Together with other researchers from the VU we form the SENSA team (www.socialeducationalneuroscience.com). We jointly tackle urgent issues at the intersection of social psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience and educational neuroscience. We focus on investigating the behavioral and brain mechanisms of social and motivational processes in educational settings from childhood to adolescence. We integrate lab-based experimental approaches with more ecologically valid methods, for example by using portable neuroimaging techniques that can be applied in the classroom while students are interacting. An important aim of our research is to further approaches that increase the ecological validity of neuroimaging experiments, for example through the use of more naturalistic stimuli and tasks, and by moving the research to more naturalistic settings by using portable neuroimaging devices. Modern neuroscience research, including neuroimaging techniques such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electro-encephalography (EEG), has provided valuable insights that advanced our understanding of brain development as well as social and learning processes. However, translating such insights to real-life learning situations is not straightforward. One of the main challenges is the low ecological validity of neuroimaging studies. We aim to optimize the use of neuroimaging approaches for SENSA to increase ecological validity of our studies and thereby their relevance and applicability to the learning practice and society.
Professor Developmental Neuropsychology
Faculty of Behavioral and Movement Sciences
Together with my group, I study the development of social cognition (empathy, perspective taking, trust) in adolescence, and the role of the social environment in this development. We investigate these processes at the level of behaviour (questionnaires, neuropsychological tasks, observation) and the neural mechanisms (fMRI and EEG).