Janna Cousijn (PhD), Founder, Principal Investigator

I am intrigued by the fine line between addiction risk and resilience and want to understand the processes underlying trajectories of drug use. My academic career is shaped by my capacity to cross scientific borders; from neuroscience to culture and from science to society, for which team science and strong internationalization are pivotal. I have an interdisciplinary background in neurobiology, psychiatry and experimental psychology and am passionate about research and teaching. In 2012 I received my doctorate from the University of Amsterdam cum laude for identifying predictors of cannabis addiction with a novel combination of neuroimaging techniques (structural MRI, functional MRI, connectivity analyses) and neuropsychological tasks applied to a group of difficult to find cannabis users. Through postdocs at the Amsterdam University Medical Center, Leiden University and Utrecht University, I extended my knowledge on mental health, experimental psychology, brain development, neuroimaging and neuropsychopharmacology. In 2015, I was invited back at the University of Amsterdam as an assistant professor in Clinical Neuroscience where I founded the Neuroscience of Addiction lab in 2017. The NofA lab has received continued grant support, including an Amsterdam Brain & Cognition project grant (2017: 250.000€, co-PI Heidi Lesscher and Ingo Wilhun), NIDA-NIH RO1 (2017: 2.250.000€, co-PI Francesca Filbey) and ERC-starting grant (2020; 1.500.000€). After receiving the ERC-starting grant I got the opportunity to become an associate professor at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, department of Clinical Psychology. My team and I are recognized as leading cognitive neuroscientists investigating cannabis addiction. In collaboration with our international colleagues (take a peek at our publication list), we aim to improve the cannabis knowledge base, stimulate harmonization of research methods and inform users, practitioners and policy makers.

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Gabry Mies (PhD), Post-doctoral researcher

I have a background in biology (Wageningen University, 2005), and currently work as a post-doctoral researcher at the department of Psychiatry of Amsterdam UMC – AMC, and as a teacher at the department of Developmental Psychology. My main research aim is to gain a better understanding of the interactions between neurobiological, psychological, genetic and environmental factors involved in complex behavioral traits and in susceptibility to psychiatric disorders. Together with Dr. Janna Cousijn I currently investigate adolescent resilience to alcohol use disorders. In this project, funded by Amsterdam Brain and Cognition (ABC), and in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience (NIN), adults and adolescents are compared on their neural responses to alcohol cues. My previous post-doctoral work at Radboud University and KU Leuven focused on impulsivity, reward sensitivity and mental effort in adolescents with ADHD, using behavioral and psychophysiological measures (fMRI, pupillometry). I obtained my PhD in 2011 at the department of Psychiatry of the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, where I studied performance monitoring in depression, focusing on behavioral and psychophysiological indices of feedback processing (fMRI, ERPs, heart rate).

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Maik Derksen, Post-doctoral researcher

Since my Master’s in Biological Psychology and subsequent position as a research assistant at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, I have been specializing in pre-clinical research. In 2012, I moved to Amsterdam to start my PhD, working on compulsivity and addiction related research at the department of Psychiatry at the Amsterdam UMC (location AMC). I have looked at the effects of deep brain stimulation on activation in the rodent brain, and the effects of MDMA-use on the serotonergic system using MRI techniques. During this period, I have developed a keen interest in the mechanisms behind addiction, compulsivity and possible treatments, as well as a fascination with MRI as a research tool. My personal goal in research would be to optimally use the broad possibilities MRI has to offer in researching neurological disorders. With Dr. Janna Cousijn, I am looking into the effects of high alcohol intake on neuronal activation in rodents of different ages. By comparing brain activation in response to alcohol cues between adolescent and adult rodents, we aim to investigate adolescent resilience to alcohol use disorders.

Lauren Kuhns (MSc), PhD student

After graduating from Yale University in 2014 with a BA in Psychology (with distinction), I worked as a Research Associate in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School for a year before moving to the Netherlands to do the Research Master Psychology program at the University of Amsterdam. During this program, I developed my interest in addiction research and conducted studies on habit formation and craving. I am mainly interested in the how social processes influence addictive behavior on an individual and cultural level, and what these social processes can tell us about the mechanisms of addiction. 

My PhD project focuses on clarifying the motivational neuromechanisms underlying cannabis dependence and investigating the potential moderators of these mechanisms (e.g. culture, age, tobacco use). To fulfill these aims, I am conducting a cross-cultural longitudinal neuroimaging study with cannabis dependent individuals and non-using matched controls in collaboration with the University of Texas-Dallas. I work under the supervision of Reinout Wiers, Janna Cousijn, and Francesca Filbey. 

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Emese Kroon (MSc), PhD student

After completing a psychobiology bachelor and psychology research master at the University of Amsterdam, I started my PhD-project at the ADAPT lab in September 2018, under the supervision of Janna Cousijn and Reinout Wiers. My project is part of a study on cross-cultural neuroimaging of cannabis dependence. Within this project, I focus of the role of behavioural control cannabis use. By assessing the differences between ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ behavioural control in ‘heavy’ vs. ‘dependent’ users on both the brain and behavioural level, I hope to get more insight into the role of behavioural control in cannabis use disorder while also assessing the utility of several tasks commonly used to measure behavioural control in addiction.

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Shuang Su (MSc), PhD Student

After graduating with a master’s degree in developmental psychology from Beijing Normal University, I have started my PhD project in University of Amsterdam from September, 2018. My main research interests are smartphone addiction and longitudinal study. I will investigate the longitudinal relationships between smartphone addiction and interpersonal relationship, the cognitive biases related to smartphone addiction and the neurobiological mechanisms of smartphone addiction in my PhD thesis. My supervisors are Reinout Wiers, Janna Cousijn, and Helle Larsen.

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Alix Weidema (MSc), PhD Student

After completing my bachelor Beta-Gamma (track Brain & Cognition), I started the master Brain & Cognitive Sciences at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam. During my research internship I investigated the effect of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) on neural correlates of empathy in forensic substance abuse patients. Subsequently, I completed a research master Cognitive Neuropsychology at the Vrije Universiteit of Amsterdam. During my research internship I investigated the neural basis of emotional sharing by revealing the extent to which brain activity becomes synchronized between two individuals during an emotional conversation (using the hyperscanning technique).

Under the supervision of Janna Cousijn, I will start my PhD project in October 2021 where we will investigate the impact of age on addiction risk and resilience by comparing adolescents and adults in a longitudinal study. I have always been fascinated by how substances affect the brain and how substance use leads to addiction in some people but not others. I hope to learn a lot about these topics in the coming years, as well as to master the MRI technique.

Karis Colyer-Patel (MSc), PhD Student

After graduating from a bachelor’s in biomedical science, master’s in psychology, and a research master’s in Neuroscience and Cognition at Utrecht University, I will be starting my PhD in October 2021 at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam under the supervision of Dr. Janna Cousijn. During my research master’s I completed a 9-month internship in the Neuroscience of Addiction Lab. I had the opportunity to investigate age-related effects on the association between alcohol use severity and neural alcohol cue-reactivity in a sample of rodents that initiated low or heavy alcohol use during adolescence or adulthood.

My PhD will continue along this line of research by aiming to unravel addiction risk and resilience in adolescents and adults, by conducting a longitudinal neuroimaging study in adolescent and adult alcohol and cannabis users. I am particularly interested in understanding how aspects of brain development, along with a combination of internal and external factors, can lead to the development and maintenance of addiction. I also have a keen interest in the application of f(MRI) and will be investigating the predictive value of measures of brain activity, connectivity, and structure for predicting subsequent changes in cannabis and alcohol use over time.

Sharon Sznitman (PhD), Visiting Researcher

Dr. Sznitman received her B.A. in sociology from the University of Manchester and her M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Stockholm University.  She then completed a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Annenberg Public Policy Centre at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2010 Dr. Sznitman joined the School of Public Health at the University of Haifa where she is a senior lecturer. She is currently doing a sabbatical at NOFA lab.


Dr. Sznitman’s most recent research mainly focuses on medical cannabis use and policies in Israel and in cross-national contexts. Her research focuses on how both medical and recreational users use cannabis to ease mental and physical pain. Her research also focuses on reaching a better understanding for how public attitudes influence medical cannabis policy development and implementation in Israel and abroad, and in turn how medical cannabis policies (mainly through the media) influences the general population and its attitudes not only to medical cannabis but also recreational cannabis use. Medical cannabis policies are developing rapidly in many jurisdictions across the world, with implications for public health, business and policy. Dr. Sznitman’s research provides an important platform from which these expected effects can be determined and how societies may best respond.