactions in predicting alcohol use and misuse.  I use experimental methodologies, including in vivo smoking cue exposure paradigms and alcohol administration protocols, which allow precise observations of social and emotional processing under conditions modeling real-world contexts that challenge successful self-regulation (e.g., while participants are intoxicated or experiencing strong cravings).  I will begin my talk by describing studies that use manipulations of cigarette cravings to reveal the underlying cognitive and affective mechanisms linking craving states to subsequent self-regulatory failures.  Next, I will describe studies examining the effectiveness of alcohol consumption as a means of regulating emotions (relieving negative affect and enhancing positive affect) and highlight the importance of considering social context when examining alcohol’s effects on emotions.  I will then present data indicating a specific pathway of risk for a certain subset of individuals, by describing a G x E in predicting alcohol reward. Finally, I will discuss future directions for designing and conducting methodologically powerful, cross-disciplinary research related to the neurobehavioral genetics of self-regulation, social processes, emotion, and addictive behaviors.


August 27th, 2014 - Prof. Ron Borland (Nigel Gray Distinguished Fellow in Prevention, Cander Council Victoria, Australia. Understanding problematic behaviour: Insights from tobacco smoking

People sometimes find themselves doing things they would rather not do, and/or are unable to sustain activities they believe to be desirable. One such problem is cigarette smoking.  In trying to understand the complexities of why people continue to smoke even in the face of a strong desire to quit, I have developed a dual process theory, called CEOS theory.  CEOS, along with other dual process theories, postulates that what distinguishes human behaviour from that of other animals is the development of executive capacity (an Executive System) to formulate and act towards conceptually generated goals, on top of the common capacity of continuing to seek a homeostatic balance between environmental context and internal needs, the ongoing work of its Operational System (OS). However, the ES cannot act directly, it needs to generate affective force that counters that which is otherwise generated through the OS, if it is to result in executive-directed action. The ES has the capacity for self-regulation, which is more than self-control, including strategic capacity, and capacity for self-reorientation, either by acting to recondition OS processes or by reframing the conceptualisation of the problem. Executive capacity is developed relatively early in life, but the capacity of executive processes to set and pursue goals inconsistent with operational tendencies develops more slowly.  This helps explain both adolescent impulsivity and idealism. In this presentation, I focus on some of what I see to be key differences between my conceptualisation and that of models emerging out of experimental psychology, especially that of Strack and Deutsch that has stimulated some exciting research here.

July 3rd, 2014 –  Judith Rispens ( Amsterdam Center for Language and Communication, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam)- Expressing the Dutch past tense: Evidence from children with SLI, bilingual children and adults

Successful language acquisition is dependent on child-internal and external variables that allow children to learn from the language spoken around them. Children with specific language impairment (SLI) show severe and persistent difficulties in language learning from the input, despite sufficient child-external language opportunities. Severe problems with past-tense morphology have been reported cross-linguistically (see Leonard, 1998) in children with SLI. Bilingual children typically receive less input in either language than monolingual children learning just one language, and slowed acquisition in the domain of the past tense has been reported for this group (Thordardottir et al., 2006; Nicoladis et al., 2007; Schelleter, 2007). Thus, in both groups difficulties with past tense acquisition are observed, but the causes differ. In this presentation, the ability to produce the past tense in children with SLI and in bilingual children will be discussed. In Dutch, the regular past tense is a morphophonological phenomenon as it is realized using one of the two morphemes /də/ (‘de’) and /tə/ (‘te’), depending on whether the final phoneme of the verb is voiced (kam-de ‘combed’) or voiceless (bak-te ‘baked’). The distribution of these two morphemes is not equal in the Dutch language input: the combination of the verb stem + ‘te’ occurs more frequently than verb stem + ‘de’. As it has been suggested that morphosyntactic acquisition is sensitive to input properties (Blom et al. 2012; Gathercole, 2007; Nicoladis et al., 2007; Paradis et al., 2010), the current study examined the effect of the differences in frequency of the distribution of the two past tense forms in Dutch in children with SLI and bilingual children relative to monolingual children. Additionally, results of an ERP experiment will be presented in which the sensitivity to the morphophonological properties of the past tense was tested in adults. These results will demonstrate the independence and interaction of morphosyntactic and phonological processing involved in past tense marking, The implications for acquisition and production of the past tense in children will be discussed.

July 1st, 2014 – Henning Tiemeier (Department of Epidemiology & Child- and Adolescent Psychiatry Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam) -The Generation R Study: Intrauterine and early childhood influences on developmental psychopathology

Background: Numerous studies of maternal exposures during pregnancy have documented effects on child developmental outcomes. Most often, maternal smoking or maternal psychological problems have been related to child behaviour. Other important maternal exposures include maternal medication use, drug abuse, maternal hormones and or autoimmune factors. An overview of recent research in Generation R addressing these and less well known intrauterine exposures and their association with child mental health is presented. Emphasis will be placed on outcome assessment using observational methods, brain imaging, and multi-informant approaches.

Method: The initial Generation R cohort comprised 9,778 pregnant women. Repeated fetal ultrasounds combined with detailed questionnaires and observational assessments now offer opportunities to study fetal and child development to age 6 years.

Results: Maternal depression, smoking, low folate concentrations, SSRI and cannabis use during pregnancy exposure all negatively affected fetal head growth. Yet, effects of these exposures on child developmental psychopathology were often absent, explained by confounding, reporting bias, or were not very consistent. Some intrauterine influences were associated with child mental health only if maternal and not if other informant’s reports were used. Also, we found indirect and direct evidence for genetic confounding using paternal exposure data (e.g. paternal and maternal prenatal exposure were equally related to child mental health). In contrast, subclinical maternal hypothyroxinemia early in pregnancy was more consistently associated with poor cognitive functioning and emotional problems. Likewise, maternal folate deficiency and SSRI use in pregnancy were risk factors for behavioral problems in 6-year old children.

Conclusion: The Generation R studies on prenatal maternal exposures will be summarized and discussed critically. Emphasis will be on methodological approaches taken to reduce bias. I will also give examples how brain imaging, child self-report, and experimental observations can be used in a large cohort to further our understanding of developmental psychopathology.

June 24th, 2014 – Jaap Denissen (Developmental Psychology, Tilburg University) – Dynamic person-environment transactions: Towards a model of self-regulated individual differences

The talk will contrast static models of traits with more dynamic-interactionist models. A selection of research findings will be presented to demonstrate that traits are affected by various situational influences, such as social relationships and social norms. These findings have inspired a novel self-regulation perspective that assumes that individuals emerge in interactions between environmental characteristics and a combination of primary and secondary regulation processes. At the end of the talk, possibilities for collaboration with other disciplines will be discussed.

March 11th, 2014 – Peter F. de Jong (Research Institute of Child Development and Education, University of Amsterdam). – Developmental changes in the processing of written words

Skilled reading is characterized by the rapid and accurate identification of words.  Often the sight of the written form of a word seems to be sufficient for the immediate activation of its spoken form in memory. In contrast, beginning readers are slow and their reading seems laborious. Several theories postulate that beginning readers lack the detailed associations between the spoken and the written form of words that enable parallel processing of print. Instead it is assumed that beginning readers have to identify words through a process of serial letter-by-letter reading. The developmental change from serial to parallel identification of words is a central issue in reading research but is not, as yet, fully understood. Key evidence for this developmental change is the length effect. In beginning readers, as in dyslexics, the time to identify a word becomes longer as the number of letters increases. In skilled readers a length effect is absent as all letters are processed in parallel. In this presentation I will 1) consider the determinants of the length effect, 2) present results that question the straightforward interpretation of this effect, 3) introduce an alternative method to determine the parallel processing of words (and nonwords) and 4) show that studies in which the method is used, provide results that cannot be captured by current theories of reading.

