EPAN mission statement
- 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.
- 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?
- Teaching: We contribute our knowledge to primary schools, bachelor (RU-psychology), masters (BSI, CNS) and post-initial teaching programs (for psychiatrists and psychologists) as well as to general online platforms (Univ.NL).
- Meetings: We actively discuss our knowledge with the national (Stress.nl; National Science Agenda; INTENSE) and international scientific neuroscience community at conferences, within associations (INTRESA, DynaMORE) and by organizing meetings (NijCare, Science & Society seminars AERG, Resilience Lunch breaks)
- Societal partners: We reach out to share our insights with societal partners, including the national police and mental health organisations (ProPersona, NijCare) and science policy makers at the national (NWO, KNAW) and European level (EU-Horizon, ERA, Academia Europaea).
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.
- 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).