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Fear reduction strategies relevant for exposure therapy: Devaluation and extinction learning in anxiety disorder patients and their neurobiological basis


My ambition is to become an independent PI and clinical psychologist with a novel research line focusing on treatment optimization and personalization for anxiety disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The MSCA-IF will provide the essential building blocks for this research line, and provides the opportunity to develop generic skills necessary to transfer from a postdoc position to an Assistant Professor position. Training through research: I will bring my expertise in neuroimaging and clinical psychology to the host, and the host’ PI will train me in experimental task development. The aim of ReduceFear is to examine fear reduction strategies that play a role in exposure therapy, the gold standard therapy for anxiety disorders and PTSD. These disorders are highly common, and up to 50% of patients do not benefit from the therapy. The project will concurrently assess (a) extinction learning, a process that reduces the over-expectation of harm but is highly fragile and dysfunctional in anxiety patients, and (b) threat (US) devaluation, a highly-understudied process that has potential to more robustly reduce excessive fears by reducing the perceived aversiveness of the threat. Overall objective: to examine for the first time (1) the neurobiological mechanisms of US devaluation compared to extinction learning to identify (pre)clinical targets for therapy augmentation, and (2) US devaluation mechanisms in patients with anxiety disorders. If anxiety patients not show any deficits in US devaluation, exposure-based therapies may be adapted to enhance focus on US devaluation. Hands-on training: As identified by a Gap Analysis, I will work on the following competences in order to reach scientific maturity and to successfully lead my own research group in the future: (1) Networking, (2) Time-management / Self-management, (3) Grant Writing, (4) Leadership, (5) Teaching, and (6) Communication/Dissemination.
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Oude Markt 13
3000 Leuven


Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 178 320

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 833549


Ongoing project

  • Start date

    1 October 2019

  • End date

    1 October 2023

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 178 320

  • EU contribution

    € 178 320

Coordinated by: