Postdoc Project Brain properties underlying disproportionate emotional responses to sounds

Research / Academic

We are looking for a postdoctoral researcher in the field of Cognitive Neuroscience, with strong skills in data analysis, and experience in measuring individual differences with DTI and fMRI. You will be involved in a project on disproportionate strong emotional responses to particular sounds. This study is part of a large international program set up by a U.S-based foundation (REAM) to further our understanding of misophonia. You will work in the interdisciplinary and international Brain and Cognition research group at the Psychology Department of the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

What will you be doing?

This neuroimaging postdoc project, 'disproportionate emotional responses to sounds', seeks to better understand the debilitating condition of misophonia. Individuals with misophonia experience a strong negative ('fight or flight') response to seemingly ordinary sounds, e.g., someone eating an apple. Little is known about what are the mechanisms involved, and what causes these conditions in which specific sensory stimuli lead to a strong physical and/or emotional response.

In this particular project you will:

  • analyse data; 20 participants with misophonia and 20 matched controls, were pre-selected based (as found in an earlier experiment in 230 individuals) on relevant individual characteristics, strength (or absence) of their misophonia, and exclusion criteria. Data was collected on a state-of-the-art MRI scanner in the Spinoza Institute. Grey matter and white matter (a separate DTI session) properties were measured as well as brain activation (with fMRI) while watching short video clips (participant rated each of these videos through button press);
  • test a specific hyper-connectivity neurological model of misophonia, by analysing structural brain properties (DTI, MRI) of individuals with misophonia and control subjects;
  • provide insight on the role of (altered) structural brain properties in misophonia, including hyper-connectivity, by relating obtained neuroimaging findings to behavioural measurements;
  • immediately publish/disseminate the results, which is made possible by the fact that strong data has already been collected. You will publish structural imaging data in peer-reviewed scientific journal. If suitable, you may also participate in the other publications on disproportionate emotional responses to sounds in this research group;
  • help disseminate results to increase awareness both in public and scientific community, by providing help in setting up an international conference.

While testing the hyper-connectivity hypothesis is the main goal in this project, there are other research opportunities:

  • you may study the relationship between two main components of the misophonic response, by analysing physiological responses; we measured heart rate (ECG), muscle tension (surface EMG), and skin conductance (GSR). You compare how the sounds are consciously experienced (reflected in ratings) versus the bodily and unconscious responses (as reflected in physiological measurements).
  • you may shed light on a key question on misophonic sound responses: how does it relate to 'normal' processing of sounds (including sounds that are generally considered to be aversive), by contrasting brain activation patterns (fMRI) to different types of sounds, in individuals with misophonia (versus controls).


You have:

  • experience in independently performing neuroimaging analyses, in particular DTI and fMRI;
  • good to excellent programming skills, especially in Python;
  • an interest in understanding altered forms of (emotional) perception.

You are:

  • good at working in a team, and at working independently;
  • passionate about good scientific practice;
  • inspired by research that matters;
  • eager to take this opportunity to push your academic career to the next level.

Salary Benefits:

The position concerns a temporary appointment for a term of 12 months. If the candidate proves suitable the project may be extended; the candidate will then be invited to co-write our follow-up grant proposal to be submitted at the same international program (funded by the REAM foundation), providing favourable chances for an extension of this project for another 2 years (24 months).
Starting date is preferably 26 August but other dates can be discussed.
Salary is €3,637 gross per month for a 38-hour working week (in keeping with scale 11-0 for candidates with PhD), as per the Collective Labour Agreement of Dutch Universities. We additionally offer an extensive package of secondary employee benefits, including a generous holiday scheme and year-end bonus. Because we value your continued personal development and professionalisation, we also offer excellent opportunities for study and development.   

What else can we offer you?

The Psychology Department offers an excellent and stimulating working environment; you are surrounded by world-renowned researchers, work with excellent technical equipment, and are provided with research-dedicated technical support. You will have access to the meetings of the Psychology Department itself as well as of the institutes in which the Department takes part; the unique collaborative interdisciplinary research community "Amsterdam Brain and Cognition center" (ABC), and the "Spinoza Institute", a frontline neuroimaging research institute for fundamental and clinical neuroscientific research.
The Faculty of Social and Behavioural Science is a challenging work environment with a variety of duties and ample scope for individual initiative and development within an inspiring organization. The social and behavioural sciences play a leading role in addressing the major societal challenges faced by the world, the Netherlands and Amsterdam, now and in the future. To work at the University of Amsterdam is to work in a discerning, independent, creative, innovative and international climate characterised by an open atmosphere and a genuine engagement with the city of Amsterdam and society.

Work Hours:

38 hours per week


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