Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Theme 2: Perception, Action and Control

Affective Neuroscience

EPAN logoWe study emotion regulation and motivated action in health and in a wide range of psychopathologies, including anxiety and aggression-related disorders. We are particularly interested in the role of hormones on brain processes.

A central theme of our research is the role of automatic action tendencies in affective decision making, and how emotion control allows the control of such tendencies. We also work towards practical implications of this perspective by testing the hypothesis that direct modulation of abnormal action tendencies - via retraining, electrical neuromodulation, or pharmacology - can improve psychopathological states and reactions to stress. Our research applies multiple neuroscience techniques (fMRI, EEG, TMS) in combination with stress challenges or hormone administration.

Typical questions we address are

- How do we control our automatic emotional action tendencies?
- How do we decide to shift from initial freeze-reactions to active fight/flight reactions?
- How is motivational behavior altered in anxious and aggressive samples?

Investigating motivational and stress-related behavior at a neural level can provide important clues as to the fundamental mechanisms by which emotion control operates. However, besides providing novel theoretic insights, the knowledge derived from our studies also serves social aims. For instance, our research is currently used to develop new intervention studies (for example using testosterone to boost exposure therapies in social phobia) and to inform policy debates on aggression management by the ministry of safety and justice.

Name: Karin Roelofs
Telephone: 024-3613005
Fax: 024-3610652
Visiting address:

Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging 
Kapittelweg 29, room 01.116
6525 EN Nijmegen
The Netherlands

Postal address:

Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging 
P.O. Box 9101/204
6500 HB Nijmegen
The Netherlands


  • DARE2APPROACH (Jan 2019-2024, consolidator grant funded by the European Research Council-ERC-COG). Full title: “Dare to Approach. A Neurocognitive Approach to Alleviating Persistent Avoidance in Anxiety Disorders". The overarching aim of the project is to develop a neurocognitive computational framework explaining how people make costly avoidance decisions under acute threat and how they are able to override strong avoidance tendencies to obtain a larger goal. We aim to improve current decision models by taking into account the psychophysiological state of the decision maker. The project at large consists of task development, computational modelling, testing the models in healthy and highly anxious individuals, and ultimately developing neuro-cognitive interventions to help alleviate persistent avoidance in anxiety disorders

  • POLICE IN-ACTION (Feb 2015-2020, VICI grant funded by NWO): Longitudinal project on fight/flight decisions in police officers. Neuroendocrine mechanisms and neurobiological markers of stress vulnerability and fight/flight decisions in police officers will be used to predict anxious and aggressive symptoms after traumatic events. In collaboration with the National Dutch Police Force, 300 police recruits will be tested around one of the most stressful phases during their training. Brain activation, behavior and psychophysiological indices will be measured during various stress tests such as shooting tasks and avoidance conditioning tasks. Genetic, epigenetic and endocrine characteristics will also be studied.
  • BIOCHILL (2017-2022). NWO creative Industry grant: This project aims to Enhance Police Performance under Stress Through Immersive Biofeedback Training” This collaborative research program involves a collaboration between the BSI, Police Academy, Engine Co 4, IJsfontein, and CbusineZ.
  • DYNAMORE (April 2018-2013). This Horizon2020 funded project is led by Rafael Kalisch. This collaborative European grant aims to improve the Dynamic modelling of resilience. It is funded by the European Committee (Horizon2020 Personalized Medicine) and started April 2018.
  • NEURODEFENSE (June 2013-2018 funded by ERC). The central aim of the project is to understand neurobiological and cognitive mechanisms involved in controlling automatic emotional behaviours, such as freeze, fight and flight (FFF) reactions. We aim to determine the temporal dynamics and neuroendocrine control of the FFF sequence in healthy individuals and patients with social anxiety and aggressive disorders, and manipulate it via hormonal and neural interventions ., The predictive value of basic FFF tendencies for psychiatric symptoms we be evaluated prospectively in a large longitudinal study in adolescents.

Key grants

  • European Research Council (ERC-COG consolidator grant €2mjn) Role: Primary applicant: Title: Dare to Approach. A Neurocognitive Approach to Alleviating Persistent Avoidance in Anxiety Disorders. (Jan 2019-2024).
  • Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO): VICI grant (€1.500,000). Role: Primary applicant. Title: Police In-action. The role of freeze-fight-flight tendencies in post traumatic stress. (grant No. 016 085 354). (Jan 2016-2020).
  • Horizon2020: (€6mjn). Role: CO-PI (Primary applicant is Rafael Kalisch). Title: DYNAMORE: Dynamic modelling of resilience.” This collaborative 5-year project is funded by the European Committee (Horizon2020 Personalized Medicine) and started April 2018.
  • NWO creative Industry grant (€750k): Role: Primary applicant. Title:Enhancing Police Performance under Stress Through Immersive Biofeedback Training” This collaborative research program involves a collaboration between the BSI, Police Academy, Engine Co 4, IJsfontein, and CbusineZ (2017-2022).
  • FP7-HEALTH-2013-INNOVATION- grant. Programme “Cooperation” – Theme "Health". Role: Co-applicant. Title: Aggressotype. Aggression subtyping for improved insight and treatment innovation in paediatric psychiatric disorders. (grant No. 602805-2). (June 2013-2018)
  • European Research Council (ERC-StG): Starting grant (€1.500,000). Role: Primary applicant. Title: The Neural control of human Freeze-Fight-flight. (grant No. ERC-StG-2012-313749). (2012)

Key publications

  • Hashemi MM, Gladwin TE, de Valk NM, Zhang W, Kaldewaij R, van Ast V, Koch SBJ, Klumpers F, Roelofs K. (2019). Neural Dynamics of Shooting Decisions and the Switch from Freeze to Fight. Nature Sci Rep. 9(1):4240

  • Kalisch, ea, Roelofs, ea Kleim (2017). The resilience framework as a strategy to combat stress-related disorders. Nature Human Behaviour, 1, 784–790.
  • Roelofs, K. (2017). Freeze for Action. Neurobiological mechanisms in animal and human freezing. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.372(1718).
  • Tyborowska A, Volman I, Niermann HCM, Pouwels JL, Smeekens S, Cillessen AHN, Toni I, Roelofs K. (2018). Early-life and pubertal stress differentially modulate grey matter development in human adolescents. Nature Sci Rep. 8(1):9201.
  • Bramson B, Jensen O, Toni I, Roelofs K. (2018). Cortical Oscillatory Mechanisms Supporting the Control of Human Social-Emotional Actions. J Neurosci. 38(25):5739-5749.
  • Radke S, Volman I, Mehta P, van Son V,  Enter D, Sanfey A, Toni I, de Bruijn E,  Roelofs K. (2015) Testosterone biases the amygdala towards social threat approach. Science Advances, 1:e1400074
  • Volman I, Roelofs K, Koch S, Verhagen L, Toni I. (2012). Anterior Prefrontal Cortex Inhibition Impairs Control over Social Emotional Actions. Current Biology, 21(20):1766-70.


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Research Theme 2:
Perception, Action and Decision-making


Research Group
Affective Neuroscience

Principal Investigator
Prof. Dr. K. Roelofs

Group members

Senior Researchers
Bernd Figner
Floris Klumpers


Saskia Koch
James Livermore
Elena Andres
Bob Bramson

PhD students
Anneloes Hulsman
Lars Jaswetz
Felix Klaassen
Sjoerd Meijer
Abele Michela
Iris Traast
Anna Tyborowska

MSc and BSc Students
Jesse Lam
Laura Montoya
Rick van Rosmalen
Nadine Cremer
Evelyne Fraats