January 13th, 2014 -  Dr. Kris Anderson (Reed College, Developmental Psychopathology). Social contexts of youth substance use: From the party to the lab

In adolescence, youth develop skills necessary for adaptive functioning in adulthood within rapidly changing social contexts.  Peer relationships have particular importance for adolescents. Peers provide an important source of social support as well as opportunities to experiment with adult-like behaviors—many prosocial, but others that convey risk.  Our work seeks to understand the interplay of social, contextual, and cognitive factors on adolescent decision making regarding alcohol and marijuana use.  As in vivo examination of these processes is often impractical, the development of ecologically valid simulations provides opportunities for process-oriented assessment in the laboratory. Initial validation studies suggest that these simulations are consistent with self-reported use behavior outside of the laboratory and provide unique variance in the prediction of later problematic engagement with alcohol.  Current work examines how these methods might be applied to the examination of cue reactivity and attention, peer influence, and motivation.

December 17th, 2013 –  Mikko Aro (Faculty of Education, University of Jyväskylä, Finland and associated with the Niilo Mäki Institute for learning disabilities) - Neurocognitive insights into reading development and dyslexia in Finnish.

In this talk I will outline first the features of Finnish language, which has a very transparent orthography and a fairly complex morphological system. Both of these features affect the developmental challenges for the beginning reader. Second, I will summarize the findings concerning reading acquisition and reading disabilities in Finnish, especially from the point of view of longitudinal sets of data. These findings show that in transparent orthographies like Finnish, the bottlenecks of reading skill development reside in fluency development, after the initial acquisition of reading skill. Third, I will focus on intervention studies and the practical applications based on the findings from (neuro)cognitive studies of literacy development in Finnish. I will reflect also upon the question what might be the overlooked factors in search for effective means of supporting reading fluency development.


December 9th, 2013 - Wolf van Paemel (Research group of quantitative psychology and individual differences, Department of Psychology, KU Leuven) – Representational abstraction: Treating prototype vs. exemplars as parameter estimation.

We demonstrate how the long standing debate about exemplar and prototype representations in category learning can be treated as a problem of parameter estimation rather model selection. In  converting selection to estimation, we combine model expansion and hierarchical model extension. In a first step, both models are embedded in a larger family of models, referred to as the Varying Abstraction Model (VAM). The set of representational possibilities allowed by the VAM are then unified using a hierarchical Bayesian approach, involving two parameters. One parameter measures the degree of abstraction in category representations, and the other controls the emphasis on similarity in building these representations. Using previously published data collected in category learning tasks, we show how inferences about these parameters, and about the category representations they generate, can be used to infer abstraction in category representations.


November  5th, 2013 - Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry - Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA. Understanding Adolescent Tobacco Use to Develop Optimal Interventions 

Adolescence is associated with increased impulsive and risk taking tendencies which can lead to initiation of use of substances like tobacco, marijuana and alcohol. My research focuses on developing a bio-behavioral understanding of tobacco use among adolescents with the goal of developing optimal interventions to prevent tobacco use. Based on the evidence of enhanced sensitivity to rewards in adolescents, we developed a novel adolescent smoking cessation intervention which was designed to motivate tobacco use behavior change by enhancing desire to quit through the use of tobacco abstinence-contingent incentives, increasing cessation knowledge through the use of cognitive behavioral therapy, and removing cessation barriers through delivery within a high school setting.  Preliminary findings suggest high quit rates and also suggest that impulsive responding, and brain activation in response to cognitive and reward stimuli, are predictors of treatment outcome. Finally, in recognition that adolescent tobacco use is rapidly evolving with the advent of modified risk tobacco products such as e-cigarettes, the presentation will also include and discuss new findings on how adolescents and young adults perceive and use e-cigarettes.

September 24th, 2013 - Lindsay Squeglia - The effect of Alcohol and Marijuana on Adolescent Brain Development

Initiation and escalation of alcohol and marijuana use is common during adolescence. This is concerning as the adolescent brain is undergoing significant structural and functional maturation. This talk will examine how substance use affects adolescent brain development in humans. Our lab has collected magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), diffusion tensor imaging, functional MRI, and neuropsychological test data on 296 healthy adolescents ages 12-14 prior to the onset of substance use. Here, we present cross-sectional and preliminary longitudinal data showing neurocognitive, morphometric, and brain activation differences between youth who transitioned into heavy alcohol and marijuana use by age 17 as compared to those who consistently remained non-users. Brain regions showing these effects are largely within the frontal and parietal lobes, and are related to worsening neurocognitive functioning, particularly within the domains of visuospatial functioning and attention. Preliminary findings suggest females are more negatively affected by heavy substance use during adolescents than males. Additionally, there is some suggestion that some neurocognitive deficits precede substance use, making adolescents more susceptible to initiating substance use.

September 10th, 2013 - Anouk Scheres (Behavioural Science Institute, Department of Developmental Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen) - Are alterations in reward processing associated with ADHD?

Theories of executive dysfunction have dominated experimental research on the cognitive and neurobiological correlates of ADHD during the past twenty years. This large body of research has demonstrated that deficits in executive functions, especially inhibitory control, are associated with the primary symptoms of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. However, such deficits are only observed in up to 50% of individuals with ADHD. More recently, the notion that not only deficits in executive functions, but also alterations in the way rewards are being processed by, and affect behaviour and performance in those with ADHD has received more attention. For example, several theoretical models propose that the brain’s reward circuitry plays an important role in the symptoms as observed in individuals with ADHD. I use the term reward processing here as a broad concept which includes not only the behavioural and neural responses to various stages of rewarding stimuli, such as anticipating a reward and receiving a reward, but also choices between rewards that vary in magnitude and time duration after which they will be delivered.

In this presentation, I will review findings from both behavioral and neuroimaging studies addressing the broad question “are abnormalities in reward processing associated with ADHD?” Behavioural studies have predominantly focused on (1) to what extent the use of rewards improves performance on cognitive/neuropsychological tasks and whether this improvement is larger for those with ADHD as compared to those without ADHD; (2) preferences for small immediate reward over larger delayed rewards as measured in choice delay tasks and temporal reward discounting tasks. There is converging evidence that symptoms of ADHD are associated with relatively strong preferences for small immediate rewards, but important questions remain such as what is the role of IQ, are these findings specifically related to certain symptoms, in which situations is ADHD associated with these strong preferences for small immediate rewards? In terms of neuroimaging research, there is initial evidence suggesting that ADHD is associated with abnormal activation in brain regions that play an important role in the processing of rewards. However, a great deal of neurobiological research is still needed before we can have satisfactory answers to the question that is the title of this talk.

May 7th, 2013 - Evelyn Kroesbergen - Working memory as basis for mathematical learning

Many studies have found relations between working memory and mathematical performance or mathematical precursors such as counting. In this presentation, an overview will be given of several longitudinal, cross-sectional, and intervention studies, which give us more insight in the developmental processes underlying mathematical learning and mathematical learning disabilities. Many of these studies have investigated the relations between working memory and mathematical learning (disabilities). Special attention will be given to our latest study that showed that working memory not only plays a significant role in mathematics itself, but also in number sense, the ability thought to form the basis on which further mathematical learning is built. We have found that visuospatial working memory is related to non-symbolic numerical skills and that verbal working memory is related to symbolic numerical skills. These relations were confirmed in an intervention study with Kindergartners, in which children received either a verbal working memory training or a visuospatial working memory training. The different components of working memory thus seem to play different roles in the development of mathematics. These results were confirmed in our recent meta-analysis on working memory and mathematics in elementary school children. Both theoretical and practical implications will be discussed.

