Faculty of Social Sciences
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EPAN: Experimental Psychopathology and Affective Neuroscience

part of EPT

logo EPAN


Our goal

  • Aim: We aim to increase psychological resilience.
  • Concretely: We aim to contribute fundamental neurocognitive insight into affective processes in order to improve the early signalling of -and intervention into- psychopathology, including anxiety and stress-related disorders.

Our starting points

  • Focus on Action and its control: Although most emotion regulation research focusses on affective and cognitive components of emotion, we focus on action: particularly on the control over motivational (approach-avoidance) action.
  • Pavlovian vs Instrumental: We believe it is relevant to measure acute Pavlovian reactions, such as freezing, as they impact instrumental decisions (such as persistent avoidance in anxiety) ánd predict long-term resilience.
  • Resilience is a dynamic concept: Therefore, we aim to gain fundamental insight into the temporal dynamics of stress-reactions and their recovery -both to acute (laboratory) threat as well as in response to real-life (traumatic) stress.

Our approach

  • Techniques: We study neurocognitive mechanisms of defensive stress-reactions using various brain imaging (fMRI, MEG, EEG) techniques, combined with neural stimulation (TMS, tACS, TUS) or pharmacological interventions (steroid hormones).
  • Tasks: We apply these techniques during various emotional control and decision-making tasks (approach-avoidance tasks; value-based decision and intertemporal choice tasks).
  • Outcome: We typically assess psychophysiological (heart rate, SCR, pupil dilation) and behavioural changes (choice, RT, error rates, bodily freezing), in addition to subjective stress and symptom measures.
  • Modelling: We use value-based decision and learning models to model these responses.
  • Samples: We apply our paradigms in healthy samples, clinical populations, (anxiety and stress-related disorders) and professionals-at risk (police). Additionally, to test their role in resilience, we apply these techniques in longitudinal samples, including a developmental sample from the Nijmegen Longitudinal Study (NLS) a large police cohort from the Police-In-Action (PIA) study and patients with affective disorders that we follow longitudinally within the NijCare collaborative consortium.

How do we communicate our knowledge?

Do we have concrete societal impact?

  • Tools: Our tools to assess automatic (freezing) and instrumental approach-avoidance responses to threat are widely used in labs around the world (freezing and approach-avoidance measures in Dresden, Hamburg, Montreal, Amsterdam)
  • Clinical practice: Together with mental health organisation ProPersona we translated our pharmacological interventions to clinical practice to boost efficacy of exposure-therapy in anxiety patients.
  • VR-Game: Based on insights into psychophysiological state of freezing (and its impact on acute and long-term stress-reactions) we developed a biofeedback-based VR training tool to train decision making under stress.
  • Police: Together with the Dutch national police we currently implement our biofeedback-based VR training tool in the police academy and for yearly boost training for the Dutch police force.

Academic culture

  • Open: We aim for open science. Therefore, we preregister our studies, share our data and scripts, work with SOPs (standard operating procedures) as much as we can and we foster open discussion in- and outside our lab.
  • Inclusion: We care about inclusiveness in science and evaluate our lab-culture and openness of discussions multiple times a year with regard to these values.
  • Platforms: In addition, many of our lab-members are involved in research culture activities at the local, national and international level (ERCEA).

Current funding resources for EPAN:

  1. 2021      NWO Open competition SHH 2020. Role: Karin Roelofs primary applicant together with Ivan Toni (€750 k). Title: Control mechanisms of social-emotional regulation (grant No. 406.20.GO.020).
  2. 2021      Evens Science Prize 2020, an international prize for societally relevant research in cognitive neuroscience, obtained for our Resilience research.
  3. 2020      NWO Crossover Grant. Role: Karin Roelofs co-applicant & WP-leader with Bob Bramson (€1mln -total €14.3 mln). Title: INTENSE: Innovative Neurotechnology for Society.
  4. 2018      ERC Consolidator Grant. Role: Karin Roelofs primary applicant (€2 mln). Title: DARE2APPROACH: A Neurocognitive Approach to Alleviating Persistent Avoidance in Anxiety Disorders. (grant No. ERC_CoG-2017_772337).
  5. 2018      NWOResearch-talent. (€200 k). Role Karin Roelofs and Floris Klumpers: applicant (Candidate: Anneloes Hulsman).
  6. 2017      Horizon2020 Personalized Medicine grant. Role: Karin Roelofs co-applicant (PI: Rafael Kalisch; €6 mln). Title:  DYNAMORE: Dynamic modelling of resilience (grant No. 777084777084).
  7. 2017      NWOBrain and Cognition Grant: Role: Karin Roelofs primary applicant with a.o. Floris Klumpers (€750 k). Title: Enhancing Decision Making under Stress Through Immersive Biofeedback Training (grant  No. 055.15.139).

