PhD Candidate, NWO Vici project “The power of expectations: Unraveling the role of placebo and nocebo effects in the sensitization of somatic symptoms”

PhD Candidate, NWO Vici project “The power of expectations: Unraveling the role of placebo and nocebo effects in the sensitization of somatic symptoms”

Published Deadline Location
24 Aug 8 Sep Leiden

You cannot apply for this job anymore.

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

Job description

The NWO-Vici project focuses on unraveling the role of placebo and nocebo mechanisms (e.g. conditioning) for the sensitization of insufficiently explained symptoms in healthy subjects and patients with insufficiently explained symptoms. Placebo and nocebo effects (i.e. positive and negative outcome expectations that result in positive or negative outcomes, respectively) explain 25-50% of outcomes in various health problems, including somatic symptoms, such as pain, itch or fatigue. While far more attention has been directed to the role of placebo effects, studies suggest that nocebo effects contribute even more to somatic symptoms. However, there is not yet an integrated approach that studies psychoneurobiological nocebo mechanisms with advanced methods (e.g. using conditioning approaches, pharmacological modulations, fMRI, psychophysiological reactivity measures) for the sensitization and desensitization of somatic symptoms. In the project, a comprehensive psychoneurobiological approach is tested to 1) study the causal role of nocebo mechanisms in the sensitization and desensitization of somatic symptoms; 2) identify patients at risk for sensitization; and 3) develop innovative treatments for desensitization of somatic symptoms. For this purpose, a unique set of combined psychoneurobiological methods is applied in experimental, prospective, and treatment studies both in healthy subjects and in patients with insufficiently explained somatic symptoms. This project progresses key theoretical knowledge of the main psychoneurobiological nocebo mechanisms of various somatic symptoms. Findings open up new horizons for prevention and treatment, by identifying patients at risk for symptom sensitization and generating targeted treatments for symptom desensitization and recovery.

The current PhD project focuses on the causal role of nocebo mechanisms in the sensitization and desensitization of somatic symptoms. For this purpose, a broad set of psychoneurobiological methods will be applied in a series of experimental studies, combining various techniques of psychological conditioning, psychophysiological assessements, pharmacological inductions and fMRI. You will be responsible for conduction different clinical-experimental studies of this PhD project. You will write scientific, peer-reviewed publications, resulting in a PhD thesis.

The PhD projects will be imbedded in the national research school Experimental Psychopathology (EPP) and Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition (LIBC). In addition, we offer several other relevant possibilities for education and training, including courses on data management and academic skills, as well as participation in relevant international conferences.


Leiden University


  • A Master or equivalent degree in a relevant field (completion of the MA thesis before the PhD project starts), including (health, medical or biological) psychology, health sciences, or biomedical sciences;
  • High affinity with experimental psychoneurobiological research (e.g. conditioning approaches, Quantitative Sensory Testing, pharmacological inductions, fMRI, psychophysiological reactivity measures) in healthy subjects and patients groups;
  • Substantial knowledge of statistical methods and high analytical skills;
  • Ambition as high-potential researcher aimed at excellent scientific research;
  • Ability to work independently in a multidisciplinary setting;
  • Social and organizational competencies;
  • Proficiency in Dutch and English (or the intention to reach it within a short period of time).

Conditions of employment

Appointment will be according to the terms of the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (cao Nederlandse Universiteiten), for a period of one year with an extension of three years after positive evaluation of capabilities and compatibility. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. The gross monthly salary is set on €2,222 in the first year, increasing to €2,840 gross per month in the final year.

Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development and sabbatical leave. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at

Leiden University is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from members of underrepresented groups.


Universiteit Leiden

Leiden is a typical university city, hosting the oldest university in the Netherlands (1575). The University permeates the local surroundings; University premises are scattered throughout the city, and the students who live and study in Leiden give the city its relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere.

Leiden University is one of Europe's foremost research universities. This prominent position gives our graduates a leading edge in applying for academic posts and for functions outside academia.


Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences comprises four institutes: Education and Child Studies, Political Science, Psychology, and Cultural Anthropology & Development Sociology. The Faculty also includes the Centre for Science and Technology Studies. The Faculty is home to 5,000 students and 600 members of staff. Our teaching and research programmes cover diverse topics varying from adoption to political behaviour. For further information about our unit and its teaching and research activities, please visit our website


  • PhD positions
  • Health; Behaviour and Society
  • max. 38 hours per week, temporary
  • €2222—€2840 per month
  • University Graduate
  • 3501



Stationsplein 3J, 2333 CW, Leiden

View on Google Maps