Universiteit Leiden

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Bernet Elzinga

Professor of Stress-related Psychopathology

Prof.dr. B.M. Elzinga
+31 71 527 3745

Prof. Bernet Elzinga and her group conduct research into the influence of trauma and stress on affective, social and cognitive functions in the context of stress-related disorders, including depression and anxiety. Intergenerational research has her special interest, especially the communication between parents and children and factors that can contribute to reducing the negative consequences of trauma or stress. With her interdisciplinary research she integrates epidemiological research, neuroimaging, behavioral observations and reports of behavior and feelings in daily life (using electronic diaries). She is also involved in the development of interventions for parents of young people with depressive symptoms. She has received various grants for her research, including VENI, VIDI, VICI and she contributes as a PI to the Gravitation program "New Science of Mental Disorders". In addition to her research, she regularly gives lectures, teaches bachelor and master Psychology students, and is involved in various trajectories related to leadership development.

More information about Bernet Elzinga

Academic Career

  • Section Chair Clinical Psychology, Leiden University (2022 - present)
  • Full professor ‘Stress-related Psychopathology’, Clinical Psychology, Leiden University (2011- present)
  • Associate professor (UHD), Clinical Psychology, Leiden University (2008 - 2011)
  • Assistant professor (UD), Clinical, Health and Neuropsychology, Leiden University (2002- 2007)
  • PhD (cum laude). Clinical Psychology, University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Department of Psychiatry, Free University (VU). Title: Searching for amnesia. Cognitive and neurobiological studies on trauma-related memory (2002)
  • Researcher at ‘Yale Trauma Research Program’, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA (2002)
  • MA Philosophy (cum laude), University of Amsterdam (2002)
  • Postdoctoral training for Cognitive Behavior Therapist (BIG registration Psychotherapist 2004, GZ-psychologist 2004)
  • MA Clinical Psychology and Experimental Psychology (cum laude), University of Amsterdam (1996)

Academic Awards

  • Elected member Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW, 2022)
  • Elected Member Koninklijke Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen (KHMW, Royal Society of Sciences (2017)
  • NWO-VICI laureate (Grant for outstanding senior researchers who have shown to have the ability to successfully develop their own innovative lines of research and act as coaches for young researchers). Title: ‘Unravelling the Impact of Emotional Maltreatment on the Developing Brain’ (2016)
  • NWO-VIDI laureate (Grant for outstanding young researchers who are among the top 10-20% of their peer group). Title: Genetic vulnerability factors mediating the effects of childhood abuse on brain structures and functions (2008)
  • Elected Fellow ‘The Young Academy’ (DJA) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW, 2006)
  • NWO-VENI laureate (Grant for outstanding young researchers who are among the top 10-20% of their peer group). Title: ‘The role of prefrontal inhibition on persistent trauma-related fear in PTSD’ (2003)

Main Research Interests

The main focus of my research is how early life stress can chronically shape emotional, physiological and brain responses and social behavior, therewith increasing the sensitivity to stressrelated disorders (depression, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder) in adulthood. My work is strongly interdisciplinary in nature. I integrate knowledge from social neuroscience, stress physiology, and experimental psychopathology and combine this with an epidemiological approach. This enables me to disentangle the impact of various forms of maltreatment on adult depression and anxiety and their associations with alterations in the brain.

To further elucidate the processes underlying maladaptive family interactions that may maintain psychopathological processes, I am currently focusing on family studies. Within the “Leiden Family Lab’ we have conducted a large 3-generation study on the intergenerational transmission of maltreatment, including observations of parent-child interactions and neuroimaging. My lab’s ongoing work in the RE-PAIR study focuses on the role of parent-child interactions in the development, maintenance and treatment of depression in adolescence. Here, we also apply a multi-method approach, integrating observations on parent-child interactions in the lab and in daily life, using electronic diaries, with ecologically valid fMRI tasks that mimic parent-child interactions. Within the context of the recently acquired Gravitation grant ‘The New Science of Mental Health’ we aim to determine whether a radical new approach to mental disorders—the network approach—is scientifically sound and whether customized treatment based on an individual’s specific symptom network is more effective than current methods of treatment. Here, I focus on elucidating communicating networks of family members with stress-related psychopathology.

Dissertations (PhD projects)

  • Marjolein Vandenbosch (ongoing). Communicating Networks in high conflict divorce. (Gravitation grant). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. L. Waldorp (UvA)
  • Kyra Verboon (ongoing). The impact of parenting behaviors on trauma-related symptoms before and during trauma-focused treatment for children (Gravitation grant). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. P. Muris (UM), dr. Kullberg.
  • Myrthe Veenman (ongoing). Communicating Networks in adolescent depression (Gravitation grant). Prom./coprom: Prof.dr. B.M. Elzinga, dr. E. Fried.
  • Carline van Heijningen (ongoing). Resilience after experiencing childhood parental loss (LUF grant). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. L.R.A. Alink, Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, dr. S.R. van Berkel
  • Mona Shahab (ongoing), The impact and treatment of the consequences of trauma exposure among young refugees. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, dr. D. Mook, Prof. dr. F.R. Rosendaal.
  • Wilma Wentholt (ongoing). Parent-child interactions in the context of adolescent depression (VICI project). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. L. Alink
  • Cosima Nimphy (ongoing, planned 2023). BAT: Breaking the Transmission of Anxiety in the Family. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. W. van der Does, dr. E. Aktar (is appointed as assistant professor at section Clinical Psychology, Leiden University per Jan. 2024)
  • Mirjam Wever (approved, planned 2023). Insights into the neural and affective signatures of connectedness between parents and adolescents (VICI project). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, dr. M. Tollenaar, Dr. G.J. van Will (currently postdoc at the section Clinical Psychology, Leiden University)
  • Lisanne van Houtum (17 September 2023). Exploring the self in adolescent depression: Neural mechanisms underlying social evaluations and self-views from a parent-adolescent perspective (VICI project). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, dr. M. Tollenaar, Dr. G.J. van Will (currently postdoc Erasmus University)
  • Loes Janssen (16 November 2022). Changes in perspective: parenting and well-being of adolescents in daily life (VICI project). Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, dr. B. Verkuil (currently postdoc UvA)
  • Marie-Louise Kullberg (21 September 2022). Family matters: a multi-perspective approach to the link between parenting and offspring mental health problems. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Charlotte van Schie (currently postdoc and therapist, GZ-psycholoog, in training)
  • Lisa van den Berg (30 June 2021). The impact of trauma. A focus on the neural correlates of intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. M. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Dr. M. Tollenaar (currently psychotherapist).
  • Charlotte van Schie (9 January 2020). Knowing me, knowing you. On the troubles of not knowing who you are and how to relate to others - in general and in people with Borderline personality disorder. Prom./coprom.: Prof.dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof.dr. W.J. heiser, Prof.dr. S.A.R.B. Rombouts (currently senior researcher and psychologist at PsyQ The Hague & research fellow University of Wollongong)
  • Annegret Krause (16 November 2017). Emotional distraction and working memory in Borderline Personality Disorder. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, Prof. dr. C.S. Schmahl (currently assistant professor, Leiden University)
  • Steven van der Werff (10 January 2017). Resilience and vulnerability to stress. Prom./coprom: Prof. Dr. N. van der Wee, Prof. dr. F. Zitman, Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga (currently GZ-therapist in training at LUBEC and postdoc LUMC)
  • Laura Compier-de Block (3 January 2017). Child Maltreatment: Underlying Risk Factors and Perspectives of Parents and Children. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. M. Bakermans-Kranenburg, Prof. dr. L. Alink, Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga (beleidsmedewerker FNWI, UvA).
  • Manja Koenders (7 April 2016). Effects of stressful life events, social support and cognitive functioning on longitudinally assessed mood in patients with bipolar disorder. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, dr. A.T. Spijker, dr. E.J. Giltay (currently assistant prof, Leiden University)
  • Marc Molendijk (3 June 2014, Cum Laude). The role of BDNF in anxiety and depression. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, Prof. dr. B. Penninx (currently associate professor, Leiden University)
  • Anne-Laura van Harmelen (10 December 2013). The impact of stressful life events on brain structures and functions related to memory performance. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, Prof. dr. B. Penninx (currently prof. Leiden University).
  • Nicole Y.L. Oei (18 November 2010). Memory function after stress: the effects of acute stress and cortisol on memory and the inhibition of emotional distraction. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven (currently assistant professor UvA)
  • Marieke S. Tollenaar (19 May 2009). Fading memories. The impact of stress hormones on the retrieval of emotional memories. Prom./coprom: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, Prof. dr. W.T.A.M. Everaerd (currently assistant professor Leiden University)


  • Mirjam Wever (2023-present). Currently working as a postdoc on social brain of adolescents with depression, VICI grant.
  • Marie-Louise Kullberg (2022-present). Currently working as a postdoc on communicating networks in families with trauma, Gravitation grant.
  • Geert-Jan Will (2017-2020). Postdoc funded by Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowship & KNAW Sara van Dam project grant, focusing on social feedback processing in depressed adolescents in the context of the VICI project. Currently working as an assistant professor at University Utrecht.
  • Chui-de Chui (2013), Postdoc funded by Early Career Scheme from Research Grants Council (Hong Kong), focusing on social feedback in Borderline Personality. Currently working as associate professor, Department of Psychology, Chinese University of Hong Kong.