April 9th, 2013 - David Kavanagh, Institute of Health & Biomedical Innovation and School of Psychology & Counselling, Queensland University of Technology - Subjective experience of desires, imagery, motivation and target acquisition:  Some findings, potential applications, and hypotheses

Converging evidence is showing that imagery is of key importance in the subjective experience of desires, in planning target acquisition, and in the direction of motor behaviour. The elaboration of imagery requires working memory capacity, and is subject to interference by other visuospatial tasks. However, retrieval of image fragments can occur via conditioned associations. Controlled elaboration of imagery is likely to develop from a manipulation of visual memories.  While memories have utility in predicting similar events, they limit the ability to generalise to new, but similar contexts. The ability to hold and manipulate imagery and the ability to use kinaesthetic imagery to direct motor behaviour appear to become more highly developed in late childhood:  This ability opens new horizons for successfully acquiring desired targets in the face of delays and obstacles. This talk focuses on the evidence supporting his Elaborated Intrusion Theory, and its application to a new therapy, Functional Imagery Training. Pilot work on the new treatment is described.

March 12th 2013--Geert J.P. Savelsbergh  (Research Institute Move, VU University, Faculty of Human Movement Sciences)- The use of visual information in sport:  Can it be a new avenue into talent identification and development?

Competitive sports like cricket, football, and tennis require the players to catch, intercept or return a fast moving ball. The key to such a successful action is to meet the ball precisely at the right place at the right time. This type of successful coordinated performance requires skill in perception as well as the efficient and accurate execution of movement patterns. Therefore, the contribution of visual information is equally important as the motor skill. In other words, skill in perception in conjunction with an efficient execution of movement patterns is paramount. In the last decade, several researchers examined the skill of perception extensively. Common method in such experiments is to ask participants to predict the end result of video clips showing more or less predictive information from the opponent’s body or the ball’s flight path.  Their findings show that experts have superior anticipatory skills compared to novices (e.g. Savelsbergh et al., 2002). In fact, research shows that an important difference between experts and novices appears to be the capability to pick up advance information from some visual sources (Abernethy & Russell, 1987; Savelsbergh et al., 2002, 2005). For instance, with respect to football, players have developed an extensive football-specific knowledge base that enables them to recognize meaningful associations between the positions and movements of players in game situations (Savelsbergh et al., 2006, 2010; Williams et al., 1994). In other words, not so much the visual search strategy itself, but how the expert athlete can make use of this information is essential (Savelsbergh et al., 2006). In the presentation the registration of gaze behaviour (visual information) and movement behaviour in several different sports on the court or field will be used to illustrate that experts are superior to novices because they much better in “reading the game”.  Since experts and novices do differ in visual search strategies they employ, it has been assumed that experts have developed an ability to recognize advanced visual cues to ‘buy’ time, i.e. they are better anticipating future events. The important question is: can we use visual search strategies as an indicator for talent? In addition, ideas about visual attention training, that is, special practice to speed up the visual learning process of talented players will be discussed.

February 26th, 2013 -  Claire Stevenson (Leiden University)- Explanatory item response models of children's learning and potential for analogical reasoning.

 Analogical reasoning is essential to learning. A long line of research shows that children are generally capable of solving figural analogies. However, working memory appears to be a bottleneck in children’s analogical reasoning – at least in their initial ability prior to training. The question remains whether working memory plays a role in children’s learning and change in figural analogy solving. The literature shows conflicting results: in some studies the conclusion is that working memory affects ability to profit from training and other studies show no relationship between improvement in figural analogy solving and working memory. Perhaps some children are not yet capable of solving analogies, regardless of their working memory capacity. In this talk I will look into whether working memory is a source of individual differences in 5-10 year olds’ change on a dynamic test of analogical reasoning using explanatory IRT models.

January 15th, 2013 - Jiska Peper (Brain and Development Lab, LIBC, Leiden University, The Netherlands)- Brain restructuring during puberty: a role for the raging hormones? 

Puberty is a critical period during development characterized by increases in sex steroid levels. Human neuroimaging studies have consistently reported that in typically developing pubertal children, the brain undergoes significant structural reorganization. The process of pubertal brain ‘reorganization’ is thought to reflect the fine-tuning of neuronal networks. Importantly, animal studies have shown that sex steroids are capable of influencing dendritic branching and myelination. An important question that comes to mind is to what extent pubertal hormones play a role in affecting brain development during this critical period in humans. In my lecture, I will provide first human evidence that sex steroids are involved in gray and white matter development in healthy children. Individual differences in the modulation of sex steroids and brain development might provide a neural basis for variability in typical pubertal behaviour, such as enhanced reward sensitivity, risk taking behaviour and cognitive flexibility.

December 17th, 2012 - Elise de Bree - Utrecht University - Implicit learning in infants with and without a familial risk of dyslexia  

Dyslexia is widely believed to be (partly) caused by phonological processing difficulties, which are also attested in children with a familial risk (FR) of dyslexia. Additionally, theories have been formulated to account for the broader difficulties associated with dyslexia, both in (e.g. grammar) and outside (e.g. motor, attention) the language domain. One such theory proposes that a general learning deficit affecting implicit or procedural learning causes language-related disorders (Nicolson & Fawcett, 2007). To test this assumption, we conducted two language learning experiments with FR and typically developing children. 

The first experiment (based on Maye et al., 2002) used visual fixation to assess whether the non-native vowel contrast (ae-E, as in bad and bed) could be relearned using distributional information from the input. Eight-month-old TD and FR infants were exposed to a training that enhanced sensitivity to the contrast (bimodal distribution) or not (unimodal distribution). Results show that only the TD infants were able to use a bimodal frequency distribution to form novel speech sound categories, whereas FR infants were not.

In the second experiment (based on Gómez, 2002), head-turn preference design was used to assess whether 18-month-olds (FR and TD) were able to learn novel grammatical patterns, specifically, non-adjacent dependencies. Such dependencies (e.g. the relation between ‘is’ and ‘-ing’ in ‘she is singing’) often mark grammatical (agreement) relations and categories. Infants were exposed to one of two novel languages, containing dependencies of the type A-X-C, B-X-D or A-X-D, B-X-C, with 24 different X elements (after Gómez, 2002). Results show that TD infants listened longer to ungrammatical (or untrained) sentences. Again, FR_Dys infants were not sensitive to the dependencies, which may impact on their ability to form grammatical categories.

Taken together, these findings are taken to support the hypothesis that a deficit in implicit sequence learning underlies developmental dyslexia, leading to a delay in category formation. The implications of these findings in relation to dyslexia and other language-based disorders are discussed.

October 30th, 2012 - Arne Popma, VU medisch centrum/ De Bascule - Biopsychosocial clinical practice for children with behavioral disorders: current state & future perspectives

Neurobiological research has provided increasing evidence for the idea that biological factors are associated with specific subtypes of antisocial behavior in juveniles. Although major lacunae in our understanding of this association still exist, it seems timely to consider the potential clinical implications of the findings that this field of research has generated and will be generating the upcoming years (Popma & Raine 2006).

Data from our own studies as well as recent literature will be reviewed and related to specific aspects of (forensic) clinical practice: diagnosis, treatment, risk-taxation, and treatment evaluation. For example, we will discuss studies in which biological factors have been found to predict treatment outcome in children with disruptive behavior disorders and will discuss the effect of psychological interventions on biological parameters which are associated with antisocial behavior (Brotman 2008). In addition, we will reflect on relevant ethical issues.


Popma A, Raine A. ‘Will future forensic assessment be neurobiologic?’ Child Adolesc Psychiatr Clin N Am. 2006 Apr;15(2):429-44.

Brotman LM et al. Effects of a psychosocial family-based preventive intervention on cortisol response to a social challenge in preschoolers at high risk for antisocial behavior. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007 Oct;64(10):1172-9.

September 4th, 2012 - Ina Koning - Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen Universiteit Utrecht - Alcohol prevention during the course of adolescence: what works and how?

Early drinking is related to several developmental risks and to later alcohol and drug abuse. In a cluster randomized trial, this study examined the effectiveness of a school-based prevention program (PAS) that targeted early adolescents (N=3490, 12 to 16 years of age) and their parents separately and simultaneously. Parents and adolescents are advised to postpone regular drinking until at least the age of 16 by encouraging strict parenting in parents and healthy attitudes and self-control in adolescents. The longitudinal design enables us to obtain refined knowledge about how alcohol use among Dutch youth can be postponed throughout adolescence. To this end, three questions will be addressed in this presentation. Namely, what works (target parents and/or adolescents), how does it work and, for whom does it work? The findings will be discussed from a developmental perspective. That is, are the mediation/moderation effects different across adolescence?

