Universiteit Leiden

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Michiel van Elk

Associate Professor

Dr. M. van Elk
+31 71 527 2727

Michiel van Elk is an associate professor at the unit of Cognitive Psychology of the Institute of Psychology.

More information about Michiel van Elk

Michiel van Elk is an associate professor at the unit of Cognitive Psychology of the Institute of Psychology.

Research on psychedelics, spirituality and altered states of consciousness

Michiel has a deep interest in altered states of consciousness (ASCs), as induced through meditation, sensory deprivation, psychedelics and other means. By using a variety of different techniques, including self-report measures, interviews, expectancy manipulations, neuroimaging tools, psychophysiological techniques and pharmacological challenges he aims to understand how ASCs come about, the effects they have on our behavior and well-being and the philosophical implications of ASCs for our views on the self and reality.


At Leiden University Michiel is involved in teaching courses on Consciousness, Evaluating an Empirical Study and other courses. Michiel supervises internships, bachelor and master projects on cognitive neuroscience related topics.

Short CV

Michiel obtained degrees in philosophy (MA), biological psychology (MSc) and the psychology of religion (MSc) in Utrecht, Amsterdam and Nijmegen. He completed his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Donders Institute in Nijmegen (cum laude).

He worked as a visiting researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara (2010), as a Marie Curie post-dotoral fellow at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (2010-2012), as a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University (2017), as a Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Amsterdam (2019-2010) and as a researcher at the University of Amsterdam (2013-2020).

Since 2020 Michiel is affiliated as Associate Professor to the University of Leiden and supported by prestigious grants from the John Templeton Foundation, NWO and the BIAL Foundation he supervises the Psychedelic, Religious, Self-transcendent and Mystical Experiences (PRSM) Lab (https://prsmlab.com/).

He has published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers in prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals, including Nature Human Behavior, Cortex, Scientific Reports and Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews (current h-index = 36).

Michiel has also published several popular science books on such different topics as the Babybrain, the Evolution of Religion, Ecstatic Experiences and Psychedelics.


2022 – 2025 John Templeton Foundation ‘Mystical Entropy’ (co-applicant; €367.000)
2021 – 2024 John Templeton Foundation ‘The Open Science of Religion Project’ (co-applicant; €550.000)
2021 – 2023 The Heffter Institute (co-applicant; €42.500)
2021 – 2026 Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) VIDI Grant ‘Putting Psychedelics in perspective’ (main applicant; €800.000)
2017 – 2020 John Templeton Foundation ‘The implicit nature of unbelief’ (co-applicant; €120.000)
2016 – 2021 BIAL Research Grant, BIAL Foundation ‘Power of placebo’ (main applicant €45.000)
19 – 2020 NIAS Research Fellowship (€25.000 + 9-month visit as research-fellow)
2017 – 2021 John Templeton Foundation ‘Religious Replication Project’ (main applicant; €197.000)
2017    Fulbright Senior Scholarship (€12.000 + 4-month visit as lecturer and researcher at Stanford University, USA)
012 – 2016 NWO VENI Research Grant (main applicant; €250.000)
2010 – 2012    Marie Curie International Fellowship (EU FP7 grant; main applicant €187.000)
2010 Human Frontiers Science Program Short-term Fellowship (main applicant €10.000)

Supervised PhD Candidates

  • PhD Thesis Supervisor Huseyin Beykoylu, Leiden University, 2022 - present
  • PhD Thesis Supervisor Xaver Funk, Leiden University, 2022 – present
  • PhD Thesis Supervisor Luisa Prochazkova, Leiden University, 2020 – present
  • PhD Thesis Supervisor Zhao Chenxiao, Leiden University, 2021 - present
  • PhD Thesis Supervisor Josephine Marschall, Leiden University, 2021 - present
  • PhD Co-supervisor Erwin Krediet, LUMC, Leiden University 2020-present
  • PhD Co-supervisor Lara Engelbert, VU University of Amsterdam 2018-present
  • PhD Thesis Supervisor Suzanne Hoogeveen, University of Amsterdam 2017 – present
  • PhD Thesis Supervisor David Maij, University of Amsterdam 2014 - 2018

Relevant links

Psychedelic Religious Self-transcendent & Mystical Experiences Lab
Boek Een nuchtere kijk op psychedelica
Boek Extase: Over de godhelm en andere religieuze experimenten
Boek Het Babybrein

Associate Professor

  • Faculteit der Sociale Wetenschappen
  • Instituut Psychologie
  • Cognitieve Psychologie

Work address

Pieter de la Court
Wassenaarseweg 52
2333 AK Leiden
Room number 2B15


  • No relevant ancillary activities
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