Universiteit Leiden

nl en

NWO grant for Pavlov’s conditioning during sleep

Andrea Evers has received an NWO research talent grant with Jelle van Leusden as the PhD candidate. This grant enables them to start a research project to examine whether automatically regulated responses, such as the circadian rhythm, can be conditioned during sleep.

Conditioning during sleep

There is increasing evidence that Pavlovian or classical conditioning can affect responses of the endocrine or immune system when someone is awake. The question is whether automatic learning processes also generate responses during automatically regulated phases. The goal of Evers and Van Leusden is to examine whether these processes can be conditioned during sleep. Both healthy participants and patients who suffer from a disturbed sleep-wake rhythm will participate in the study.

Automatically regulated responses

Imagine that we are able to influence physiological processes that are by definition automatically regulated. An example of such a process is the circadian rhythm that follows a 24-hour cycle, like the sleep-wake cycle. Disturbance of this process can cause severe physical and mental problems, for example cardiovascular and affective disorders.

New treatment options

The research project not only extends the current knowledge about conditioning, it may also provide new treatment options for disorders that are related to the circadian rhythm. If automatic processes can be influenced by conditioning, the findings will have huge consequences for many disorders that are associated with disturbed circadian rhythms and sleep problems (e.g. depression, obesity and cancer). New, non-invasive treatment options for these disorders then can be provided.


The research project is a collaboration between:

  • Health, Medical and Neuropsychology unit
  • Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC)
  • Centre for Human Drug Research (CHDR)
  • Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN).

NWO Research Talent

Research Talent offers excellent students within the social and behavioural sciences the opportunity to fulfill their ambitions to conduct PhD research. To this aim a full professors within social and behavioural sciences, and who is also the intended promoter, can submit an application for a grant for these upcoming researchers. 

This website uses cookies.  More information.