PhD Position: "Maladaptive Decision Making and Habits in Anorexia Nervosa"

Cognitive NeurosciencePsychology
Sep 15, 2023 21:59:00 GMT+00:00
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  • Faculty/Services:  Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
  • Educational level:  Master
  • Function type:  PhD position
  • Closing date:  15 September 2023
  • Vacancy number:  11962

We are looking for a highly qualified and motivated PhD candidate interested in cognitive neuroscience and computational psychiatry. The position is part of an NIMH (USA) funded project titled “No Way Around But Through: Mechanisms of Persistence and Remission of Habits in Anorexia Nervosa”. The aim of the project is to understand the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie maladaptive behaviours and makes them resistant to change. In particular, our goal is to understand whether and how habits contribute to persistent maladaptive behaviours among individuals with anorexia nervosa. To provide an in-depth assessment of the behavioral and neural mechanisms that support illness persistence, as well as remission, habitual and goal-directed behavior will be measured with an extensive task battery. The overarching project involves fMRI studies of individuals with anorexia nervosa, who will be followed longitudinally. Additionally, in a large-scale online study, we will use behavioral and computational approaches to examine habitual and goal-directed behavior among individuals who previously completed inpatient treatment for anorexia nervosa.   

The PhD position is embedded in the Brain and Cognition area (department of Psychology) at the University of Amsterdam and will be supervised by Dr. Karin Foerde and co-supervised by Dr. Sanne de Wit. The project is a collaboration with Dr. Joanna Steinglass at the Columbia University Psychiatry Department (New York, USA). The PhD position will involve data analysis at the University of Amsterdam while collaborating with a team of students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff members collecting data on location in New York. The position is for a person interested in cognitive neuroscience and computational psychiatry from a basic science perspective rather than someone seeking direct clinical training.

What are you going to do

  • complete and defend a PhD thesis within the official appointment duration of four years
  • gain knowledge of the field through literature survey, discussion with team members, and internal lab meetings
  • contribute to the design of experiments and implementation experiments
  • contribute to supervision of experiments (data collection occurs in New York)
  • analyse and interpret results of experiments
  • present data at local, national and international scientific meetings
  • assist in teaching undergraduates and Master’s students and co-supervise junior scientists (technicians, MSc/BSc students)

What do you have to offer

You are passionate about cognitive neuroscience and interested in habits, learning, decision making or related topics. You have an interest in understanding maladaptive behaviours from a neuroscience and/or computational modelling perspective. You enjoy working collaboratively in addition to individually. You are a team player and good colleague with excellent communication skills, as you will regularly present at lab meetings and at relevant (inter)national meetings.  

Your experience and profile

  • MSc (preferably research master) in Experimental Psychology, (Cognitive) Neuroscience or related fields
  • Good and demonstrable skills in coding in either python, R, or Matlab
  • Good analytical, writing, and presenting skills
  • Good project and time management skills enabling you to meet projects deadlines for finishing analyses, reports, and other deliverables
  • Eager to learn new things, high conscientiousness, flexibility, collaborative attitude
  • Fluency in English, both written and spoken

In addition, the following are preferable

  • In-depth knowledge or strong desire to gain expertise in habits or related topics such as decision making, learning, and memory
  • Experience with fMRI data analyses or ability to acquire the skill (e.g., decoding analyses, network analyses)
  • Experience with computational modelling or ability to acquire the skill

What can we offer you

A temporary contract for 38 hours per week for the duration of 4 years (the initial contract will be for a period of 12 months and after satisfactory evaluation it will be extended to a total duration of 4 years). The preferred starting date is between 1 November 2023 and 1 February 2024. This should lead to a dissertation (PhD thesis). We will draft an educational plan that includes attendance of courses and (international) meetings.

PhD candidates are usually involved in 5% teaching, which helps prepare optimally for the academic job market.

Your salary will range between €2.770 in the first year to €3.539 gross per month in the last year of employment, on the basis of a full working week of 38 hours. This sum does not include the 8% holiday allowance and the 8.3% year-end allowance. A favorable tax agreement, the 30% ruling, may apply to non-Dutch applicants. The Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities (CAO NU) is applicable.

Besides the salary and a vibrant and challenging environment at the Psychology department and specifically the program group Brain and Cognition, we offer you multiple fringe benefits:

  • 232 holiday hours per year (based on fulltime)
  • multiple courses to follow from our Teaching and Learning Centre
  • a pension at ABP for which UvA pays two third part of the contribution
  • the possibility to follow courses to learn Dutch
  • help with housing for a studio or small apartment when you’re moving from abroad

About us  

The University of Amsterdam is the largest university in the Netherlands, with the broadest spectrum of degree programmes. It is an intellectual hub with 42,000 students, 6,000 employees and 3,000 doctoral students who are all committed to a culture of inquiring minds.

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Want to know more about the Psychology Research institute? Read more here.


If you have any questions about the position, please contact Karin Førde (

Job application  

If you feel the profile fits you, and you are interested in the job, we look forward to receiving your application. You can apply online via the button below. We accept applications until and including September 24, 2023.

Applications should include the following documents bundled in a single .pdf (not zipped), in the following order:

  • a letter of motivation (max 500 words)
  • a concise statement regarding your fit for the position in light of the abovementioned requirements (300 words max)
  • an academic Curriculum Vitae. On your CV include the names and email addresses of two references who can provide letters of recommendation, in case necessary later on in the process (no letters of recommendation at this point)

Only complete applications received within the response period via the link below will be considered.

Interviews with shortlisted candidates will take place in October 2023. 

The UvA is an equal-opportunity employer. We prioritize diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for everyone. We value a spirit of enquiry and perseverance, provide the space to keep asking questions, and promote a culture of curiosity and creativity.