PhD position on the stability and plasticity of emotional memory

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences – Department of Psychology

Publication date
13 September 2018
Level of education
Master's degree
Salary indication
€2,266 to €2,897 gross per month
Closing date
8 October 2018
38 hours per week
Vacancy number

The Department of Psychology is a part of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG), which is the largest educational and research institution in the social sciences in the Netherlands. The Faculty serves 7500 students in numerous Bachelor and Master programs in Psychology, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, Communication Science, Social Geography, Planning and International Development Studies, and Educational Sciences. Psychology is situated centrally in Amsterdam, and hosts program groups focusing on social, organizational, developmental, clinical, statistical, and cognitive psychology. It offers excellent facilities for undertaking research in a broad range of areas, including a range of psychophysiological, behavioral, EEG and TMS laboratories, as well as a 3T and 7T MRI scanner.
We currently have a PhD position on the stability and plasticity of emotional memory.

Project description

The breakthrough discovery in animal research that fear memories may change upon retrieval has sparked a wave of interest into research on the malleability of emotional memory, also known as memory reconsolidation. Inspired by these insights, we have developed a novel approach to pharmacologically neutralize the affective component from fear memories in humans. Although these findings suggest a paradigm shift in clinical practice, there remain many fundamental questions to be resolved.

For this project, we seek a highly motivated and talented PhD candidate. An intriguing observation from our laboratory suggests that reconsolidation is not dependent on a fixed time frame, as has frequently been claimed in the animal literature, but that sleep may be a final and necessary step to complete the process of memory reconsolidation. Recent years have witnessed a growing interest in sleep, because it is supposed to play a crucial role in the processing and storage of newly formed memories. While sleep has generally been associated with better learning and memory, we will test the hypothesis that sleep is essential to therapeutic forgetting. This PhD-project aims to further understand the role of sleep in memory reconsolidation by utilizing both the fear-conditioning paradigm and a reconsolidation intervention study in people with a (sub)clinical fear of spiders, along with sleep registration. Your task is to collect and analyze data to write a doctoral thesis on the basis of experimental papers.

You will conduct your research under the supervision of Prof. Merel Kindt (promotor) and in collaboration with Prof. Eus van Someren at the University of Amsterdam, funded by the ERC Advanced Grant for the project ‘Understanding the Stability and Plasticity of Emotional Memory’. The project is also part of the emotional memory lab (Dr V. van Ast, Dr R. Visser), which focusses on the neurobiological and psychological mechanisms of emotional memory, and how these processes explain clinically relevant phenomena like emotional memory disorders.


You have (or are about to obtain):

  • a MSc degree in psychology or a related field such as cognitive neuroscience, psychobiology, or biomedical science;
  • a strong interest in the neuroscience of memory, sleep, the psychology of fears and anxiety disorders;
  • affinity with programming (e.g., R, Matlab, Presentation); strong analytical and statistical skills; the ambition to become a leading scientist;
  • a good command of written and spoken English; good project management skills;
  • excellent social skills and team spirit.

You are expected to work in an interdisciplinary environment, sharing technical know-how and ideas. You are willing and able to travel internationally. Full flexibility with regard to working hours is required in view of the type of research.

Further information

Would you like to know more? Please contact:


This position starts in December 2018, and is initially for 1 year. Extension of the contract after the first year to a total of four years depends on satisfactory performance. The gross monthly salary will be in accordance with the salary scales for PhD candidates at Dutch universities, i.e. ranging from €2,266 in the first year to €2,897 in the final year. The Cao for Dutch Universities is applicable.

Job application

The UvA is an equal opportunity employer. We celebrate diversity and are committed to creating an inclusive environment for all employees. We value a spirit of enquiry and endurance, provide the space to keep asking questions and cherish a diverse atmosphere of curiosity and creativity.

Are you interested? You may send your application to the link below.

Please include, in one assembled pdf file, the following four documents:

  • letter of motivation (maximally one page, attn. of Prof dr. Merel Kindt);
  • detailed Curriculum Vitae;
  • grade-list of all completed (research) master courses;
  • names and contact details of two scientists who are willing to provide references.

Please quote the project title (Understanding the Stability and Plasticity of Emotional Memory) on your application and include all the required documentation when applying. #LI-DNP

No agencies please

Published by  University of Amsterdam