PhD Position in Assessing Cognitive Development in Prematurely Born Preschool Children using Frequency-Tagging EEG
Catholic University of Leuven

Within the context of a large interdisciplinary project, we have a position for a PhD student to investigate the cognitive and socio-affective precursors of learning difficulties in prematurely born pre-schoolers, and follow them up throughout early development. The work package of this PhD particularly aims at objectively determining the quality of phonological and quantity representations via an innovative frequency-tagging EEG approach. The project will be jointly supervised by Bart Boets (Center for Developmental Psychiatry), Els Ortibus (Center for Developmental Disorders) and Gunnar Naulaers (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). The research is embedded in a stimulating interdisciplinary environment with state-of-the-art technical facilities and ample opportunities for interaction with clinicians and experts on neurodevelopmental disorders and brain imaging.


Despite improved survivalrates, preterm children remain at increased risk for adverse health outcomes and neurodevelopmental disabilities, in particular socio-emotional difficulties and learning disorders. Within the context of a large-scale prospective study, we investigate the long-term impact of pre-and perinatal stress in 170 preterm infants and their parents. A unique longitudinal database of medical, physiological, psychological, and endocrinological parameters of general maturation, stress and attachment has been assembled, from (before) birth onwards. Soon, this well-documented cohort will enter primary school, which is a crucial transition period. Using innovative methods, we aim to study the socio-affective and cognitive development of this cohort. Whereas colleague PhD-students will investigate socio-communicative sensitivity and attachment development via real-life dyadic biobehavioural synchrony measurements, the present PhD will focus on cognitive functioning. In particular, we will assess general aspects such as executive functioning, but also specific precursors of reading and arithmetic (dis)ability, such as phonological and quantity sensitivity. In addition to established behavioural tasks, frequency-tagging EEG paradigms will allow automatic neural assessment of the quality of phonological and quantity representations. Integration of these new longitudinal data with the early-life data will allow us to model developmental trajectories and to identify risk and protective factors for this vulnerable population.


  • Applicants should have or should soon obtain a Master's degree in psychology, audiology or speech therapy, behavioural, biomedical or neuroscience, psychiatry, or related areas. 
  • Clinical experience with patient populations, experience with neurophysiological research and good computer (programming) skills (e.g.Matlab, Python) are an asset.
  • Sufficient Dutch communicative skills are required for interaction with pediatric patient populations.
  • Further  assets are a creative mind, good problem solving skills and a collaborative and collegial attitude.


We offer a full-time PhD position for an initial year, renewable for up to 4 years. Salary is competitive and in accordance with the University salary scales for PhD students. Starting date is as soon as possible (e.g. April 2021), or as soon as an excellent candidate shows up.


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Bart Boets, tel.: +32 16 37 35 62, mail:

You can apply for this job no later than April 01, 2021 via the
KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at
  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: April 1, 2021
  • Tags: Neurowetenschappen

If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Psychoneuroxy


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