May 29th, 2012 - Filipe Fregni - Laboratory of Neuromodulation & Center of Clinical Research Training and Harvard Medical School of Neurology and Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation - Non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS)

In this talk we will review the methodology of non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) trials and provide a framework to improve clinical trial design. The main methodological issues can be divided in to three groups: (1) issues related to phase II/small trials, (2) issues related to MDD trials and, (3) specific issues of NIBS studies. Taken together, they can threaten study validity and lead to inconclusive results. Feasible solutions include: estimating the sample size a priori; measuring the degree of refractoriness of the subjects; specifying the primary hypothesis and statistical tests; controlling predictor variables through stratification randomization methods or using strict eligibility criteria; adjusting the study design to the target population; using adaptive designs and exploring NIBS efficacy employing biological markers.

May 15th, 2012 - Decision Making Seminar and Summer School. Decision Making Seminar

14.00  Jill O'Reilly (University of Oxford) - Predictions in the brain's action systems
14.45  John O'Doherty (Caltech, University of Dublin, visiting professor UvA) - Neural mechanisms underlying Pavlovian influences on choice and performance
15.30  Coffee break
15.45  Nikos Green (Freie Universität Berlin) - From tug of war to horse racing: Deep brain stimulation reduces the influence of decision conflict in perceptual decision making.
16.30  Scott Wylie (Vanderbilt University medical center, Nashville) - Dopamine Agonists and the Suppression of Impulsive Actions in Parkinson's Disease.

CSCA Summer School: Emotional Memory

This interdisciplinary Summer School runs from June 18 - June 29 and covers various key themes in emotional memory.


Predictions in the brain's action systems
Jill O'Reilly

In motor control and perception, the brain's efficient functioning relies on the ability to predict what will happen next. Monkey electrophysiology studies have demonstrated that in the parietal cortex, where actions are selected, a variety of predictive information is present. Two diverse examples are efference copy from muscles (allowing predictive coding of eye and limb locations) and value-based information (for example, the expected value associated with an eye movement (Shadlen)).
Although the parietal cortex represents predictive information which is relevant to action selection, it is not clear whether predictions are actually calculated withing the parietal cortex, or elsewhere. The work I am presenting is based on the premise that the brain has anatomically separate systems specialized for different types of computation and that these computationally specialized systems feed into action selection in parietal cortex. I will talk about two experiments in which we combine fMRI with learning models to identify brain systems involved in computationally specified types of prediction.

From tug of war to horse racing: Deep brain stimulation reduces the influence of decision conflict in perceptual decision making.
Green, Nikos1, 2, 3; Bogacz, Rafal4; Hübl, Julius5; Kühn, A., Andrea5; Heekeren, R., Hauke1, 2, 3

1. Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany; 2. Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany. 3. Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany 4. University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom 5. Charité University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Abstract Neurocomputational models of the basal ganglia (Gurney et al., 2001; Bogacz, 2007; Bogacz and Gurney, 2007) have proposed that the subthalamic nucleus (STN) plays a crucial role during decision making. The STN sends a breaking signal to the output structures of the basal ganglia effectively slowing down decision making when decision conflict exits (Frank, 2006). This has an effect on sensorimotor transformations in PD patients, as deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the STN impairs this conflict computation leading to more impulsive decision making during high conflict choices (Frank et al., 2007; Zaghloul et al., 2012). Specifically, these models predict that DBS, which may disrupt information processing in the STN, should diminish the influence of decision difficulty on reaction time (RT).
To test these predictions we asked PD patients to judge the direction of prevalent motion in random dot stimuli under different DBS states. Trials differed in difficulty (motion coherence) and instruction to respond fast or accurately. Behavioral results indicate that DBS significantly influences performance for difficult perceptual judgments as well as the magnitude of adjustment between response instructions. In particular, when DBS was turned off, RTs increase substantially as the task becomes more difficult. By contrast, when DBS was turned on, the influence of decision difficulty on RT was significantly lower. Importantly, these findings are consistent with computational models and experimental evidence, which suggest that the STN is crucial for adjusting decision making on difficult, high conflict trials (Frank et al., 2007; Cavanagh et al., 2011; Zaghloul et al., 2012). Model fits demonstrate that DBS reduces the magnitude of adjustment of the decision criterion and support the algorithmic framework of cortico-basal ganglia computation for optimal decision making (Bogacz and Gurney, 2007).
Bogacz, R., and Gurney, K. (2007). The Basal Ganglia and Cortex Implement Optimal Decision Making Between Alternative Actions. Neural Computation 19, 442-477.
Bogacz, R. (2007). Optimal decision-making theories: linking neurobiology with behaviour. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 11, 118-125.
Cavanagh, J. F., Wiecki, T. V., Cohen, M. X., Figueroa, C. M., Samanta, J., Sherman, S. J., Frank, M. J. (2011). Subthalamic nucleus stimulation reverses mediofrontal influence over decision threshold. Nature Neurosicence 14, 1462-1467.
Frank, M. J. (2006). Hold your horses: A dynamic computational role for the subthalamic nucleus in decision making. Neural Networks 19, 1120-1136.
Frank, M. J., Samanta, J., Moustafa, A. A., and Sherman, S. J. (2007). Hold Your Horses: Impulsivity, Deep Brain Stimulation, and Medication in Parkinsonism. Science 318, 1309-1312.
Gurney, K., Prescott, T. J., and Redgrave, P. (2001). A computational model of action selection in the basal ganglia. I. A new functional anatomy. Biological Cybernetics 84, 401-410.
Zaghloul, K. A., Weidemann, C. T., Lega, B. C., Jaggi, J. L., Baltuch, G. H., Kahana, M. J. (2012). Neuronal Activity in the Human Subthalamic Nucleus Encodes Decision Conflict during Action Selection The Journal of neuroscience 32, 2453–2460.

Dopamine Agonists and the Suppression of Impulsive Actions in Parkinson's Disease
Scott Wylie

The suppression of impulsive actions is an essential facet of human cognitive control that has been linked to frontal-basal ganglia circuitry. Basal ganglia dysfunction caused by Parkinson’s disease (PD) disrupts the proficiency of action suppression, but how pharmacotherapy for PD impacts impulsive action control is poorly understood. Dopamine agonists improve motor symptoms of PD, but also provoke impulsive-compulsive behaviors (ICB) in a subset of patients. We investigated whether dopamine agonist medication has a beneficial or detrimental effect on impulsive action control in PD. Thirty-eight PD patients, half of whom had current ICB, performed the Simon conflict task both on and withdrawn from their agonist medication. The Simon task measures one’s susceptibility to acting on spontaneous action impulses as well as the proficiency of suppressing these impulses as an act of cognitive control. Compared to the off state, patients on their agonist were no more susceptible to reacting impulsively, but they were less proficient at suppressing the interference caused by the activation of impulsive actions. Importantly, the impact of agonist medication on the suppression of impulsive actions depended on baseline performance in the off agonist state. Patients with active ICB were no more susceptible to making fast, impulsive response errors than patients without ICB, suggesting that problems with rash decision-making and reward-seeking behavior in this vulnerable subset of patients may not be related to impulsivity in the motor domain. Our findings show that agonist medication exerts a direct impact on a key component of action control.