Research Support (selection)


Alexander & Otto Stichting, grant for book on parenting intervention for parents of adolescents with depression: ‘Stronger Together’ (Samen Sterk’) (€23k)


Leiden University Fund (LUF). Grant for book on parenting intervention for parents of adolescents with depression ‘Samen Sterk’ (€5k)


NWO Gravitation Project ‘New Science of Mental Disorders’. PI: Prof. dr. A. Janssen, co-PI’s: Prof. dr. B. Elzinga, Prof. dr. M. Kindt, Prof. dr. R. Wiers, a.o. (€26M)


Research Training Group 2350 ‘Impact of Adverse Childhood Experience on Psychosocial and Somatic Conditions across the Lifespan’. PI: Dr. Schmahl) International partners Prof dr. B. Elzinga and prof. der. C. Heim (€4.5M)


MARIO (Mood and Resilience in Offspring) project, 60-63600-98-002, ZON-MW. PI’s: Prof. dr. B. Penninx & Prof. dr. M. Hillegers, Co-PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga a.o. (€2.7M)


Leiden Research Profile ‘Health, prevention and the human life cycle’. PI’s: Prof. dr. M. Numans & Prof. dr. A. Evers. Project ‘Family aggregation of mood and anxiety disorders. PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, Prof. dr. B. van Hemert (€100k)


NWO–VICI grant ‘Unravelling the Impact of Emotional Maltreatment on the Developing Brain’. PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga (€1.5M)


Self-related Socio-cognitive Functions in Dissociative Individuals: An Experimental Psychopathology Study (No. 24618115). Early Career Scheme rom Research Grants Council (Hong Kong). PI: Dr. C. Chiu, Collaborators: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga & dr. M. Tollenaar (HKD 574k)


Fellowship ‘Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies’ (NIAS). PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, theme group with Prof. dr. E. Crone and others (€15k)


Leiden University Fund (LUF). Starting grant Interdisciplinary minor Leiden University ‘Childhood abuse and neglect across the life span’. PI’s: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga & Prof. dr. L. Alink (€190k)


Implementation Grant ZON-MW, 'Aandacht voor verwaarlozing en emotioneel misbruik'. PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga, co-PI’s: Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, C. de Roos, M. Rense, L. Tham (€42k)


Leiden Research Profile ‘Health, prevention and the human life cycle’ PI’s: Prof. dr. R. van IJzendoorn & Prof. dr. P. Assendelft. Project ‘Intergenerational transmission of abuse’: PhD Lisa van der Berg (PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga) (€250k)


Grant for international conference 'Abuse & Neglect Across the Life Span', profile area ‘Health, Prevention, and the Human Life Cycle’, Leiden University, PI’s: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga & Prof. dr. L. Alink. (€23k)


FES grant ‘Brain & Cognition’. Resilience and vulnerability to stress. PI: Prof. dr. N. van der Wee, co-PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga (€250k)


NWO Aspasia, PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga (€100k)


NWO VIDI ‘The effects of childhood abuse on the brain: moderation by genetic vulnerability factors’. PI: Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga (€600k)


ZON-MW grant ‘Testing and implementation of group stabilizing intervention for women with complex PTSD’. PI: Dr. N. Draijer. (€250k)


NWO Research Grant Open Competition (400 03 210), The accessibility of emotional memories’. PI: Prof. dr. W. Everaerd, Co-PI’s: Prof. dr. Ph. Spinhoven, & Prof. dr. B.M. Elzinga) (€200k)


NWO VENI‘The role of prefrontal inhibition on persistent trauma related fear in PTSD’. PI: Prof. Dr. B.M. Elzinga (€250k)


  • Teacher ‘Mental Health and Illness, Leiden University College (LUC).
  • Initiator and teacher interdisciplinary minor ‘Childhood abuse and neglect across the life span’ (yearly >100 students & 350 students in elective course ‘Psychological & neurobiological consequences of childhood abuse’)
  • Coordinator and lecturer bachelor course ‘Personality, Clinical, and Health Psychology’ 
  • Thesis supervisor and research internships Master students, Clinical Psychology

Clinical registrations

  • GZ psychologist (BIG register # 79057185125, registered 2004, renewal 2016)
  • Psychotherapist (BIG register # 99057185116, registered 2002)

