Cognitive Affective Neuroscience

How does our brain help us to survive in the face of threat? What causes us to have remarkably vivid and long-lasting memories of such experiences? And why do some people suffer psychopathological consequences?

A fundamental property of the brain is that it is able to adapt rapidly to a wide range of environmental conditions. Research, mainly in rodents, has shown that such homeostatic processes are supported by a complex cascade of changes in release of neuropeptides, neurotransmitters, and hormones. In the central nervous system, these act as neuromodulators to alter cellular properties of large-scale neuronal populations through widespread, yet regionally specific effects.

My research focuses on how such alterations affect the human brain. For instance, I investigate how these neurochemicals affect diverse cognitive functions, such as vigilance, executive function, and memory, and thus strategically reallocate our cognitive resources. Also, I address the question how stressful experiences alter the intrinsic neural dynamics in the brain during subsequent “offline” periods such as awake rest and sleep, and how such processes contribute to memory.

I attempt to answer these questions by combining functional neuroimaging with endocrine measures, autonomic psychophysiology, pharmacological manipulations, genetics, and rigorous experimental behavioral paradigms. The ultimate goal of this effort is to advance understanding, treatment, and prevention of stress-related psychopathology.

Key publications

  • Hermans, E.J., Henckens, M.J.A.G., Roelofs, K., and Fernández, G. (in press). Fear bradycardia and activation of the human periaqueductal grey. NeuroImage.
  • Hermans, E.J., van Marle, H.J.F., Ossewaarde, L., Henckens, M.J.A.G., Qin, S., van Kesteren, M.T.R., Schoots, V.C., Cousijn, H., Rijpkema, M., Oostenveld, R., and Fernández, G. (2011). Stress-related noradrenergic activity prompts large-scale neural network reconfiguration. Science 334, 1151-1153.
  • van Kesteren, M.T.R., Fernández, G., Norris, D.G., and Hermans, E.J. (2010). Persistent schema-dependent hippocampal-neocortical connectivity during memory encoding and post-encoding rest in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences U.S.A. 107, 7550-7555.
  • Hermans, E.J., Ramsey, N.F., and van Honk, J. (2008). Exogenous testosterone enhances responsiveness to social threat in the neural circuitry of social aggression in humans. Biological Psychiatry 63, 263-270.
  • Hermans, E.J., Putman, P., Baas, J.M., Koppeschaar, H.P., and van Honk, J. (2006). A single administration of testosterone reduces fear-potentiated startle in humans. Biological Psychiatry 59, 872-874.


Principal Investigator
Dr. E.J. Hermans

Group members

Postdoctoral researchers / visiting scholars
Florian Krause
Eliana Vassena
Lisa Wirz

Martin Krentz
Maria Lojowska
Rayyan Tutunji
Emma Heling
Alessio Proposito
Selin Acan
Nikos Kogias
Emma Heling
Sophie Bogemann
Laura de Nooij

BAs / MSc
Shashank Vijayaprasadh
Stelios Kapnisis
Zjulie Rutten
Samantha Hermsen
Joey Stuiver
Isabella Borgarsdottir

Research Assistants

Contact information

Postal address
Postbus 9101