As a cognitive neuroscientist show specializes in addiction research, I am intrigued about why people continue certain behavior despite all the negative consequences. In May 2016 I successfully defended my PhD dissertation: “Are Cocaine Users Too Sensitive?”. In this research, I combined several MRI techniques (structural MRI, functional MRI and magnetic resonance spectrograph) for identifying abnormalities in the neurobiological mechanisms that underlie maladaptive (emotional) memories in regular cocaine users. As a postdoctoral researcher on a collaborative project between the Academic Medical Center (Professor Goudriaan), VU Medical Center (Professor de Vries, dr. Pattij) and the University of Amsterdam (Professor Wiers), my next aim is to develop novel working-memory based interventions that target these maladaptive memories, using a translational approach. Based on the first successful findings of these studies, we will soon start a novel fMRI project to identify the neural mechanisms that underlie the interaction between working memory and maladaptive memories in regular cocaine users (supported by an ABC talent grant) and adults with ADHD.
In addition to this main research theme, I am interested in the relation between polysubstance use and structural alterations in the brain. The reason for this is that many substances are actually polysubstance users (that is, for instance, using alcohol and cannabis in addition to cocaine on a regular basis) but this aspect has been highly disregarded in scientific research. More insight into the neurobiological profile of polysubstance users may contribute to the development of better treatment strategies in this population.