PhD Positions ‘Pregnancy and the Human Brain: A Window of Neuroplasticity’

PhD Positions ‘Pregnancy and the Human Brain: A Window of Neuroplasticity’

Published Deadline Location
1 Apr 24 May Amsterdam

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Job description

We offer two PhD positions on the ERC-funded project ‘Pregnancy and the Human Brain: A Window of Neuroplasticity’, which will be performed at the Amsterdam UMC. In this longitudinal neuroimaging project, we will investigate how pregnancy and motherhood change the human brain and how these neural changes relate to peripartum adaptive and maladaptive processes. Pregnancy and the postpartum period represent highly sensitive periods in life for both mother and child, involving extreme hormonal surges that orchestrate a myriad of complex biological adaptations. Converging evidence from animal studies shows that pregnancy hormones trigger neural and behavioral changes in mammals that are evident across the lifespan and play an important adaptive role in for instance the emergence of maternal caregiving behavior.
In a previous study, we have discovered that pregnancy also renders pronounced and long-lasting changes in human brain structure (for more details, see e.g., and, pointing to the existence of a dramatic pregnancy-related neuroplasticity. However, very little is known on the effects of this extreme endocrine event and life transition on the human brain, and we are at the brink of charting this new area of research.

In this project, we aim to gather key insights into the changes occurring in the human brain during this important transition as well as the factors and mechanisms underlying these changes and the functional implications, for instance with respect to a mother’s mental health (e.g. the development of peripartum depression), maternal caregiving and maternal cognition. We will investigate this by means of a pre-conception prospective cohort study that combines various neuroimaging approaches with psychopedagogic and biomedical measures. See for some general information about our research.
The PhD students will take part in setting up and running this project, supervised by Dr. Elseline Hoekzema and the Postdoctoral researchers. In addition, the PhD students will start analyzing and publishing early on in their PhD trajectory, based on a novel longitudinal dataset on this topic involving first-of-its-kind neuroimaging, physiological, endocrine and behavioral data that has just been completed.


Academic Medical Center (AMC)


We expect the PhD candidates to hold a Master of Science degree in neuroscience, psychology, biology or another relevant field. Furthermore, candidates are expected to have strong analytical skills, to be able to quickly learn new analyses and approaches, to be proficient in English and have excellent writing skills. Previous experience in research, especially neuroimaging research, is considered an advantage. A clinical background or experience (e.g. in clinical psychology, neuropsychology, or medicine) would also be considered relevant for these positions. Finally, a flexible work attitude, enthusiasm, excellent communication skills and ability to work independently but function well in a team are considered important assets.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 5 years.

Fixed-term contract: 60 months.
We offer two PhD positions (0.8 fte), with a duration of 5 years. Preferred start date is October 2021.
At the Amsterdam UMC, we offer ample opportunity for development, deepening and broadening, additional training and a place to grow. Working at AMR means working in an inspiring and professional environment where development is encouraged in every respect.

  • The maximum gross monthly salary based on a 36-hour work week (1.0 fte) is € 2.495,- in the first year and runs up to € 3.196,- in the final year (scale OIO CAO UMC).
  • The base salary does not include holiday pay (8%) and a year-end bonus (8.3%).
  • In addition to excellent accessibility by public transport, AMC also has a sufficient number of parking spaces for employees.
  • Pension is accrued at Be Frank.

For an overview of all our other terms of employment, see
Amsterdam UMC has an open culture. Together we continuously build an environment where everyone feels welcome. To achieve that, we strive to provide equal opportunities for everyone. We therefore cordially invite all interested parties to respond to this vacancy.


Amsterdam UMC

Amsterdam UMC is a leading medical center that combines complex high-quality patient care, innovative scientific research, and education of the next generation health care professionals. We believe that health care practice, research and education belong together, with each shaping and informing the other.
The lab, which is currently transitioning from Leiden University to the AMC, is led by Dr. Elseline Hoekzema, and will be embedded within the Department of Psychiatry. The AMC Department of Psychiatry is directed by Prof. Dr. Damiaan Denys and is well-known for its cutting-edge brain research.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation; Technical and laboratory
  • Health; Natural sciences; Behaviour and society
  • University graduate
  • PA PhD Positions


Academic Medical Center (AMC)

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Meibergdreef 9, 1105 AZ, Amsterdam

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