I am a behavioral neuroscientist with a background in functional neuroanatomy and a strong interest in how neuromodulators such as dopamine and serotonin regulate brain networks under normal (e.g., reward learning) as well as pathological conditions (e.g., OCD and addiction). Throughout my career, I pursued this interest by combining state-of-the-art neuroscience tools and tailor-made behavioral testing paradigms. Together with my research group, I study the neurobiology of behavioral automaticity and compulsivity as well as functions potentially contributing to these behavioral strategies. Our team has close ties to clinical scientists studying and treating bad habits and compulsions in patients, thus, aiming to provide optimal conditions for a translational, multidisciplinary approach.
Throughout my career, I pursued a clear line of research that focused on the function of dopamine in basal ganglia networks and behavior. As a PhD student, I studied how dopamine receptors and downstream gene expression in striatal neurons mediate motor learning. For my postdoc, I proceeded to investigate brain domain-specific dopamine release with high spatial and temporal resolution using in vivo electrochemistry in behaving rodents. As a group leader, my research interests broadened to the role of neuromodulators in brain function and behavior in general (e.g., now also serotonin and acetylcholine), although the lab is currently still very “dopamine-centric”.
Since my days in high school, I have been obsessed with the mind and the brain and their interaction. My enrollment in the Physiological Psychology M.Sc. program at the University of Duesseldorf, Germany, solidified my determination to make that obsession my profession. I received my PhD from The Chicago Medical School at the end of 2007 and then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, before I accepted my position as group leader at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and Associate Professor (Dept. of Psychiatry) at the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam in 2013.