Vacancies 62641-PhD-candidate-in-neurosciences-Understanding-brain-mechanisms-of-cancer-related-fatigue-a-sick

  • 32-36 hours a week
  • Temporary
  • 4 years
  • Date of publication: 27 November 2018
  • Deadline: 8 January 2019
  • Scale 10A: max € 41835 gross per year at full employment (incl. vacation bonus and end of year payments)
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Job description

We are looking for a PhD candidate to work on a project investigating the neural mechanisms of cancer-related fatigue.
A growing body of literature suggests that development of cancer-related fatigue is driven by effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines on the central nervous system and brain dopamine. These cytokines induce the so-called “sickness syndrome”, including fatigue and changes in motivational decision making.
The overarching aim of this project is to investigate the human neural mechanisms of cancer-related fatigue within the context of sickness behavior, using a combination of behavioral testing, neuroimaging, psychopharmacology, and computational modelling in both cancer patients/survivors and healthy subjects.  
You will investigate cost-benefit decision-making and  its links with fatigue and immune function in longitudinal and cross-sectional studies with patients that are/have been treated for testicular cancer. You will also contribute to neuroimaging studies investigating acute effects of immune manipulations in healthy subjects. There will be a strong focus on the role of dopamine in fronto-striatal circuity and how they are affected by chemotherapeutic treatment and acute immune challenges. You will further participate in conceptually developing the framework for understanding the neurobiological underpinnings of acute fatigue during disease and its transition to chronic fatigue following disease to ultimately develop new treatment and prevention approaches.
Task and responsibilities 
  • Coordinate a multicenter trial to collect behavioural and neuroimaging data from longitudinal and cross-sectional patient studies. Contribute to behavioural and neuroimaging studies in healthy subjects;
  • Generate and analyse behavioural and neuroimaging data, contribute to scientific publications and present findings at scientific meetings;
  • Work in an interdisciplinary environment with neuroscientist, psychiatrists, oncologists, and medical psychologists within the Radboudumc, Donders Institute and the Netherlands Cancer Institute;
  • Complete the project with a scientific dissertation.


  • A Master’s degree in cognitive neuroscience or an adjacent field (e.g. (neuro)psychological, biological, biomedical sciences);
  • A strong affinity with patient and/or psychopharmacological research and neuroimaging techniques (fMRI);
  • A strong interest in applying fundamental research in cognitive and affective neurosciences, to clinical patient populations, with a focus on cost-benefit decision-making, fatigue symptomatology, psycho-oncology and immune-to-brain communication;
  • Experience with acquiring and/or analyzing behavioral and/or neuroimaging data;
  • The capacity to participate in an interdisciplinary and translational research environment;
  • Interpersonal and communication skills to effectively collaborate and communicate in academia;
  • Familiarity with quantitative analysis approaches and programming, for example the use of Matlab, R, Python and/or the motivation to develop programming skills;
  • Sufficiency in the Dutch language (i.e. for patient recruitment), fluency in written and spoken English;
  • A proactive and goal-directed attitude, good organizational skills, and the ability to work independently.
Excellent candidates who only partially meet this profile and/or have the motivation to develop themselves towards this profile also strongly encouraged to apply.


The project is a collaboration between the Radboudumc (Department of Psychiatry) in Nijmegen, the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour (Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging) in Nijmegen and the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

Radboudumc strives to be a leading developer of sustainable, innovative and affordable healthcare to improve the health and wellbeing of people and society in the Netherlands and beyond. This is the core of our mission: To have a significant impact on healthcare. To get a better picture of what this entails, check out our strategy. Read more about what it means to work at Radboudumc and how you can do your part.
The department of Psychiatry provides a stimulating working environment for its employees and is an exciting place to perform basic research, translational and clinical medicine, and enjoy teaching. This department’s research focuses on psychiatric disorders and aims to improve the care we provide the patients. Research areas include experimental neurocognition and pharmacology, neurocognitive vulnerability factors for stress-related disorders, ADHD and autism cohorts, and mindfulness.
Donders Institute
The mission of the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour is to conduct cutting-edge fundamental research in cognitive neuroscience. This internationally renowned Institute is currently host to over 500 researchers from more than 20 countries, distributed across 3 centers. Institute-wide regular discussion meetings and lectures promote integration and collaboration of research conducted within molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral, and clinical neurosciences. You will work within the Cognitive and Motivational Control group at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging.
The Institute is equipped with various neuroimaging systems, including three 3T MRI systems, and high-performance computational facilities. All facilities are fully research-dedicated laboratories with excellent technical support. The Donders Institute furthermore provides a unique and stimulating learning environment for young researchers, including a high-profile graduate school and in-house methodological expert courses. English is the lingua franca at the Institute.
The Netherlands Cancer Institute is a comprehensive cancer centre, combining hospital and research laboratories under  one roof in a single independent organization. Within the division of psychosocial research and epidemiology, a distinctive research line exists on the effects of cancer and cancer therapies on cognitive functioning. This research is aimed  to increase our understanding of the incidence, severity, individual risk factors, and causes of cognitive dysfunction in cancer patients, as well as investigations into ways to prevent and intervene against these adverse symptoms. Fundamental techniques as well as human neuroimaging, neurocognitive, and psychosocial measures are typically combined in these investigations. 

Employment conditions

Upon commencement of employment we require a certificate of conduct (Verklaring Omtrent het Gedrag, VOG) and there will be a screening based on the provided CV. Radboud university medical center’s HR Department will apply for this certificate on your behalf.

Read more about the Radboudumc employment conditions and what our International Office can do for you when moving to the Netherlands.

Comments and contact information

Your application can be attended to Dr. van der Schaaf and should include (and be limited to) the following attachments:
  • Letter of motivation;
  • CV (incl. publication list + 2 referees);
  • 1 reference letter.
All additional information about the vacancy can be obtained from Marieke van der Schaaf, senior researcher Radboudumc, department of psychiatry and Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging via +31 (24) 361 20 21. Use the Apply button to submit your application.

Please apply before January 8.
Recruitment agencies are asked not to respond to this job posting.

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