Background: Anorexia Nervosa (AN) is a severe and disabling mental disorder with a mortality that is among the highest in psychiatry. The eating disorder is characterized by a relentless pursuit of weight loss by self-starvation, leading to a significantly low body weight that is (severely) less than minimally normal. Recent theoretical models consider AN to be a neurobiological disorder and stress the abnormal central reward systems in AN. The studies proposed here build upon these neurobiological models and will test whether AN benefits from evaluative conditioning techniques, with the aim of repairing the reward system. It is hypothesized that the disliking of foods, and thus the reduced activation in reward related brain regions, can be repaired by evaluative conditioning. Evaluative conditioning (EC) is a learning process and refers to the associative learning of preferences. Evaluative conditioning might explain the acquisition of human likes and dislikes. Although it has been shown that the pairing of appetitive stimuli (foods) with negative unconditioned stimuli (US) can lead to a devaluation of the foods, it has never been studied whether the pairing of appetitive stimuli (foods) with positive US’s leads to increased liking and eating of these foods.
Research method: You will use functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) during both visual food perception and during the delivery of liquid tastes in the mouth (gustometer), both before and after an evaluative conditioning procedure (or control condition). You will analyse your data using standard mass-univariate analysis techniques, and preferably as well using multi-voxel pattern-analyses (MVPA).
Your job: You will further develop the designs of the studies that are described in the project. You will also be responsible for programming the experimental protocols and test the participants. You will be trained on how to use our MRI facilities. Next, you will analyse both fMRI and behavioural data, and publish your results in scientific journals, and write a doctoral dissertation based on your research. You will join the research group on Eating Disorders & Addiction, in which several PhD students work on neuroimaging projects.
A Master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience, psychology, biomedical sciences or related field.
A keen interest in understanding eating disorders.
Programming skills, preferably Matlab.
Experience analyzing fMRI data.
Well-developed analytical skills and creativity.
Excellent writing and presentation skills (English).
The terms of employment of Maastricht University are set out in the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities (CAO). Furthermore, local UM provisions also apply. For more information look at the website https://www.maastrichtuniversity.nl/support/um-employees
Temporary employment for 4 years.
Your salary would be € 2.222,-- gross per month in the first year up to € 2.840,-- gross per month in the fourth year according to the PhD-student salary scale.
Each year an evaluation will take place.
For more information, you can contact Dr. Anne Roefs via e-mail: A.Roefs@maastrichtuniversity.nl
The preferred starting date of this PhD project is between 1-1-2018 and 1-3-2018.
You can apply for this position by sending us a motivation letter, a CV, and a list of grades of your bachelor and master degree.
Maastricht University is renowned for its unique, innovative, problem-based learning system, which is characterized by a small-scale and student-oriented approach. Research at UM is characterized by a multidisciplinary and thematic approach, and is concentrated in research institutes and schools. Maastricht University has around 16,500 students and 4,000 employees. Reflecting the university's strong international profile, a fair amount of both students and staff are from abroad. The university hosts 6 faculties: Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, Faculty of Law, School of Business and Economics, Faculty of Humanities and Sciences, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience.