Universiteit Leiden

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Henk van Steenbergen

Associate professor

Name
Dr. H. van Steenbergen
Telephone
+31 71 527 3655
E-mail
hvansteenbergen@fsw.leidenuniv.nl
ORCID iD
0000-0003-1917-6412

Henk van Steenbergen is an associate professor at the Cognitive Psychology unit at Leiden University. He heads the Affect, Motivation & Action (AMA) Lab, where he and his colleagues study the interplay between affect, motivation, stress and cognitive control.

More information about Henk van Steenbergen

Henk van Steenbergen is an associate professor at the Cognitive Psychology unit at Leiden University. He heads the Affect, Motivation & Action (AMA) Lab, where he and his colleagues study the interplay between affect, motivation, stress and cognitive control.

Research on motivation and stress

How do people stay motivated to finish a tedious task on a Blue Monday? And why do individuals experience the world as a safer place when they’re in a happy mood? These are the kind of questions Van Steenbergen and his colleagues try to answer at the Affect, Motivation & Action Lab.

To achieve this, they combine behavioral measures with a wide variety of methods including neuroimaging (EEG, functional and structural MRI), physiology (pupil dilation and cardiovascular measures), and facial EMG. Recently, the lab has started studying how chemicals in the brain and hormones in the body affect feelings, stress, and cognitive control

Highlights of current research themes:

Affective stress-buffering

As part of the interdisciplinary program Social Resilience and Security, the AMA lab examines how positive feelings can help people handle stress. Physiological, neuroimaging, and pharmacological methods are used to measure how the body and brain respond to stress, and how positive feelings can help in this process. They also look at how the body's natural chemicals, such as endorphins, can help people think more positively and feel better.

Affect and cognitive control

Building on the work started in Van Steenbergen's PhD, this line of research focuses on how feelings affect how well people can focus and pay attention. Using psycho-physiological and neuroimaging techniques, they investigate how people respond to cognitive challenges, like when they make mistakes in a demanding task, and what role positive feelings play in this process. The researchers also look at how chemicals in the brain can affect attention and disturbances in psychiatric disorders, such as depression.

Methodological innovation

In addition to investigating psychological phenomena, Van Steenbergen and his colleagues contribute to the advancement of psychological science by developing and sharing new tools. Van Steenbergen was one of the lead authors of The E-Primer, the first introductory book to E-Prime. He and his colleagues also built the QRTEngine, which made it possible to run online reaction time experiments using Qualtrics. Currently, they are developing an open course on programming psychological experiments using OpenSesame and Python.

Short CV

Since 2022, Henk van Steenbergen has been an associate professor at the Cognitive Psychology Unit at Leiden University. He received his BA degree in Philosophy of Psychology at Leiden University, and a BSc and MPhil degree in Cognitive Neuroscience cum laude in 2007.

He obtained his PhD cum laude from the same university in 2012, with his thesis The drive to control: How affect and motivation regulate cognitive control. He started as an assistant professor and founded the Affect, Motivation & Action Lab in 2012. Van Steenbergen also worked as a visiting researcher at the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and at the Motivation Brain Behavior lab, Brain & Spine Institute in Paris, France.

PhD candidates

  1. Mikael Kowal, MSc (2012-2016): The role of cannabis and related neurotransmitters in the regulation of cognitive control
  2. Janna Marie Bas-Hoogendam, MSc (2013-2020): Profiling endophenotypes of Social Anxiety Disorder using structural and functional MRI
  3. Selin Topel, Resilience to Stress and Uncertainty
  4. Jin Yan, affective buffering of stress responses at multiple timescales and underlying neurophysiological mechanisms.

Relevant links

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Associate professor

  • Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen
  • Instituut Psychologie
  • Cognitieve Psychologie

Work address

Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room number 2B05

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