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

Learning & decision-making

We make predictably bad decisions. We eat that extra slice of cake, buy the expensive phone, and fail to save our planet. It is a dream of psychiatry, and society at large, to understand how our motivations sway our actions in often seemingly irrational ways.

In our lab, we study the neural and computational mechanisms that drive our rational and irrational decisions. We study when our ‘auto-pilot’ takes over, and how we (fail to) regain control when it sends us awry. We dissect the role of neuromodulators such as dopamine and serotonin using psychopharmacological interventions, and stimulate and measure brain activity to find out which brain circuits are involved. Finally, we study how decision-making is altered in psychiatric disorders like OCD, autism and depression, with the ultimate aim of improving diagnosis and treatment.

Name: Hanneke den Ouden
Telephone: +31 (0)6 2111 7199
Visiting address:

Donders Centre for Cognition
Thomas van Aquinostraat 4
Maria Montessori building, room 2.337
6525 GD Nijmegen

Postal address: Donders Centre for Cognition
P.O. Box 9104
6500 HE Nijmegen
The Netherlands
Key grants and prizes
  • 2017 - Vidi grant by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (800.000 EUR, 5 yr) for the project: Getting things done - Unravelling the neurocognitive mechanisms of adaptive decision-making.
  • 2016 - Henry Dale Fellowship (Wellcome Trust and Royal Society). (950.000 GBP, 5 yr) - declined
  • 2014 - Research talent grant by the NWO to fund PhD project of Jennifer Swart, Project title: Overcoming affective biases of decisionmaking - Combining neurophysiology, neurostimulation and computational psychology
  • 2011 - Veni grant by NWO for the project: Learning to go: Frontostriatal coupling and the interaction between motivation and action (250,000 EUR for 3 years)
Key publications
  • Scholz, V., Hook, R. W., Kandroodi, M. R., Algermissen, J., Ioannidis, K., Christmas, D., ... & den Ouden, H. E. (2022). Cortical dopamine reduces the impact of motivational biases governing automated behaviour. Neuropsychopharmacology. pdf; supplementary material

  • Van Nuland, A. J., Helmich, R. C., Dirkx, M. F., Zach, H., Toni, I., Cools, R., & den Ouden, H. E. (2020). Effects of dopamine on reinforcement learning in Parkinson’s disease depend on motor phenotype. Brain, 143(11). pdf
  • Swart JC, Froboese MI, Cook JL, Geurts DEM, Frank MJ, Cools R, den Ouden HEM (2017) Catecholaminergic challenge uncovers distinct Pavlovian and instrumental mechanisms of motivated (in)action. eLife. Full text
  • Den Ouden HE, Daw ND, Fernandez G, Elshout JA, Rijpkema M, Hoogman M, Franke B, Cools R (2013). Dissociable effects of serotonin and dopamine on reversal learning. Neuron. Full text
  • Den Ouden HE, Kok P, De Lange F (2012). Prediction errors in perception, attention and motivation. Frontiers in Perception, special issue on Predictive Coding. Full text