We are seeking highly motivated and dedicated individuals to join a dynamic research team for a 5-year project focused on investigating the intricate relationship between hormonal fluctuations and neurocognitive processes across the female lifespan. This project is funded by an ERC Consolidator grant and will be conducted at the Social Performance Monitoring Lab (www.socpmlab.nl; headed by Prof. Ellen de Bruijn), located at the department of Clinical Psychology at Leiden University in the Netherlands. We have vacancies for 3 PhD students and one Postdoc with a preferred starting date of 1 February 2024. Project Description
Women experience unrivalled drastic natural changes in sex hormone levels over the lifespan. These hormones are chiefly produced by the ovaries, but we now know they also exert regulatory effects outside the reproductive tract. Effects of ovarian hormones on brain plasticity and function are manifold, affecting, for example, behavioral, cognitive, affective, and motivational processes, thus ultimately influencing mental health. Puberty, menstrual cycle, and menopause are hence all critical transition periods in a female’s life. Along with the hormonal shifts, these periods are associated with major changes in physical, psychological, and psychosocial factors as well as increased risk of affective, anxiety, and stress-related symptoms.
Despite the widespread variety in the effects of hormonal changes, our understanding of how they together contribute to functioning and well-being in girls and women at different ages is strikingly little. The main aim of this research project is to address this pressing gap by employing a multi-disciplinary methodology combining longitudinal, psychopharmacological, and EEG techniques.
The primary focus of this research project is to measure neurocognitive processes in both non-social and social contexts in girls and women aged between 8 and 60 years. Along with more standard neurocognitive and affective functioning, there will be a specific emphasis on performance monitoring processes, such as error detection, learning from negative and positive feedback, performing while being observed, and performing in possible harmful contexts. We will assess a rich combination of different measures at various levels, including EEG, saliva and blood samples (for hormonal assessments), ecological momentary assessments, and questionnaires to assess relevant variables and traits such as pubertal status, mood, stress, sleep, and well-being. Methods of analyses will include event-related potentials and computational modelling. Positions Available
- PhD Student – Puberty (5 years, 0.8 FTE): Investigate the impact of hormonal changes on neurocognitive development in girls (8-15 years) using a longitudinal design with three one-year interval measurements. Given the longitudinal design, a 5-year position at 80% is required and because of the intensive interactions with the girls and their parents, a good command of Dutch is desirable for this position.
- PhD Student – Menstrual cycle (4 years, 1.0 FTE): Explore the effects of hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle on cognitive function and behavior in naturally cycling women (25-35 years). The research will also include psychopharmacological manipulations (targeting estradiol, dopamine, and oxytocin) to investigate the interaction between involved endogenous and exogenous hormones and neurotransmitters.
- PhD Student - Menopause (4 years, 1.0 FTE): Examine the influence of hormonal changes during the menopausal transition on neurocognitive health (45-60 years). The research will also encompass psychopharmacological manipulations by investigating the effects of hormone-replacement therapy.
- Postdoctoral Researcher (4 years, 0.8 FTE): The primary research focus will be on integration of the t