Motivational & Cognitive Control

Our overarching goal is to understand the neural and neurochemical mechanisms underlying flexible and adaptive behavior and decision making. Such adaptive behaviour requires motivational and cognitive control as well as reinforcement learning.

I aim to characterize: (i) the distinct contribution of subcortical structures, such as the the basal ganglia, from that of the prefrontal cortex; (ii) the role of neuromodulators, in particular dopamine and serotonin and (iii) individual differences at the level of personality traits, baseline neurotransmitter levels, structural connectivity and genotypic variation.

To this end, I combine cognitive psychology with psychopharmacology, functional neuroimaging, structural neuroimaging, neurochemical (PET) imaging and patient studies (e.g. Parkinson’s disease & ADHD).


  • Food and Cognition Model (FOCOM (linked to the URL)) project to develop test systems, which will be able to predict the relation between nutrition and brain.
  • ZONMW AGIKO project: Cognitive neuropsychiatry: Understanding and treating emotional dysregulation using functional magnetic resonance imaging
  • James McDonnell project: Understanding motivation and cognition: Combining psychology and neuropharmacology
  • International Parkinson’s disease Foundation project: Neural mechanisms of depression in Parkinson’s disease (with Rianne Esselink)
  • MaGW project: Integrating motivation, cognition and action – frontal control of dopamine-dependent striatal processing (with Ivan Toni)
  • MaGW project: Pharmacological modulation of alpha and gamma oscillations: implications for working memory maintenance (with Ole Jensen)
  • VIDI project: Dopaminergic modulation of fronto-striatal activity during cognitive control
  • HFSP project: Serotonin and decision-making: integrating interspecies experimental and computational approaches.

Key grants and prizes

  • KNAW-Ammodo Award (Joint award from the Dutch Royal Society of Science and Ammodo Foundation) (300kE)
  • James McDonnell Scholar Award (600kUSD)  (2012)
  • Young Investigator Award of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society to RC (2012)
  • Radboud Science Award for best research at Radboud University Nijmegen to RC (2011)
  • Human Frontiers Science Program grant to RC (2009)
  • NWO Vidi award to RC (2008)

Key publications

  • Piray P, den Ouden HE, van der Schaaf ME, Toni I, Cools R (2017). Dopaminergic Modulation of the Functional Ventrodorsal Architecture of the Human Striatum Cerebral Cortex27(1):485-495.
  • Van Schouwenburg MR, den Ouden HE, Cools R (2015). Selective attentional enhancement and inhibition of fronto-posterior connectivity by the basal ganglia during attention switching. Cerebral Cortex 25(6):1527-34
  • Van der Schaaf ME, Van Schouwenburg MR, Geurts D, Schellekens AFA, Buitelaar J, Verkes RJ, Cools R (2014). Establishing the dopamine-dependency of human striatal signals during reward and punishment reversal learning. Cerebral Cortex 24(3):633-42.
  • Den Ouden HE, Fernandez G, Elshout J, Rijpkema M, Hoogman M, Franke B, Daw ND, Cools R (2013). Dissociable effects of dopamine and serotonin on reversal learning. Neuron 80(4):1090-100 [16.5]
  • Geurts D, Huys Q, den Ouden HE, Cools R (2013). Serotonin and aversive Pavlovian control of instrumental behavior in humans. Journal of Neuroscience 33(48):18932-9 [7.6]


Contact information

Location 024-3610651
Postal address
Postbus 9101