PhD-position: "The Memory Function of Sleep: Reactivating lost memories using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation (NIBS) and a Pharmacological Approach"

Deadline: 7 June 2024

Job Description

In the PI group led by Dr. Pim Heckman at Maastricht University, we study ‘The Memory Function of Sleep’. To this end, we conduct both animal and human studies. Some of this work is conducted by looking at the beneficial effects of sleep on memory, but mostly we research sleep’s role in memory by studying the negative consequences of the absence of sleep (sleep loss). Using this approach, the molecular mechanisms behind the negative effects of sleep loss on memory have largely been elucidated. This provided important insights into how sleep is relevant for memory formation during sleep. What remained unknown, however, was the question of to what extent these memories are lost. Recent work of our lab, using a combined optogenetic and pharmacological approach, revealed that memories compromised by sleep loss are not completely lost and can even be artificially retrieved in rodents. The current project aims to translate these findings to the human setting. A challenge that arises is the need for a human-applicable alternative for optogenetic memory reactivation. We successfully used subliminal reactivation paradigms to this end. However, this only results in temporary restoration of the memory. We are searching for means to make the restored memories permanently accessible again. The current PhD project aims to investigate the potential of a pharmacological approach as well as non-invasive brain stimulation (NIBS) in combination with subliminal memory reactivation. The NIBS studies are conducted in direct collaboration with experts in the field (i.e., Prof. Alexander Sack and Dr. Vincent van de Ven at the Department of Cognitive Neuroscience at Maastricht University).


  • (Research) Master’s degree in neuroscience or equivalent
  • Demonstrated ability to work independently as well as in a team
  • Experience in human behavioral testing/studies
  • (At least some) experience in computational modelling/programming is desired
  • A personality characterized by communicative, collaborative, and organizational skills
  • Good oral and written English communication
  • Strong ethical stance in conducting and reporting on empirical scientific research
  • During the 4 years in Maastricht, the candidate will spend 5% of the time on teaching (i.e., tutoring, assist in neuroanatomy practical, etc.) with the option to start obtaining the University
  • Teaching Qualification UTQ (in Dutch BKO)). Some interest in or affinity with teaching is highly recommended.


Are you interested in this exciting position but still have questions? Feel free to contact Dr. Pim Heckman at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information.

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PhD-position "Psychedelics for personal and planetary health"

Deadline: 15 May 2024

Job Description

During the course of this PhD position, you will conduct a series of observational and placebo-controlled, experimental drug trials in healthy volunteers, investigating whether psychedelic drugs’ ability to elicit self-transcendent emotions and feelings of connectedness to nature can be used to investigate key processes that may elicit transformative shifts in human cognition and behaviors that are not only related to personal health, but also towards environmental sustainability.

This proposed research is part of a synergistic, novel collaboration between the Maastricht Sustainability Institute (MSI), School of Business Economics (SBE), and the Department of Neuropsychology and Psychopharmacology (DNP), Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN), to explore the mechanisms by which a pharmacological intervention (a psychedelic) may enhance both personal and planetary health. You would work between both institutes throughout your four years PhD.

Additionally, 10% of your time will be dedicated to teaching courses relevant to this research line, in both institutes.


Successful completion of a master’s degree in psychology, environmental psychology, psychopharmacology, behavioral or ecological economics, or a related field.

  • A scientific mindset, critical thinking capacity, and a strong interest in psychopharmacology and environmental psychology.
  • Competence in written/spoken English.
  • Excellent communication skills and the ability to work independently and in a team.
  • Previous experience in a research setting is not required but a plus.
  • Someone who can start in the position fully by September 1, 2024
  • Applicants are expected to include a concise CV, and a (max. 1 page) motivation letter. In addition, a research proposal related to the topic will need to be submitted (1 page, with an additional page for references and a reference list, using APA referencing style). This is to get a broad idea about how you would be addressing this topic.
  • Initial interview dates are scheduled for: 28 and 30 May, 2024.

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