March 27th, 2012 - Kipling Williams is Professor of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University - Ostracism: Effects of Being Ignored and Excluded

The phenomena of ostracism, exclusion, and rejection have received considerable empirical attention in the last 20 years, in part because of a revitalized interest in the importance of belonging for human social behavior, but also because of a converging interest in social pain. I present a temporal model that describes and predicts processes and responses at three stages of reactions to ostracism: (a) reflexive, (b) reflective, and (c) resignation. The reflexive pain response triggers threats to four fundamental needs and directs the individual’s attention to reflect on the meaning and importance of the ostracism episode, leading to coping responses that serve to fortify the threatened need(s). Persistent exposure to ostracism over time depletes the resources necessary to motivate the individual to fortify threatened needs, thus leading eventually to resignation, alienation, helplessness, and depression. I examine the first two stages empirically, and provide qualitative evidence for the third stage of resignation.

Williams Bio

Kipling Williams is Professor of Psychological Sciences at Purdue University. Prior to coming to Purdue, Williams was on faculties at Macquarie University and University of New South Wales (both in Sydney), University of Toledo, and Drake University. He has authored one book, Ostracism: The Power of Silence, and edited eight books. His research interests include ostracism, social influence, and motivation in groups. He is currently a Lorentz Fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies.

January 31st, 2012 - Marc D. Lewis, Developmental Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen - From behavioural dynamics to neural oscillations: searching for self-organization in human development

I will trace my own development as a developmentalist and describe what I’ve learned or failed to learn at each stage. After being trained in neo-Piagetian stage theory, I spent the first ten years of my career studying cognition-emotion interactions from a dynamic systems perspective. I believed that feedback between cognitive interpretations and emotional states was the fundamental motor of personality development. But the data never lived up to the modeling. Behavioral measures and constructs may be too coarse to observe synchrony among system constituents. So I switched to neuroscience and EEG methods. Studying the brain, I realized that cognition and emotion are anatomically and functionally inseparable: both develop together in the moment and over the lifespan. The brain does operate via feedback and synchronization, just as the dynamicists claim. Yet I’ve found it difficult to conduct research into cortical synchrony, and I’ve contented myself with ERPs (event-related potentials) instead. Despite falling back on averaged data, we’ve found interesting correlates between brain changes and developmental processes. But I’ll end by mentioning research by Mark Johnson and Damien Fair that successfully models developmental change in terms of neural connectivity and/or synchrony. The brain really is the ultimate self-organizing system, and I watch with envy and admiration as others begin to track it down.

November 29th, 2011 - Leah Somerville, Sackler Institute, Cornell University - Varieties of emotional experience: Developmental and personality influences on affective response and regulation

Emotional reactions vary greatly from one individual to another, and even within an individual from one day or decade to the next. What predicts who is reactive or resilient following an emotional blow? In my talk, I will target this broad issue by addressing specific ways in which context, personality traits, and lifespan development flexibly modulate emotional responses at behavioral, psychophysiological, and neurobiological levels. Specifically, I will demonstrate ways in which reactions to positive and negative emotional cues differentially bias behavior and neural responses in subcortical-cortical brain circuitries. I will also feature ongoing research targeting neurodevelopmental mechanisms underlying heightened emotional sensitivity in adolescence, and consider linkages between patterns of brain development and the emergence of psychiatric illnesses across the lifecourse.

November 1st, 2011 - Susan Bögels, Universiteit van Amsterdam - The role of the father in the aetiology and treatment of child anxiety

Fathers have been ignored in the research and treatment of children with anxiety disorders. In this keynote a novel, evolutionary-based theory is introduced concerning the role of the father in the development of children’s fear. From an evolutionary perspective, fathers have specialized in external environments (confronting dangerous animals, fighting strangers, exploring new territory) while mothers specialized in the internal environment (feeding and comforting the child). Given this evolutionary-based comparative advantage of fathers, infants might overvalue the signal of their father compared to their mother to decide whether the external environment represents threat or opportunity. From this, it follows that anxious fathers may have a stronger influence on the aetiology of child anxiety than anxious mothers. Put differently, children may learn to overcome their fears by the example of a confident, courageous, and risk-taking fathers. Also, it can be hypothesized that involving fathers in the treatment of anxious children may be an effective strategy to help children overcome anxieties.

I will review the research literature providing direct and indirect evidence for a particular role of the father in child anxiety development. Then, I will present new data from our own lab in which 140 first-born children have been followed from their birth until the age of 2.5 to examine the effect of their fathers and mothers anxiety disorders and parenting on their children’s anxiety symptoms. Video-examples or typical differences between paternal and maternal interactions with their baby are shown. Furthermore, results from our clinical research on the relative effectiveness of involving fathers versus mothers in helping children overcome their anxiety disorders are reviewed. Also, data from our experimental research on how children weigh their fathers’ and mothers’ signals in the face of potential danger are given.

The potential implications of this new theory on the role of the father for research, prevention and treatment of child anxiety is discussed. Also, societal implications, such as father involvement in parenting after divorce, and the involvement of men in child care and primary education, is discussed.

Key-words: fathers’ role, childhood fear, evolution, child anxiety disorders, information processing

October 4th, 2011 - Travis Baker, University of Victoria, Canada - Genetic, Drugs, and Cognitive Control: Individual Differences Underlying Substance Dependence

Recent theories of drug dependence propose that the transition from occasional recreational substance use to harmful use and dependence results from the impact of disrupted midbrain dopamine signals for reinforcement learning on frontal brain areas that implement cognitive control and decision making. Further, the development and expression of the dopamine system is determined in part by genetic factors that vary across individuals such that dopamine-related genes are partly responsible for addiction vulnerability. This study tested the hypothesis that many of the cognitive and behavioral impairments associated with drug dependence results from the impact of disrupted dopamine signals on frontal brain areas that implement cognitive control and decision making: By acting on the abnormal reinforcement learning system of the genetically vulnerable, addictive drugs hijack the control system to reinforce maladaptive drug-taking behaviors. Using electrophysiological and behavioral assays of the integrity of dopamine system and brain regions involved in cognitive control and decision making in young adults, we recently demonstrated that substance-dependent participants, compared non-dependent participants, produce a severely reduced feedback error related negativity (fERN), which is believed to reflect the impact of dopamine reinforcement learning signals on cognitive control areas in frontal cortex, and behaved abnormally on a decision-making task, the Frank Probabilistic Selection Task, a task thought to reflect dopamine role in decision making. Here, we examined whether these findings result in part from dopamine-related genetic differences across individuals by collecting genetic polymorphism data, (i.e. DRD2, DRD4, COMT), together with fERN and Frank PST data in a substance dependent and non-dependent population. These results highlight important neurobiological and behavioral differences between dependent users that can inform the development of individually-tailored treatment programs.

July 4th, 2011 - Bruce McCandliss, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA. - Education and Neuroscience: how early schooling effects in attention, literacy and mathematics can bridge these two worlds of research

May 17th, 2011 - Dr. Hannie Gijlers, Dr. Tessa Eysink, and Dr. Pascal Wilhelm - Promoting and supporting scientific inquiry learning

In inquiry learning, students learn by exploring a domain like a scientist would do: constructing models and theories, generating hypotheses and conducting experiments to test them. Computer simulations provide an excellent platform for designing learning arrangements in which learners can work through these processes, learn about a domain and develop inquiry skills while receiving adequate instructional support. The department of Instructional Technology (IST) of the Faculty of Behavioural Sciences of the University of Twente has been designing and testing computer simulations for inquiry learning in various national and European research projects. Inspired by the renewed interest in and educational targets for early science education, the department has started several research projects into inquiry learning targeted at fourth to sixth graders. In this talk, a broad overview of finished and still running IST research projects will be presented.  

March 4th, 2011 - Prof. Dr Eveline Crone, Professor of neurocognitive developmental psychology, Leiden University, Professor in affective neurocognitive development in adolescence, University of Amsterdam, facilitated by the Neurofederation - Prefrontal cortex contributions to child and adolescent development - Prefrontal cortex contributions to child and adolescent development

Cognitive control is important for a range of abilities, including cognitive, emotional and social reasoning. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we study how changes in brain function are related to changes in cognitive control over the course of child and adolescent development.
We tested these changes using three approaches:

  1. the flexibility of the cognitive control system in childhood using training and longitudinal analyses,
  2. the balance between limbic and prefrontal cortex contributions in adolescence using affective reasoning tasks, and
  3. the contributions of developing brain regions to intention understanding in social reasoning using interaction paradigms.

