The influence of the brain on behavior
“As long as I can remember, I have been interested in the development of children and young people. I still remember wanting to work at a daycare center as a child. Over the years, that desire changed, and I became increasingly interested in behavioral problems, such as ADHD and autism. How do children with these conditions navigate through life? By the way, I was quite a rebellious teenager myself and skipped school classes from time to time. But my interest in child development persisted, and I decided to study psychology.
During that my bachelor and research master, I learned about the brain, neurotransmitters, and hormones and discovered how much biological factors influence our behavior. After my studies, I did an internship with Eveline Crone (Erasmus University Rotterdam), which led me to the field of neuroscience and the development of children and young people. The internship fueled my enthusiasm for research, and shortly afterward, I began my doctoral research on the brain’s response to social rejection in young children. It was fascinating to do, especially because there had been very little brain research done on children aged seven and eight.
I discovered that at this age, the brain already strongly responds to social rejection, similar to the brain responses of teenagers. At the same time, I also saw significant individual differences: some children only shrugged after social rejection, while others became very angry. Now, I want to know if these different reactions during childhood are predictive of mental health later in life. With that knowledge, we might be able to make a child more resilient to psychological problems much earlier. I recently received a VENI grant for this research idea.”