PhD candidate 'Cerebral effects of psychological distress in Parkinson’s disease'

PhD candidate 'Cerebral effects of psychological distress in Parkinson’s disease'

Published Deadline Location
3 Jun 30 Jun Nijmegen

You cannot apply for this job anymore (deadline was 30 Jun 2022).

Browse the current job offers or choose an item in the top navigation above.

Job description

As a PhD candidate, you will be embedded in the research group of Dr. Rick Helmich at the Donders Institute and the department of Neurology at the Radboudumc. You will also interact with Prof. Anne Speckens at the department of Psychiatry and the Centre for Mindfulness at the Radboudumc. We offer the exciting opportunity to work in a highly multidisciplinary field consisting of neurology, psychiatry, and neuroscience, at the world-class Donders institute. Will you join our team?

As a PhD candidate, you will study the cerebral mechanisms of psychological distress in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). The key aim of this project is to understand if a mindfulness-based intervention reduces neuropsychiatric clinical symptoms in PD (anxiety and depression). Furthermore, you will investigate how this intervention influences cerebral (MRI) and clinical indices of disease progression in PD.

To investigate this, you will perform a randomized controlled trial comparing a mindfulness-based intervention with an active control intervention in two groups of 68 PD patients. Before and after these interventions, you will perform state-of-the-art neuroimaging (structural and functional MRI), as well as clinical testing. Blood samples will also be taken by a study nurse in all patients.There will be two post-docs that are also involved in this project for the first 1-2 years, and a research assistant will assist you with some of the measurements.

PD is a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder occurring in 7 million patients worldwide. PD is caused by progressive loss of nigro-striatal dopamine cells, which causes motor symptoms such as slowness of movement and tremor, and non-motor symptoms such as cognitive dysfunction. Converging clinical evidence indicates that PD patients are very sensitive to the effects of psychological stress. There is a high prevalence of stress-related neuropsychiatric symptoms in PD: 30-40% of patients experience depression and 25-30% have anxiety.

Furthermore, stress worsens many motor symptoms, e.g. tremor and freezing of gait. In addition to these immediate negative effects, chronic stress may also have detrimental long-term consequences, and specifically by accelerating disease progression, as suggested by animal models. However, evidence in humans is lacking. Emerging clinical evidence suggests that mindfulness-based interventions can reduce the impact of psychological distress in PD, but most studies are underpowered and the cerebral mechanisms remain unclear.

Tasks and responsibilities
  • Inclusion of PD patients (n=136) for participation in this study. Recruitment will take place at the Centre of Expertise for Parkinson and Movement Disorders at Radboudumc, and via a dedicated study website.
  • Data collection (clinical scores, questionnaires, MRI scans) at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging and Radboudumc, with help of a research assistant.
  • Data analysis, including structural MRI (e.g. voxel-based morphometry, neuromelanin-sensitive MRI) and functional MRI (effects of a stressor on resting state fMRI).
  • Coordination of the study, e.g. contact with the ethical review board, the involved mindfulness teachers and assessors, and the participants.
  • Writing scientific papers, and finish a PhD thesis, on the clinical and cerebral effects a mindfulness-based intervention in PD.
  • Interacting with other people in the group to distribute knowledge and learn from each other.


Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc)


We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD candidate with a passion for mechanistic research in a clinical population, i.e. at the border between neuroscience and clinical neurology and psychiatry. More specifically, you are interested in understanding the effects of stress onto the (diseased) brain.

You are a team player who enjoys interacting with multiple parties in a large study. You are also curious, ambitious, and can work independently. Your English is fluent in speaking and writing at an academic level. Speaking Dutch is not required for this position.

You also meet the following requirements:
  • You hold or have finished (and nearly obtained) a Master's degree in the field of Neuroscience, Psychology, or Medicine, or a related field.
  • You have strong communication and coordination skills, and have a broad interest that spans different fields.
  • You have experience with the analysis of complex data, such as MRI data, and you are able to write code (e.g. in Matlab, Python) to analyze clinical and MRI data.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 4 years.

Starting date is 1 September 2022. The salary depends on education. Scale 10 will be offered to MSc medical graduates; those holding degrees in other disciplines will be offered scale 10A.

Working at Radboud university medical center means that you are ahead of the curve and working together on the healthcare of the future. And there is more. Our secondary terms of employment are impressive. These are fully tailored to you thanks to our Employment Conditions Selection Model. At Radboud university medical center, you will be given trust, and you will take the responsibility to handle everything together. We provide annual courses, both professional and personal.
  • In addition to your monthly salary and an annual vacation allowance of 8%, you will receive an end-of-year bonus of 8.3%.
  • If you work irregular hours, you will receive an allowance.
  • As a full-time employee (36 hours per week), you are entitled to approximately 168 vacation hours (over 23 days) per year.
  • Radboud university medical center pays 70% of the pension premium. You pay the rest of the premium with your gross salary.
  • You get a discount on health insurance as well: you can take advantage of two group health insurance plans. UMC Zorgverzekering and CZ collectief.
In addition to our terms of employment, we also offer employees various other attractive facilities, such as childcare and sports facilities. Want to learn more? Take a look at the Cao UMC.



The research group of Dr. Rick Helmich ("Systems Neurology") is centered at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging (DCCN). DCCN is a top scientific institute that is part of the Donders Institute of Radboud University. The mission of DCCN is to conduct cutting-edge fundamental research in cognitive neuroscience. Much of the rapid progress in this field is being driven by the development of complex neuroimaging techniques for measuring activity in the human brain - an area in which the Centre plays a leading role.

The Centre also aims to establish how the different brain areas coordinate their activity with very high temporal precision to enable human and animal cognition. The Centre is equipped with four MRI scanners (7T, 3x 3T), a 275-channel MEG system, an EEG-TMS laboratory, several (MR-compatible) EEG systems, and high-performance computational facilities.

Our internationally renowned centre currently hosts more than 200 PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers from more than 25 countries, offering a stimulating and multidisciplinary research environment.

Research Institutes
At the moment there are more than 1,300 PhD candidates at our medical hospital. This number includes PhD candidates on our pay roll as well as external candidates (those employed somewhere else but researching on our premises).
  • Radboud Institute for Health Sciences: ± 700
  • Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences: ± 400
  • Donders Center for Medical Neurosciences: ± 200
Read what it is like to do a PhD at the Radboud University Medical Center.

Radboud university medical center is a university medical center for patient care, scientific research, and education in Nijmegen. Radboud university medical center strives to be at the forefront of shaping the healthcare of the future. We do this in a person-centered and innovative way, and in close collaboration with our network. We want to have a significant impact on healthcare. We want to improve with each passing day, continuously working towards better healthcare, research, and education. And gaining a better understanding of how diseases arise and how we can prevent, treat, and cure them, day in and day out. This way, every patient always receives the best healthcare, now and in the future. Because that is why we do what we do.

Read more about our strategy and what working at Radboud university medical center means. Our colleagues would be happy to tell you about it. #weareradboudumc


  • PhD
  • Natural sciences; Health
  • max. 36 hours per week
  • €2570—€4707 per month
  • University graduate
  • 162543-P977464-1


Radboud University Medical Center (Radboudumc)

Learn more about this employer


Geert Grooteplein-Zuid 10, 6525 GA, Nijmegen

View on Google Maps

Interesting for you