I will show that brain development should be examined in terms of a window of flexibility with a relative imbalance between brain regions important for control and affect regulation. Together, these studies provide a multidisciplinary approach towards understanding the complex changes which occur in brain and behavior during childhood and adolescence.

February 1st, 2011 - Bram Orobio de Castro - Understanding and changing the development of aggressive behavior problems in youth. A longitudinal-experimental approach

Aggressive, oppositional, and rule-breaking behaviors by youth are among the most heatly debated issues in Dutch public debate. Despite recent decreases in the prevalence of these behaviors, opinion leaders eagerly compete for the most radical approach to this issue. In this debate, surprisingly little attention is paid to recent gains in scientific knowledge about the development, prevention, and treatment of behavior problems.

Aims of my presentation are to provide an introduction into these recent insights and to demonstrate how combining longitudinal and experimental research may help us further our understanding of development and the development of more effective interventions. I will mainly use our recent longitudinal, experimental, and intervention research on social information processing by aggressive youth to illustrate the potential of this longitudinal-experimental approach.

January 11th, 2011 - Bernd Figner, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Developmental Psychology, Amsterdam - Affect, Deliberation, and Self-Control in Risky and Intertemporal Choice: The Developing, the Stimulated, and the Imaged Brain

To explain otherwise puzzling phenomena, decision-making research has become increasingly interested in the role and interplay of processes involved in decision making, such as affect, deliberation, and self-control. These concepts have been used to explain phenomena like the adolescent peak in risk taking and steep discounting of delayed rewards in the presence of immediately available rewards. In my talk, I will present two lines of my own work investigating these topics. The first line of research concerns affective and deliberative processes in risky decision making in children, adolescents, and adults. The results shed light on the question why in everyday-life, adolescents and young adults often exhibit elevated levels of risk taking (compared to children and adults), while in laboratory studies, risk taking is often found to decline monotonically with age. The second line of research concerns the neuroeconomics of intertemporal choice. Steep discounting of delayed rewards has been implicated in a wide range of problematic behaviors, ranging from insufficient saving towards retirement, to substance (ab)use, unhealthy food choice, and relationship infidelity. Time permitting, I will present results from two studies, a brain stimulation (rTMS) study on the role of self-control and an fMRI study on differences between delay versus acceleration decisions. These studies provide evidence for the need to extend current "pure valuation" neural models of intertemporal choice and suggest the addition of process components to account for a broader range of observed choice phenomena.

December 7th, 2010 - Janet G. van Hell, Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands, and Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA - Juggling two languages in one brain: Cross-language activation in second language learners and bilinguals

The recognition that more of the world's speakers are bilingual than monolingual has led to a dramatic increase in research on bilingual language processing in the past decade. What are the cognitive and neural processes that enable the learning and use of multiple languages? Can bilinguals selectively turn off one language or are both languages active? If so, how do bilinguals control their two languages and resolve cross-language competition to allow fluent performance? In this talk, I will present recent word recognition studies on how second language learners at different levels of proficiency juggle the mental competition between words available in each of their languages. I will also present ongoing behavioral and ERP work on the attainment of lexical knowledge in child classroom learners of English at different ages and at different levels of proficiency. Finally, I will discuss whether patterns of co-activation of languages found in unimodal bilinguals who use two oral languages extend to bimodal speech-sign bilinguals who juggle spatial and oral languages from different modalities, and report studies in which we compared cross-language activation in speech-sign bimodal bilinguals and Dutch-English unimodal bilinguals.

The monitoring of performance is especially relevant during child development and aging - life phases in which the success of actions is less certain due to more limited cognitive and brain resources. However, very little is known about the ways in which the performance monitoring system changes from childhood to early adulthood, and from early adulthood to old age. We recorded Event-Related Potentials (ERPs) during a response conflict task (Continuous Performance Task, CPT) and reinforcement learning task to assess age differences in underlying neural processes that might explain observed age differences in behavioral correlates of performance monitoring functions. The CPT requires the monitoring of response executions and puts high demands on the ability to suppress a prepotent response. The reinforcement learning task requires the monitoring of outcomes in light of task-specific goals or outcome expectations. We tested a sample of 45 children, 44 adolescents, 46 younger adults, and 47 older adults. Supporting the assumption that a transition from exogenous to endogenous control takes place in the course of childhood and adolescence, children exhibited stronger monitoring reactions to external feedback and ERP indices of internal motor control. In contrast, older adults were more easily distracted, corroborating the assumption that the aging performance monitoring system is compromised by weaker representations of the critical events. Furthermore, both in children and older adults, a specific electrophysiological indicator of outcome monitoring, the FRN (Feedback-Related Negativity), differentiated less between positive and negative events relative to younger adults, suggesting a lower ability to classify task-relevant events during performance monitoring. Thus, the combined investigation of age groups covering a wide range of the lifespan proved beneficial in promoting the understanding of similarities as well as differences in neural processes underlying age differences in performance monitoring functions across the lifespan.

October 5th, 2010 - Victor H.P. van Daal, Professor of Special Education, National Centre for Reading Education and Reading Research, University of Stavanger, Norway. From 1-9-2010 till 1-7-2011 Fellow-in-Residence at Netherlands Institute of Advanced Study (NIAS) - Orthographic Learning

Orthographic learning refers to the acquisition of word-specific information. In the lexicon a representation is built of how exactly a word is written, which will be used to read and spell it. Orthographic learning is usually assessed with a novel word learning task. The talk consists of three parts. First a series of experiments will be presented in which we replicated a number of basic findings. In a second series of experiments we looked at the effects of neighbourhood words, various instructions of the task, and the sensitivity to orthographic and phonological foils in a multiple choice novel word recognition task. The third part will consist of structural modelling of orthographic learning tasks, phonological tasks, RAN and others in underpinning reading and spelling, including reading and spelling in a second language.

June 22nd, 2010 - Elizabeth Brannon, Centre of Cognitive Neuroscience, Duke University, USA - Foundations for a mathematical mind: A comparative perspective

Adult humans quantify, label, and categorize almost every aspect of the world with numbers.  The ability to use numbers is one of the most complex cognitive abilities that humans possess and is often held up as a defining feature of the human mind.  In my talk I will present a body of data that demonstrates that there are strong developmental and evolutionary precursors to adult mathematical cognition that can be seen by studying human infants and nonhuman primates.  I will describe the behavioral hallmarks of number representation in animals and preverbal infants and the latest work on the neural underpinnings of nonverbal numerical cognition.  New findings from a numerical change detection paradigm will be described that allow measurement of individual variability in infancy and longitudinal reliability and hold potential to bridge the gap between competency in infancy and later childhood.  These data and controversies will be discussed in light of comparative research with monkeys and other animals allowing us to see both parallels and discontinuities in the evolutionary and developmental building blocks of adult human cognition.

May 11th, 2010 - Amos van Gelderen, Kohnstamm Institute, University of Amsterdam  - Writing proficiency of struggling writers in vocational education; relations between self-regulative activities, writing quality and components of writing skill 

In the lowest tracks of Dutch vocational education, there are students with large arrears in literacy compared to students in higher tracks. Despite the fact that this has been demonstrated by the Inspectorate and several studies, still little is known about the factors that determine the development of literacy of these vocational students. In the SALSA project  (see link below) four part projects study the educational, extra-educational and individual factors that seem to be important in determining literacy development of these struggling writers and readers.

In this contribution I go into some results directed at writing proficiency. In the first place, video-observations of 55 students carrying out a writing task are used to analyze their self-regulative activities and relate them to the resulting text quality. The analysis was based on cognitive models of writing such as Hayes and Flower (1980), Bereiter & Scardamalia (1987) and Zimmerman and Risemberg (1997).

In the second place, performances on different writing tasks are related to important components of writing proficiency (spelling, grammatical knowledge, vocabulary, lexical fluency and metacognitve knowledge) to find out which of these components gives the best explanation for the quality of the texts produced.

April 6th, 2010 - Paul Fletcher, University of Cambridge, UK - Towards a cognitive neuroscience of delusions

Delusions are the strange beliefs that accompany some mental illnesses. They can be very unpleasant for the person who experiences them and for those around him. Researchers have tended to argue over whether delusions reflect abnormal experiences or abnormal inferential processes: that is, some have suggested that delusions represent rational interpretations of abnormal experiences while others say that they are irrational inferences working on normal experiences. Neither of these explanations is satisfactory, so many now feel that both factors - experience and inference must be disturbed.

In this presentation I would like to suggest that actually the distinction between experience and inference is a false one and that these two aspects of cognition are so intimately linked (indeed, identical) that, actually, we may be able to explain delusions by invoking a single deficit. I will provide evidence that a disturbance in prediction error dependent learning may be core to the emergence of delusional beliefs.

March 2nd, 2010 - Nick Mackintosh, The Psychometrics Centre, University of Cambridge, UK - Sex differences in intelligence?

The consensus view today is probably that there is no significant difference between males and females on general tests of intelligence.  In fact, many IQ test batteries do reveal reliable differences, some in favour of males, others in favour of females - which implies that there is little point in asking whether one sex is generally more intelligent than the other, because the answer will depend on the test you use. The reason why different tests give different answers must be because they measure slightly different things, or a different mix of the types of test that IQ testers have invented.

The only sensible question is whether males and females differ on some of these components of IQ. They do; these differences are reliable, and some of them quite large. Many people find ‘biological' explanations of any differences deeply offensive, but there is no necessary conflict between biological and environmental explanations.

February 2nd, 2010 - Chantal Nederkoorn: Maastricht University, The Netherlands - Control yourself or just eat what you like? Weight gain over a year is predicted by an interactive effect of response inhibition and preference for snack foods 

Previous research showed a strong relation between response inhibition, overeating and overweight. It was shown that people with ineffective response inhibition are more susceptible to the temptations of palatable food, eat more and are more often overweight or obese. In addition the results of several studies suggest that what needs to be inhibited may be an affect-driven motivation for food. Thus, especially participants who are hungry or have a strong preference for snack foods are in need for inhibitory capacity to override impulsive tendencies to consume snack foods. In the present longitudinal study, we therefore investigated the interplay of response inhibition (measured by the stop signal task) and implicit preferences for snack foods (measured by the Single Category Implicit Association Task, SC-IAT), in predicting weight gain over a period of one year. Results confirmed our expectations: participants with strong preferences for snack foods and low inhibitory capacity gained most weight. These findings imply that ineffective response inhibition may render people vulnerable to excessive or impulsive behaviour in general, but that the manifestation thereof is determined by domain-specific preferences or needs.

January 12th, 2010  - Linda van Leijenhorst: Brain and Development lab Leiden University, The Netherlands - Decsion-making 

Linda van Leijenhorst will focus on decision-making under risk and the developing brain.

Linda completed her PhD at the Brain and Development lab from prof dr. Eveline Crone (Leiden University), investigating why teens take risks. With a recently received Rubicon grant she started a post-doc in UCLA, and continued her research on the neuro-cognitive changes, and individual differences in adolescents' risky decision making.

December 9th, 2009 - Scott Wylie and Carl Lejuez - Impact of Parkinson's Disease on the Expression and Suppression of Response Impulses and Studying Risk Taking in the Laboratory: Implications for Theory, Assessment, and Intervention

Dr. Scott Wylie:  Abstract: Parkinson's disease (PD), one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases to afflict the aging population, involves a progressive degeneration of dopamine neurons of the basal ganglia that produces movement abnormalities, including tremor, bradykinesia, and rigidity. The basal ganglia, via elaborate connections with prefrontal and motor areas of frontal cortex, also contribute to the neural mechanisms involved in cognitive control over action, including the ability to suppress unwanted and impulsive reactions that interfere with goal-directed action. The Simon conflict task produces one of the most sensitive measures of the interference afforded by incorrect, stimulus-driven response impulses. In this talk, I will review evidence from studies of the Simon task that supports the conclusion that less effective suppression of incorrect response impulses is a disruptive feature of PD.

Prof.dr. Carl Lejuez: In this talk I will discuss the development of a laboratory based behavioral measure of risk taking. I will begin with task development including its use as a measure to identify real world risk taking among young adults and to predict the emergence of risk behavior among early adolescents. In doing so I will focus on improving assessment with implications for the development of larger models including the role of emotion and negative affect, as well as genetic and neurobehavioral variables. Following from this work, I will discuss recent quasi-experimental work using the task as a proxy measure of risk taking to understand the influence of puberty, peers, and implicit priming, with implications for theory and intervention.

November 3rd, 2009 - Mike X Cohen - Universiteit van Amsterdam, Psychology, The Netherlands  - I still have a full deck; I just shuffle slower now. ~Author Unknown

With age comes slowed cognitive and motor processes. Decision-making, in particular, becomes impaired and slowed, with potentially perilous effects on family and society. Decision-making, like many cognitive processes, requires precise coordination among spatially disparate brain systems that specialize in sensory perception, motor planning/execution, action monitoring, and working memory. A better understanding of how these brain dynamics change in old age will provide a deeper understanding of the functional/anatomical organization of the brain, and may provide groundwork for "treatment" strategies. I will provide an overview of how we study these spatiotemporal coordination dynamics through electrophysiological brain potentials, and show results demonstrating that the brain networks used by older vs. younger individuals are qualitatively and quantitatively different. It appears that, relative to young individuals, older individuals shift from local to more global coordination dynamics, even though this predicts poorer performance. This shift in brain network configuration is induced by specific cognitive processes, and is not present at rest (i.e., in absence of a task).

October 6th, 2009 - Roshan Cools: Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Nijmegen, The Netherlands - Role of the striatum in flexible cognitive control 

Flexible cognitive control has been associated most commonly with the prefrontal cortex. However the prefrontal cortex does not act in isolation, but rather interacts with other structures to control behaviour. In particular the basal ganglia (BG) have been implicated in attentional shifting, although only in some conditions. Here we provide empirical evidence for an important role of the BG in stimulus-driven attentional shifting. Specifically we found that the updating of goal-relevant information in posterior visual regions by the PFC in response to salient novel stimuli was controlled by the BG. Based on these data, we hypothesize that stimulus-driven attentional shifting is mediated by striatal modulation of interactions between the PFC and stimulus-specific visual regions in the posterior cortex. These data integrate the hitherto segregated literatures on the role of the PFC in top-down biasing of attention and the role of the BG in selective gating and have implications for the understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders, including ADHD.

September 8th, 2009 - Hilde Geurts, Department of Psychology, Psychonomics, University of Amsterdam. -  ADHD and ASD: A focus on symptoms and structural brain measures 

ADHD and ASD are two highly disabling developmental disorders that often co-occur. However, according to the DSM-IV a dual diagnosis of ADHD and ASD is not warranted. Currently more and more evidence accumulates that combining these two diagnoses can be necessary in explaining the difficulties some patients encounter. In clinical practice it is already common to combine both diagnosis, but what is the empirical evidence that shows that in some cases this is indeed valid? One of the cientific questions which is currently under debate is whether individuals with both disorders are etiologically different from those
individuals with a single diagnosis of ADHD or ASD. In this talk I will how the most recent empirical evidence from different perspectives to determine whether there is enough evidence to conclude whether or not a dual diagnosis can indeed be needed. First, I will focus on the symptomatic overlap and differences between ADHD and autism and other
psychopathology. Second, I will focus on the overlap and differences in neurobiology.

