Research team

Principal Investigator

Prof. dr. Hanan El Marroun

Background: Neuroscience and Epidemiology

Theme of the chair: Biological Psychology, with a focus on substance use and brain development

My research line focuses on sensitive periods of brain development starting from fetal life. One of the topics that I have been studying in depth is the influence of (prenatal) substance use exposure on neurodevelopmental outcomes (psychopathology, behavior, cognition, brain structure and connectivity measured with brain scans). Thus, the ScanLab is focused on Studies of Child and Adolescent Neurodevelopment (SCAN).

PhD students (last name in alphabetical order)

Olga Boer

Background: Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

PhD project: Olga’s main interest is exploring the link between brain development and substance use. Specifically, she aims to prospectively investigate whether the (ab)normal development of structure and function of brain areas related to error processing (measured with EEG) are associated with risky substance use in adolescence, and whether an electrophysiological index (ERN) of error processing in adolescence can predict substance use behavior.

Kim Cajachagua Torres

Background: Medicine, with specialization in Health Management. Master in Public and Global Health.

PhD project: Kim investigates the influence of parental substance use (including tobacco and cannabis smoking) in relation to maternal, placental and child health outcomes. The health outcomes include cardiometabolic indicators as well as hormonal (cortisol) function.

Karis Colyer Patel

Background: Biomedical Science, Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience

PhD project: My interest lies in understanding how the developing brain is associated with both risk and resilience to addiction. During my project there will be a focus on understanding age-dependent effects of substance use on motivational and inhibitory control processes. In doing so, I will combine both human and rodent data, taking a translational approach. I will investigate age-related differences in brain structure and connectivity in addiction across different substances. Following this, I will investigate brain-based predictors of subsequent trajectories of substance use.

Esmée Essers

Background: Bio-Pharmaceutical Sciences and Global Health

PhD project: Esmee’s project is focused on the relationship between ambient temperature exposure during pregnancy and childhood and various outcomes, with her first outcome of focus being foetal growth. She aims to investigate the associations in various population-based cohort studies from different countries and will most likely expand the outcomes to include neurodevelopment, cognition and behaviour, and sleep disturbances.

Jana Hermans

Background: Cognitive neuroscience with a specialisation in neuroimaging and psychiatry

PhD project: Jana’s research focuses on how to better understand the influence of prenatal maternal depression on children’s brain development, behaviour and mental health. Her project is part of the European collaboration HappyMums and she will work with large sets of brain imaging and behavioural data to investigate childhood neurodevelopment in the context of maternal depression during pregnancy. 

Dogukan Koc

Background: Medicine, with specialization in Child and Adolescence Psychiatry

PhD Project: The serotonergic system (represented by genetics and prenatal exposure to serotonin reuptake inhibitors) affect later life behaviour and cognition, but the underlying (neuro)developmental processes remain to be clarified. Dogukan will investigate whether these effects extend into adolescence in humans. For this purpose, he will use neuroimaging and transdiagnostic behavioural (e.g. emotionality) and cognitive (e.g. executive functioning) data of the population cohort ‘the Generation R Study’.

Marin Pielage

Background: Biomedical Science, Medicine with a special interest in Obstetrics and Gynaecology

PhD Project: During her PhD project at the Erasmus MC, Marin will focus on the influence of alcohol intake during pregnancy on fetal brain development. Marin will use 3D ultrasound measurements techniques to visualize the several fetal brain structures during different stages in pregnancy.

Previous Team-members

Carolina Costa Vicente Silva

Background: Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology

Phd project: Maternal and childhood cardiovascular profile is a major public health concern. It has been associated with short- and long term consequences in later life. However, the influence of early life exposures on childhood cardiovascular and brain development is still not fully known, which Carolina explored in detail during her PhD project.

A link to her PhD-thesis:

Alix Weidema

Background: Cognitive Neuropsychology

PhD Project: My interest lies in unraveling both risk and resilience factors of addiction for different ages. During my project, I investigated social factors in relation to alcohol and cannabis use severity in adolescents compared to adults. For example, I focused on social reward sensitivity, social cue reactivity, social influence, and social attunement, by taking a multimodal approach (behavioral, neural, and self-report).

Runyu Zou

Background: Medicine, Public Health and Epidemiology

PhD project: Runyu Zou worked on perinatal determinants of child brain development using epidemiological methods and neuroimaging techniques. His research particularly focused on mental health, nutrients, and substance use.

A link to his PhD-thesis:

Co-supervised PhD students and post-doctoral researchers

Dr. Sara Sammalahti

Dr. Koen Bolhuis

Drs. Florianne Vehmeijer

Dr. Michiel den Dries

Dr. Kiki Cheung

Drs. Simone Koenraads

Dr. Nina Molenaar

Supervised Master students


Nadine Danner; thesis: Early determinants on adolescent substance use

Aysenur Öztop; thesis: Early determinants on adolescent substance use


Romy Verheek; thesis: Prenatal cannabis use and offspring autism traits

Ilse Haarman; thesis: Social phobia, peers and substance use

Vera den Boer; thesis: Maternal psychopathology and infant cognitive development


Judith Weber: Prenatal cannabis exposure and cognitive functioning in children

Dima Hedni: Maternal transfatty acids intake and child internalizing and externalizing behavior