24 May 2017

Three young UM talents receive NWO funding for PhD research

Three students of Maastricht University have received the NWO Research Talent funding: Miriam Heynckes, Shanice Janssens and Eveline Vandewal – all three research master’s students in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience at the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience. The funding is especially intended to offer excellent studies the opportunity to do PhD research.

Miriam Heynckes will, under the supervision of prof. dr. Elia Formisano, conduct research into the processing of rhythmic information (sounds) by the brains. Our brains are highly sensitive to rhythmic information. When we listen to music, for example, the activity of our brain cells is 'entrained' or carried along with it, so that the music and the brain cells activity share the same rhythm. Within a rhythm, however, we can also pay attention to one of several instruments playing in time, in the same way that we can choose which voice to focus on at a crowded party. This project uses high-resolution fMRI to investigate how attention extracts key information from entraining rhythms.

Shanice Janssens

Shanice Janssens will study, under the supervision of prof. dr. Alexander Sack, the communication between different brain regions with respect to attention.  By focusing our attention on specific locations in the environment, our brains make sure we do not become over-stimulated. To do this, different regions of the brain need to communicate in a complex way and sometimes this goes wrong: for example, after a brain injury or during ageing (healthy or otherwise). Shanice will use innovative neuroscience methods to study how this communication works. The results can be used to develop new treatments for attention problems.

Eveline Vandewal will be supervised by prof. dr. Arno Riedl as she conducts research into cognitive and affective processes that underlie strategic reasoning.  Strategic situations are situations in which our well-being depends not only on our own decisions but also on the decisions of others. In situations like this, it is important we can empathise with others so that we can predict their decisions and make the best decision for ourselves. This reasoning process, also known as strategic reasoning, is not particularly well understood at present. In this PhD project, economic, psychological and neuroscience research methods will be combined to enhance our understanding of the cognitive and affective processes at play during strategic reasoning.

NWO Research Talent
Research Talent offers excellent students in the social and behavioural sciences the opportunity to do PhD research. 28 of the 68 full proposals submitted have been accepted in the 2017 round. 6.25 million euros were available in this round.