Main Projects and funding:

  • Decisions under threat. How can we model and optimize decisions under threat in health and social anxiety? (DARE2APPROACH: ERC-Consolidator).

  • Dynamic Modelling of resilience. Within a large European consortium we aim to test the dynamics of stress-resilience (Dynamore: EU Horizon2020).

  • Police in Action. Can we predict development of post-traumatic stress-symptoms in police officers? Check out this prospective study (NWO-VICI).

  • Enhancing decisions under stress through VR-based biofeedback training (BIOCHILL: NWO-Brain & Cognition).

  • Nijmegen Longitudinal Study. With Developmental Psychology, we study the effects of early and later life events on brain development (ERC-StG).

  • Using brain stimulation to alleviate fear. We use tACS and pioneer with ultrasound stimulation within the national (INTENSE: NWO-Crossover).

  • Control mechanisms of social-emotional regulation: Project with Ivan Toni and Lennart Verhagen in wich we use transcranial ultrasound stimulation to alleviate social avoidance. (NWO open competition SHH).

Selected publications (past 5 years):

  1. Roelofs K, Dayan P. Freezing revisited: coordinated autonomic and central optimization of threat coping. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2022 Sep;23(9):568-580. doi: 1038/s41583-022-00608-2.
  2. Kaldewaij R, Koch SBJ, Hashemi MM, Zhang W, Klumpers F, Roelofs K. (2021) Anterior prefrontal brain activity during emotion control predicts resilience to post-traumatic stress symptoms. Nature Human Behaviour. https://rdcu.be/cwRUs
  3. Zhang W, Kaldewaij R, Hashemi M, Koch S, Smit A, van Ast V, Beckmann C, Klumpers F, Roelofs K. (2022). Acute-stress induced change in salience network coupling prospectively predicts post-trauma symptom-development. Translational Psychiatry 12, 63https://www.nature.com/articles/s41398-022-01798-0.pdf?origin=ppub
  4. Hulsman AM, Kaldewaij R, Hashemi MM, Zhang W, Koch SBJ, Figner B, Roelofs K, Klumpers F. Individual differences in costly fearful avoidance and the relation to psychophysiology.Behav Res Ther. 2021 Feb;137:103788. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2020.103788. Epub 2020 Dec 21.
  5. Hutschemaekers MHM, de Kleine RA, Hendriks GJ, Kampman M, Roelofs K. The enhancing effects of testosterone in exposure treatment for social anxiety disorder: a randomized proof-of-concept trial. Transl Psychiatry. 2021 Aug 20;11(1):432. doi: 10.1038/s41398-021-01556-8. PMID: 34417443.
  6. Livermore JJA, Klaassen FH, Bramson B, Hulsman AM, Meijer SW, Held L, Klumpers F, de Voogd LD, Roelofs K. Approach-Avoidance Decisions Under Threat: The Role of Autonomic Psychophysiological States. Front Neurosci. 2021 Mar 31;15:621517. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2021.621517. PMID: 33867915; PMCID: PMC8044748.
  7. Klaassen FH, Held L, Figner B, O'Reilly JX, Klumpers F, de Voogd LD, Roelofs K. Defensive freezing and its relation to approach-avoidance decision-making under threat. Sci Rep. 2021 Jun 8;11(1):12030. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-90968-z. PMID: 34103543; PMCID: PMC8187589.
  8. Bramson B, den Ouden HE, Toni I, Roelofs K. (2020). Improving emotional-action control by targeting long-range phase-amplitude neuronal coupling. eLife. 9:e59600. doi: 10.7554/eLife.59600.
  9. Hashemi MM, Zhang W, Kaldewaij R, Koch SBJ, Smit A, Figner B, Jonker R, Klumpers F, Roelofs K. Human defensive freezing: Associations with hair cortisol and trait anxiety. 2021 Nov;133:105417. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2021.105417. Epub 2021 Sep 16. PMID: 34571456.
  10. de Voogd LD, Hagenberg E, Zhou YJ, de Lange FP, Roelofs K. Acute threat enhances perceptual sensitivity without affecting the decision criterion. Sci Rep. 2022 12(1):9071. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-11664-0.


Leader of the research group

Karin Roelofs

Prof. dr. K. Roelofs

31 (0)24 36 120 04
Room number: 03.390

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Lab members


  • Sjoerd Meijer
  • Agnieszka Adamczyk
  • Mingqian Guo


  • Mariana Carneiro de Andrade