EXTINCTION, AVOIDANCE AND GENERALIZATION IN THE ONSET AND TREATMENT OF ANXIETY

20 May 2020

Get in touch!

Interested?

For more information please contact Prof. dr. Dirk Hermans, tel.: +32 16 32 59 63, mail: dirk.hermans@kuleuven.be or Mrs. Sara Scheveneels, tel.: +32 16 19 34 53, mail: sara.scheveneels@kuleuven.be.You can apply for this job no later than June 22, 2020 via the online application toolKU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.

Ref. BAP-2020-305

Apply before 22 June 2020

The Center for the Psychology of Learning and Experimental Psychopathology is located at KU Leuven, Belgium – a top-ranked research university in the heart of Europe (30 min to Brussels, 2 hours to London, Paris and Amsterdam).

Our team is internationally oriented and well-recognized and aims at unraveling the cognitive and learning mechanisms of anxiety, depression and addiction, as well as to apply this knowledge to preventative and intervention strategies. Both fundamental and applied research is being conducted in our team: ranging from rodent studies to clinical trials in patients.

The project is part of a KU Leuven C1 granted to prof. Dirk Hermans, prof. Tom Beckers, prof. Bram Vervliet and dr. Laura Luyten.

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Project

The prevalence of anxiety-related disorders (e.g., panic disorder, specific phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder) is high. Particularly from a ‘learning/conditioning’ approach, both in humans and in rodents, the insights have moved science and practice significant steps forward. The fear conditioning procedure is commonly presented as a lab model for the acquisition of fear. A key issue in understanding the basis of anxiety disorders is the identification of those learning mechanisms that are involved in the transition from adaptive fear into an anxiety disorder. Within this framework, three central processes have surfaced as fundamental: extinction (E), avoidance (A) and generalization (G) (EAG). The main aim of the overarching C1 project is to characterize how E, A and G processes correlate, interact, and predict the development and treatment of emotional disorders.

The objective of the work package of which this PhD will be part, is to link EAG profiles to anxiety and depression, (1) by using behavioral outcomes of EAG processes to predict changes in anxiety/depression symptoms over time, (2) by using behavioral outcomes of EAG processes to predict changes in anxiety symptoms over the course of exposure therapy in phobic individuals.

We will thus examine whether individual differences in these learning processes (as measured in lab-based fear conditioning) are predictive for changes in anxiety levels over time and for the outcome of treatment.

Profile
  • We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate with a MA degree in psychology, behavioral science, or a related field.
  • Excellent grades during the Bachelor and Master program.
  • Candidates have a genuine interest in the psychology of learning and its relation to (clinical) anxiety.
  • Excellent data analytic skills. Experience with more advanced data analysis is an asset but not a prerequisite.
  • Excellent communication skills in English, both verbally as well as academic writing. The candidate preferably also speaks Dutch.
Offer
  • Estimated net salary per month: ca. EUR 2000,- (depending on qualification, age, and family situation)
  • Employment basis: Temporary for a specified period
  • A dynamic and stimulating work environment
  • Duration of contract: 4 years (based on a successful intermediate evaluation after 1 year)
  • Maximum hours per week: 38
  • As a partner of the Dutch-Flemish postgraduate school Experimental Psychopathology (EPP) (https://epp-research.eu/), our research group offers the opportunity to take courses/workshops on both methodology and diverse aspects of clinicalpsychology and psychopathology
  • Starts from September 21, 2020