Michelle Achterberg cum laude PhD degree
On 12 March 2020 Michelle Achterberg successfully defended her PhD dissertation entitled ‘Like me, or else… Nature, nurture and neural mechanisms of social emotion regulation in childhood’ at Leiden University. She received her degree cum laude, a very rare distinction that is only given for outstanding results that have been obtained with a very high level of independence.
In her dissertation, Michelle used fMRI techniques to study the development of the child brain in the L-CID study. She provides a comprehensive overview of the underlying mechanisms of social emotion regulation in childhood. The studies show that the brain is prone to signal for socially relevant information. The network of social saliency is already present in childhood, indicating that this might be a core social mechanism. She also shows that social rejection is often followed by behavioural aggression, and regulation of these retaliation emotions is related to control mechanisms of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Moreover, the results show that the vast architecture of functional subcortical-prefrontal brain connectivity is already in place in middle childhood and suggest fine tuning of (social evaluation) brain networks across childhood. These findings highlight the need to incorporate childhood into developmental models of social emotion regulation.
Video summarizing main findings
In this video by Erik Heuvelink, Michelle summarizes the most important findings of her PhD thesis for a general public: