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The title of the NWO gravitation programme is “The transdiagnostic role of expectancy learning and avoidance behaviour across somatic and mental symptoms” The Gravitation project focuses on a new and challenging view on the origin, maintenance and change of all mental disorders. The vision is that mental illnesses are dynamic and complex networks of symptoms that interact with one another over time. The 10-year Gravitation project focus on (1) the estimation of complex and dynamic networks of individual patients, which can change over time, (2) disorder-transcending network-based interventions tailored for the individual, and (3) in-depth fundamental studies into transdiagnostic behavioural, cognitive, neurocognitive and interpersonal processes that can drive connectivity between symptoms. The current project is part of the third category.
The aim of the current PhD project is to understand the role that expectancy and avoidance learning play in a broad spectrum of physical symptoms, particularly pain, itch and fatigue, and related mental symptoms, such as anxiety and depressed mood, in the transmission from an acute to a chronic state. For this goal, the PhD student will study these relationships in subjects with and without physical symptoms (pain, itch and fatigue) in both laboratory and natural field settings. Moreover, the PhD student will examine the conditions in which learned expectancy effects and avoidance behavior can be extinguished, and test manipulations to optimize expectancies and reduce avoidance behavior in order to reduce physical and related mental symptoms and mitigate risk of chronification. The current project is expected to show the relevance of both expectancy and avoidance learning for the development and maintenance of chronic somatic symptoms, such as pain, itch and fatigue, and related mental symptoms, in both experimental and field studies. Moreover, innovative techniques how these learning mechanisms can be altered and used for innovative treatments in the area of chronic physical symptoms and related mental symptoms are explored.
Appointment is 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. Salary range from € 2,325.- to € 2,972.- gross per month (PhD scale in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).
Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3 %), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. For international spouses we have set up a dual career programme. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. More at the website.
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.