Management / Ancilliary activities

  • Chair, Section Clinical Psychology, Leiden University (2022- present)
  • Facilitator Natural Leadership Program (4-month program incl. wilderness trails: https://naturalleadership.eu. South-Africa 2016; Botswana 2015; 2018; Spain, 2018) and member of integration committee (2016-present)
  • Chair Committee Ethics of Psychology (CEP), Leiden University (2014-2022)
  • Management Team, Clinical Psychology, Leiden University (2013-present)
  • Management Team, J.C. Ruigrok Stichting (https://www.jcruigrokstichting.nl) (2015-present)
  • Management Team ‘Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition  (LIBC) (2012-2022)
  • Management Team Leids Universitair Behandel Expertise Centrum (LUBEC) (2017-2020)
  • Scientific Advisory Board Equipex Matrice, National Research Agency (ANR) (Paris, 2017, 2019)
  • Management Team Leiden Interdisciplinary Network Child Maltreatment (LINC) (2010-2016)
  • Management Team, ‘Health, prevention and the Human life cycle’, Leiden University (2011-2019)
  • Supervisor ‘Mentor program for female scientists Leiden University’ (2016-2017)
  • Visiting Committee Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) Psychology (Hong Kong, 2018)
  • Research Supervisor postdoctoral training Clinical Psychologists, NIP (2007-2013)
  • Advisor National Center of Expertise on Sexual Convictions’ (Landelijk Expertise centrum Bijzondere Zedenzaken, LEBZ) (2009-2017)

Keynote lectures (selection, since 2015)

  • Chair and speaker symposium ‘The impact of type and timing of childhood trauma on emotion regulation and social interactions: an fMRI approach', 34rd Annual Meeting of International Society Traumatic Stress (ISTSS) (Boston, 2019)
  • Invitated panel member ‘International Expert meeting on emotional abuse’ (Philadelphia, 2019)
  • Keynote Family Matters on childhood abuse and neglect’, 16th ESTSS Conference,  (Rotterdam, 2019)
  • Invited Lecture GRK retreat Mannheim University and Heidelberg University, (Deidesheim, Germany, 2019)
  • Keynote landelijk EMDR-congres Family Matters: de lange termijn gevolgen van mishandeling en verwaarlozing’ (Utrecht, 2019)
  • Keynote Vereniging voor Zakelijke Mediatie, ‘Stress en de mediator’ (Amsterdam, 2019)
  • Initiator and scientific Program Committee LIBC-Publieksdag ‘Geheugensporen. Het ik tussen verleden, heden en toekomst’ (Leiden, 2019)
  • Keynote Congres Nare Jeugdervaringen: ‘Nare jeugdervaringen en gevolgen op latere leeftijd’ (Zwolle, 2018)
  • DIES oratie Back to the roots: de jeugd als bron van kwetsbaarheid en veerkracht’ Leiden University (Leiden, 2018)
  • ESTSS "Family matters: intergenerational aspects of childhood maltreatment" (chair and presenter) (Odense, Denmark, 2017)
  • Presenter EABCT conference ‘Early Traumatization and Psychopathology: Mediating Factors and New Treatment Options’ (Ljubljana, 2017)
  • Keynote Jubileum Publieksdag Hersenstichting (Rotterdam, 2017)
  • Keynote Congres Nederlandstalige Vereniging voor Psychotrauma (NtVP), ‘De nieuwste inzichten over intergenerationale overdracht van mishandeling en verwaarlozing’ (Lunteren, 2017)
  • Chair and Speaker symposium ‘Childhood maltreatment and social functioning later in life: a neurobiological approach’, 32nd Annual Meeting of International Society Traumatic Stress (ISTSS) (Dallas, 2016)
  • Invited Speaker Master Class PhD-students KFO Graduate School, Central Institute of Mental Health (Mannheim, Germany, 2016)
  • Invited academic lectures (F.C. Donders Institute, University of Groningen, University of Maastricht, Utrecht University, University of Tilburg, University of Amsterdam, Free University of Amsterdam, Postdoctoral Research School EPP)
  • Invited public lectures (Hersenstichting, Pleegzorg, Rechtbank Den-Haag, Jeugdzorg Amsterdam, PsyQ Den-Haag, Rivierduinen, ANWB, Vereniging voor Zakelijke Mediatie, Congres Zorgtekort, etc).


  • Editorial Board: European Journal of Psychotraumatology, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Borderline Personality and Emotion Dysregulation
  • Guest editor Acta Psychologica and European Journal of Psychotraumatology
  • Reviewer: Science, Archives of General Psychiatry, American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Biological Psychiatry, Psychoneuroendocrinology, Behavioral Neurosciences, Brain and Cognition, SCAN, Stress, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Memory, Cognition and Emotion, Psychiatry Research, Acta Psychologica, etc.
  • Reviewer of (inter)national grant applications NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research), VENI, VIDI, VICI, open competition, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, etc.
  • Member of (inter)national PhD defense committees (>75)

Professor of Stress-related Psychopathology

  • Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen
  • Instituut Psychologie
  • Klinische Psychologie

Work address

Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room number 2B33



  • Foundation for Natural Leadership Faciliteren leiderschapsprogramma
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