Research projects

PhD supervision

Jutta de Jong

Together with Prof. Chris Dijkerman, I am supervising Jutta de Jong in her PhD project. Her project focuses on processing of sensory information in autism spectrum disorder. Jutta is particularly interested in potential gender differences in sensory processing. This project is an important contribution to the growing body of literature on females diagnosed with autism.

Kees Jan van der Boom

Together with Prof. Rinie Geenen and Prof. Chris Dijkerman, I am supervising Kees Jan van der Boom in his PhD project. Kees Jan combines his clinical work at de Eikeboom Altrecht with research focusing on altered bodily experiences and represenations in patients with medically unexplained symptoms.

Jojanneke Bijsterbosch

Together with Dr Lot Sternheim, Prof. Paul Boelen, and Prof. Chris Dijkerman, I am supervising Jojanneke Bijsterbosch in her PhD project. Her project focuses on body image in adolescent girls with eating disorder. A special focus is put on the role (social) anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty may play in body representation disturbance.

Manja Engel

Together with Prof. Chris Dijkerman and Prof. Liesbeth Woertman, I am supervising Manja Engel in her PhD project. Her project focuses on body representation disturbances in acute and recovered anorexia nervosa patients. The studies are set up in collaboration with the Leontienhuis in Zevenhuizen.

Kayla Stone (graduated 2019)

Together with Prof. Chris Dijkerman, I have supervised Kayla Stone in her PhD project. Her project focused on the function of having a sense of body ownership. She studies this in healthy samples, but also in patients who suffer from Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID).

Anne Cuperus (graduated 2019)

Together with Prof. Andrea Evers and Dr. Ineke van der Ham, I have supervised Anne Cuperus in his PhD project at Leiden University. His project focused on the role of virtual reality in rehabilitation. He combined his PhD project with a position outside academia.

Collaborative projects (highlights)

Touch deprivation during COVID-19 pandemic

Together with Dr. Barbara Montagne (GGZ Centraal), Prof. Chris Dijkerman and Lieza Röben I am working on several projects to qualitatively and quantitatively investigate touch deprivation during the social distancing regulations related to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are focusing both on the effects of social distancing on touch deprivation in psychiatric patients and in a community sample.

For the project “Huidhonger: Op slot – portretten uit de psychiatrie” we made a few short films on how psychiatric patients experience social distancing regulations. Watch Marli’s story here or here (with English subtitles), Anne’s story here or here (with English subtitle), and Jasper’s story here or here (with English subtitles).

Touch experience in psychiatry

Together with Dr. Barbara Montagne (GGZ Centraal) I am working on a series of studies on the role touch perception and experience might play in psychiatric ilnesses such as borderline, trauma, PTSD, dissociation, and personality disorders.

Linked to this project is a collaboration with filmmaker Lieza Röben, who made the documentary “Huidhonger“. Together we combine art and science to open the public debate on the importance of touch.

Improving body size experience in anorexia nervosa through bodily actions – collaboration with Jose Bonekamp (Altrecht Eetstoornissen Rintveld) and Manja Engel

In collaboration with Manja Engel and José Bonekamp (psychomotoric therapist at Altrecht Eetstoornissen Rintveld) I have developed a new intervention that specifically targets the disturbed experience of body size in patients with anorexia nervosa. The main aim of this intervention is twofold. First, patients are encouraged to focus less on making affective judgments about the size of their body and more on being able to judge which actions their current body size affords them to do. Second, we aim to align body size experience from several sensory modalities. We are currently giving workshops for professionals interested in using this intervention as well as investigating the effectiveness. Read more

ASMR and body awareness

Together with several colleagues at Utrecht University I am investigating what characterizes indivudals who experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR). There are many ASMR triggering videos on Youtube, but scientific research on this phenomenon is still in its infancy. We hope to contribute with our project to the growing body of literature on ASMR.

Virtual reality and bodily experience – collaboration with Prof. Guiseppe Riva (Milan) and Dr. Catherine Preston (York) 

In a series of studies I am investigating how a full body illusion, or body swapping illusion, affects bodily experiences in healthy individuals. In collaboration with Ordina and Fontys Hogeschool several full body illusions have been developed for the Oculus Rift that I use in my experiments. I am mainly interested in what happens to your own bodily perception and experiences after having the illusionary experience of owning the body of a virtual avatar. What is the effect of skin color, gender, and size of the avatar on embodying the avatar? And which method for inducing a sense of embodiment is optimal? Is visuotactile stimulation essential, or is visual input on its own already sufficient?In addition to the experiments I run at Utrecht University, I am also collaborating with the lab of Guiseppe Riva based in Milan. We mainly focus on the role body swapping illusions may play in obese patients. In collaboration with the lab of Dr. Catherine Preston based in York I am exploring the role of other full body illusions in bodily perception in anorexia nervosa patients.

Science Center NEMO

Together with Miranda Smit and Alyanne de Haan I have tested visitors of NEMO Science Center in August and October 2014. Visitors could participate in several shorts studies that all revolved around bodily illusions and peripersonal space throughout development. Read more