PhD Cognitive Neuroscience: "The Influence of Predictions on the Mechanisms of Conscious Perception"

PhD Cognitive Neuroscience: "The Influence of Predictions on the Mechanisms of Conscious Perception"

Published Deadline Location
26 Apr 20 May Amsterdam

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Job description

We are looking for a highly qualified and motivated PhD candidate in Cognitive Neuroscience. The position is part of an ERC consolidator grant titled “Towards understanding human consciousness: How internal brain states and environmental context shape our subjective experience”. The PhD position is embedded in the Conscious brain lab, and the project will be supervised by dr. Simon van Gaal, dr. Timo Stein, and colleagues. The conscious brain lab consists of several PhD students, postdoctoral researchers and staff members of departments of Psychology of the UvA and VU university, who all study the neural basis of consciousness, perception and/or related topics (see website for details).

The project
Humans are not passive receivers of information. Instead, our brain continuously aims to predict the best interpretation of noisy sensory input it receives. How do these predictions shape conscious experience? The aim of this project is to elucidate how expectations modulate the threshold to consciousness and to reveal the computational and neural mechanisms of such expectation-driven effects on consciousness. Novel psychophysical designs involving perceptual illusions will be used to experimentally induce sensory- and action-based expectations. Signal detection theoretic analyses and drift diffusion modelling will reveal the level of processing at which prediction effects unfold, for example distinguishing between effects on decision-related vs. truly perceptual processes. EEG and fMRI will be used, in combination with machine learning and other AI tools, to measure the effects of predictions on neural processes indicative of distinct forms of neural processing in the human brain (e.g., feedforward, feedback).

What are you going to do
  • complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years;
  • gain knowledge of the field through literature survey, discussion with team members, and internal lab meetings
  • contribute to the design of experiments and perform experiments;
  • analyse and interpret results of experiments;
  • present data at local, national and international scientific meetings;
  • assist in teaching undergraduates and Master’s students and co-supervise junior scientists (technicians, MSc/BSc students).

What do you have to offer
You are passionate about cognitive (neuro)science and interested in consciousness or related topics such as perception and decision making. You are a team player and a nice colleague with good communication skills as you will regularly join and present at lab meetings as well as at relevant (inter)national meetings.

Your experience and profile:
  • MSc (preferably research master) in Experimental Psychology, (Cognitive) Neuroscience or related fields;
  • Good and demonstrable skills in coding in either python, R, or Matlab;
  • Good analytical, writing and presenting skills;
  • Good project and time management skills enabling you to meet the projects’ deadlines for finishing analyses, reports and other deliverables;
  • Eager to learn new things, high conscientiousness, flexibility, and a collaborative attitude;
  • Fluency in English, both written and spoken;
  • Preferably in-depth knowledge about the topic of consciousness or related topics such as (visual) perception, predictive processing, attention, and perceptual decision making;
  • Preferably experience with data acquisition techniques such as eye-tracking, fMRI, or EEG;
  • Preferably experience with neuroimaging (e.g., EEG and fMRI) data analyses (e.g., mvpa decoding analyses, network analyses);
  • Preferably experience with computational modelling (e.g., drift diffusion models, deep neural networks, reinforcement learning).

What can we offer you
A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 12 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended for a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date is between 1 Augustus 2024 and 1 September 2024. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings. We also expect you to assist in teaching undergraduates and master students.

Your salary will range between €2,770 in the first year to €3,539 gross per month in the last year of employment, on the basis of a full working week of 38 hours. This sum does not include the 8% holiday allowance and the 8.3% year-end allowance. A favorable tax agreement, the 30% ruling, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU) is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at the Psychology department and specifically the program group Brain and Cognition, we offer you multiple fringe benefits:
  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime);
  • multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre;
  • a pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution;
  • the possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch;
  • help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad.

About us
The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programmes. It is an intellectual hub with 39,000 students, 6,000 employees and 3,000 doctoral students who are all committed to a culture of inquiring minds.

About the faculty

A challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioral sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future.

Want to know more about our organisation? Read more about working at the University of Amsterdam.

Want to know more about the Psychology Research institute? Read more here.

Do you have any questions or do you require additional information? Please contact:
  • Simon van Gaal, associate professor, T: 0205256711 (E:
  • Timo Stein, assistant professor, T: 0683773391 (E :

Job application
If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. In your motivation letter you make it clear why you would like to be considered for the project. You can apply online via the button below. We accept applications until and including 20 May 2024.

Applications should include the following documents bundled in a single pdf (not zipped), in the following order:
  • a letter of motivation (max 500 words);
  • a concise statement regarding your fit for the position in light of the abovementioned requirements (300 words max);
  • an academic Curriculum Vitae (no longer than 3 pages). On your CV include the names and email addresses of two references who can provide letters of recommendation, in case necessary later on in the process (no letters of recommendation at this point);

Only complete applications received within the response period via the link below will be considered.

Interviews with shortlisted candidates will take place early in June 2024.

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritise diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.

No agencies please.

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University of Amsterdam (UvA)


  • PhD
  • Behaviour and society
  • max. 38 hours per week
  • €2770—€3539 per month
  • University graduate
  • 12797


University of Amsterdam (UvA)

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Nieuwe Achtergracht 166, 1018WV, Amsterdam

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