June 2nd, 2009 - Sabine Hunnius , Baby Research Center, Donders, Nijmegen, The Netherlands - Early social-cognitive development

From the first days of life, infants observe their environment and the people acting in it. The human actions they watch form a continuous, intricate stream of complex information. It is all the more astonishing that the capacity to understand other people's actions emerges early in life and that even young infants have been demonstrated to understand others' actions and intentions. How do infants come to make sense of actions they observe? Which processes are crucial for their understanding of others? A series of experimental studies on action perception, action anticipation, and imitation in infancy will be presented which explore the role different mechanisms might play in the emergence of understanding other people's actions.

May 7th, 2009 - Anthony Dickinson, University of Cambridge, Department of Experimental Psychology, Cambridge, United Kingdom - The Comparative Psychology of Prospective Cognition 

Just as Darwin finessed the apparent teleology of phylogenetic adaptation through the process of natural selection, so the early comparative psychologists attempted to do the same for ontogenetic adaptation by learning through the process of reinforcement. However, we are capable of true purposive behaviour in the form of goal-directed action, a capacity for that appears to develop during the third year of life in humans and depends upon the functioning of the medial prefrontal cortex. Although we share the capacity for goal-directed action with other animals, proponents of the "Mental Time Travel" hypothesis argue that there is a fundamental form of prospective cognition that is uniquely human, specifically the ability to take action now in service of a future, rather than a current, need state. However, the fact that scrubs jays store food in anticipation of future states of hunger suggests that these birds are capable of future planning. I conclude the capacities for goal-directed action and future planning are among the most important cognitive processes that we share with other animals.

March 3rd, 2009 - Pol van Lier, Free University of Amsterdam, Department of Psychology and Pedagogical Science - Poor relations with peers and the development of psychopathology

Poor relations with peers are considered a risk factor for the development of psychopathology. In this regard, peer rejection, an index for poor acceptance by peers, and affiliation with deviant friends, have received ample attention in research. Despite this, we don’t know 1) whether they truly influence psychopathology development, or are merely correlates, evoked by already existing psychopathology, and not influencing its course. 2) If they are linked to psychopathology development, then what the processes of influence on psychopathology development are. 3) How personal endowments, for instance a genetic liability to develop psychopathology, affect the possible influence of peer relations on psychopathology development. 4) Whether – changes in – peer relations can explain intervention effectiveness of programs aimed to prevent the development of psychopathology.

These four topics will be addressed. So, I depart from poor peer relations being risk factors, and hope to end by showing that peer relations are active agents in the development of various forms of psychopathology over the childhood years.

February 5th, 2009 - Paul Leseman, Utrecht University, Department of Pedagogical Science - De rol van het werkgeheugen in de taalontwikkeling van (tweetalige) kinderen

In mijn voordracht zal ik bevindingen in een tweetal (nog lopende) longitudinale onderzoeken bespreken naar werkgeheugen en taalontwikkeling bij jonge kinderen, waarvan een deel tweetalig opgroeit. De centrale vragen zijn hoe het werkgeheugen (vertrekpunt: model van Baddeley & Hitch, met recente toevoegingen) functioneert als interface tussen taalaanbod en taalverwerving, hoe het werkgeheugen zichzelf ontwikkelt in een soort reciprook, co-constructief proces met de taalverwerving,  waarbij het taalaanbod als externe regulator fungeert, en hoe niet verbale subsystemen deels compenseren voor zwak ontwikkelde verbale subsystemen in tweetalige kinderen en voor tekorten in taalaanbod. In studie 1 onderzochten we hoe de capaciteit van het verbale werkgeheugen (met name de fonologische lus) wordt beïnvloed door kennis van de taal op lexicaal en fonotactisch niveau. We gebruikten o.a. nonword recall taken met fonotactisch waarschijnlijke (language-like) en fonotactisch onwaarschijnlijke (language-unlike) nonwoorden. Recall van fonotactisch waarschijnlijke nonwoorden was superieur. Vergelijking van Nederlandse en Turkse 4-jarigen op nonword recall taken in het Nederlands en Turks bevestigde het idee dat het verbale werkgeheugen zowel een onafhankelijke als afhankelijke variabele is in de taalontwikkeling.  In studie 2 onderzochten we de groei van het verbale werkgeheugen en testten we de hypothese dat de groei van het verbale werkgeheugen terug te voeren is tot groei van de taalkennis op o.a. fonotactisch gebied bij gelijkblijvende basale capaciteit. Nonword recall met fonotactisch waarschijnlijke nonwoorden groeide sterk van 4- tot 6 jaar, bij zowel Nederlandse als Turkse kinderen, hoewel het eerder gevonden verschil tussen de groepen stabiel bleef. Nonword recall met fonotactisch onwaarschijnlijke nonwoorden vertoonde geen groei.  Er werden verder de verwachte relaties gevonden van taalaanbod met (de groei van) recall van fonotactisch waarschijnlijke nonwoorden, maar geen met recall van fonotactisch onwaarschijnlijke nonwoorden. In studie 3 volgden we een cohort kinderen van 3 tot 6 jaar.  De aandacht ging uit naar de modererende rol van het verbale en visuo-spatiële werkgeheugen in de taalverwerving, in het bijzonder Nederlandse woordenschat. Bij monolinguale Nederlandse kinderen vonden we sterkere groei  (en een hogere intercept) naarmate de verbale werkgeheugen capaciteit, gemeten met cijferspan en zinspan, groter was. Bij Turkse en Marokkaanse tweetalige kinderen was er geen moderator effect van het verbale werkgeheugen, maar wel een van het visuo-spatiële werkgeheugen: Turkse en Marokkaanse kinderen met een relatief goed visuo-spatieel werkgeheugen hadden een duidelijk betere Nederlandse taalverwerving. Analyses met taalaanbod toonden de verwachte interactie-effecten: bij relatief gering taalaanbod Nederlands was bij tweetalige kinderen vooral het visuo-spatiële werkgeheugen  een compenserende factor.

November 26th, 16:00-17:00 in REC JKB.05. dr. Celeste Kidd,  University of California, Berkeley. Core cognitive mechanisms in learning and development.

The talk will discuss approaches aimed at understanding the computational mechanisms that drive learning and development in young children. Although infants are born knowing little about the world, they possess remarkable learning mechanisms that eventually create sophisticated systems of knowledge. We discuss recent empirical findings about learners’ cognitive mechanisms—including attention, curiosity, and metacognition—that permit such striking learning throughout infancy and childhood. We will review evidence that infants enter the world equipped with sophisticated attentional strategies that select intermediately complex material to maximize their learning potential (the “Goldilocks effect” of infant attention, e.g., Kidd, Piantadosi, & Aslin, 2012, 2014; Piantadosi, Kidd, & Aslin, 2014). We will also discuss more recent work on the dynamics of idealized attention in complex learning environments, with a focus on attentional-switching patterns and their implications for understanding learning (e.g., Pelz, Piantadosi, & Kidd, 2015; Pelz, Yung, & Kidd, 2015; Wade & Kidd, under review). We will also touch on how these general mechanisms facilitate not only smart attentional decisions, but also good decision-making in general (e.g., Kidd, Palmeri, & Aslin, 2013). 

This lecture is hosted by Marieke Jepma

A prerequisite for learning to read is the establishment of a link between spoken and written language; in alphabetic languages an association between letters and speech sounds. Two widely accepted assumptions, one about normal reading acquisition and one about the cause of abnormal reading will be investigated. First, in educational research and teaching it is generally assumed that the acquisition of grapheme-phoneme correspondences takes a few months in relative transparent languages like German and Dutch. I will show that the processes involved in letter-speech sound processing take many years to develop, because it is not just the learning of an association, but a neurobiological integration process. Second; the dominant theory of dyslexia assumes that phonological problems cause reading problems. I will argue that it is very likely the other way around, because the most proximal cause of reading problems probably resides in inadequate letter-speech sound integration in dyslexia.