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Vici grant for Bernet Elzinga

Prof. Bernet Elzinga (Clinical Psychology Unit) is one of the seven scientists from the Leiden University who has received a Vici grant of 1.5 million euros from NWO. Vici is one of the largest grants for individual scientists in the Netherlands. The funding will enable her to do research for the next five years and to further build up her own research group.

Unravelling the Impact of Emotional Maltreatment on the Developing Brain

Prof.dr. Bernet Elzinga
Prof. Bernet Elzinga

In this Vici project Elzinga, together with 4 PhD candidates and a postdoc, will investigate how daily maladaptive interactions between adolescents and their parents contribute to depressive symptoms in adolescents. Emotional maltreatment by primary caregivers has been identified as a key risk factor for depression. While emotional maltreatment is the most reported form of abuse, little is known about how exactly maladaptive parent-child interactions shape the developing neural pathways of children and enhance their susceptibility to depression.

Adolescence a key phase to study depression

Adolescence is a crucial phase to investigate this, as about one-half of first episodes of depression occurs during adolescence, and 70-80% of depressed adolescents go on to experience one or more episodes of depression later in life. Using electronic diaries and observations in the lab, Elzinga will investigate how daily positive and negative interactions between adolescents and their parents contribute to the mood of depressed and non-depressed adolescents. As these interactions may have effects in both directions, she will also investigate to what extent fluctuations in the adolescent mood may elicit certain parental behaviours. To elucidate the functional and dysfunctional processes in the brain that may play a role in these parent-child interactions Elzinga and her coworkers will also investigate brain responses of parents and adolescents involved in the processing of criticism and empathy.

More parental involvement in the Treatment of Adolescent Depression

Ultimately, this project aims to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment of adolescent depression, as currently only half of the depressed adolescents recovers during the course of treatment. Family interventions will be developed to change the key maladaptive aspects of the interactions that contribute to the depressive problems, with the final goal to promote the quality of family functioning and alleviate adolescents’ depressive symptoms.

About the Vici grant

Vici is part of the NWO Incentive Scheme, that comprises Veni, Vidi and Vici grants. With this scheme NWO offers scientists at different stages in their career the opportunity to conduct pioneering research. The Incentive Scheme is intended to stimulate scientific talent; it is an incentive for the Vici researchers themselves and at the same time creates opportunities for a large number of young researchers to work in their research groups. 

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