I am particularly interested in unravelling the neural mechanisms that drive cognitive (in)flexibilities. In my research, I study the making and breaking of habit behaviors, driven by either positive or negative reinforcement. I use fluorescent calcium imaging to monitor activity in the rat mPFC during the transition from goal-directed to automatic behavior. I aim to find inter-individual differences in the mPFC neural correlate of inflexible behavior. In addition, I use either chemogenetic or optogenetic manipulation methods to confirm causality.
Studying the neural mechanisms behind the switch from goal-directed to automatic behavior will help us better understand the underlying pathologies in psychiatric disorders that are characterized by cognitive inflexibilities, like addiction, OCD, pathological gambling and schizophrenia.
My background is in physics, but after working all around the world thereby observing a great range of different behaviours in humans, my curiosity as to what lay behind this behaviour was sparked. I thus choose to study Cognitive Neurobiology and Clinical Neurophysiology. My studies gave me insight into the striking system that is our brain and raised my interest in how the activity of larger networks induces functioning and behaviour, especially inflexible behaviour. My aim is to obtain fundamental knowledge on brain functions from single neurons, to circuits and networks and their very acute effects on visible behaviour. Perhaps these pre-clinical insights can one day help us in the clinic.”