Psychiatry, The iBerry Study
N.H. Grootendorst-van Mil & F. van den Boogert or P. Spaan
Internship coordinator: Nita de Neve-Enthoven
+31 (0) 10 703 59 78
firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Background and problem of interest
Aggressive and (violent) criminal behavior have many adverse effects on victims, perpetrators, their families and society. Nowadays prediction of risk for recidivism is fully based on psychological and social factors and treatment is centered around psychotherapeutic interventions. However, fundamental research has shown that the value of many neurobiological factors in terms of prediction and prevention of aggressive behavior still remains to be unraveled. Innovative technologies potentiate research into biological pathways to aggressive behavior. Specific neurobiological markers of aggressive behavior may provide new insights for prediction and prevention of such antisocial behaviors (e.g. Cornet, Bootsman, Alberda, & De Kogel, 2017).
This research group is focussed on forensic psychiatry. The main outcomes of the theses projects are associations with or predictions of the following antisocial behaviour outcomes in adolescence:
- Various forms of aggressive behavior
- Various forms of criminal and rule-breaking behaviour (e.g. violent crime, group offending)
- Externalizing symptoms or disorders (ODD/CD)
The supervisors projects focus mainly on:
(a) associations of sensory processing, measured in accordance with Dunn’s model (Dunn, 1997), with antisocial behaviour. Sensory processing or sensory integration is the process by which information is received, organized, and used in everyday activities. Information is collected about sensory processing on seven senses: gustatory, olfactory, proprioceptive, visual, tactile, and auditory processing and activity level. The sensory profiles consist of the following quadrants: sensory sensitivity, sensory avoiding, low registration, and sensory seeking.
(b) associations of steroid hormones, measured in hair samples (Manenschijn, Koper, Lamberts, & Van Rossum, 2011) and studied in relation to e.g. dual-hormone theories (Mehta & Prasad, 2015), with antisocial behaviour. We are specifically interested in the stress-related hormone cortisol regulated by the hypothalamic- pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) and the sex hormone testosterone regulated by the Hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis (HPG axis).
Our projects aim to study neurobiological markers that contribute to the prediction, distinction and prevention of aggressive and criminal behavior.
Mainly we focus on the extend to which various forms of sensory processing and the neuroendocrinological hormones cortisol and testosterone are associated with aggressive and criminal behaviour.
A thesis in this project group could focus such or other potentially important predictors of aggressive or criminal behaviour in adolescents, as long as the focus is at least somewhat relevant to the field of forensic psychiatry.
Specific research question
Some examples of possible research questions are:
Study design (methods, materials)
- To what extend is sensory processing related to aggressive or criminal behavior?
- To what extend are hormonal values (e.g. cortisol/testosterone) related to aggressive or criminal behavior?
- Do adolescents with a history of experiencing violence (harsh parenting, violent life events) show more violent behavior?
- Do adolescents who offend in groups have different psychosocial characteristics than those that offend alone?
- Is worrying about corona related to externalizing problems in adolescents? Do adolescents that have criminally offended break the corona-regulations of the government more often than none-offenders?
- How is bullying or being the victim of bullying in adolescence related to aggressive or criminal behavior?
The research project is part of the iBerry (Investigating Behavioral and Emotional Risk in Rotterdam Youth) Study, a prospective longitudinal cohort study (N=1022) (Grootendorst-van Mil et al, submitted). The overall goal of the iBerry Study is to investigate (determinants for) the transition of having non-specific symptoms in adolescence to the development of full-blown psychiatric disorders later in life. Adolescents that participate in the iBerry Study come from the Greater Rotterdam region (the Netherlands), in which both rural and urban places are represented. Every 2-3 years the adolescent and his/her parents are invited to the iBerry research centre for follow-up measurements, for a total period of 10 years. The baseline assessment was completed mid-2019, follow-up measurements have started since early 2019.
The assessments include psychiatric interviews, physical measurements, neuropsychological tests and questionnaires. Amongst these are (either measured by adolescent, parent or both):
- Demographic questionnaires
- Self-Reported Early Delinquency scale (SRED)
- Psychiatric symptoms questionnaires: e.g. Youth Self Report (YSR), Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI)
- Psychiatric interviews (MINI-KID, MINI-PLUS)
- Sensory processing (AASP)
- Biological measurements (including length, weight, steroid hormone profile from hair samples)
- Self-harming behaviours (VOZZ, ISAS)
- Psychotic experiences (PQ-16)
- Questionnaire about substance use
- Questionnaire about bullying
- IQ: Snijders-Oomen Niet-verbale intelligentietests (SON-R)
- Decision making: Iowa gambling task (IGT)
- Various other concepts are measured, including social support, parenting styles, life events etc.
Some of the expected findings:
(a) We expect to find sensory processing to be a neuropsychological marker for (specific types of) aggressive behavior and the instruments of use to have diagnostic and prognostic value for respectively aggressive behavior in and treatment success of forensic psychiatric patients.
(b) We expect that cortisol and testosterone levels from hair samples are associated with (various types of) aggressive behavior and that these hormones interact in a way that different combinations of hormonal levels are related to different types of aggressive behavior.
Many other associations and research questions in the field of forensic psychiatry may be studied for the thesis.
One-time or continuous project?
- Cornet, L.J.M., Bootsman, F., Alberda, D.L., De Kogel, C.H. (2017). Neurowetenschappelijke toepassingen in de jeugdstrafrechtketen: Inventarisatie instrumenten, preventie en interventie. Boom criminologie.
- Dunn, W. (1997). The Impact of Sensory Processing Abilities on the Daily Lives of Young Children and Their Families: A Conceptual Model. Infants & Young Children, 9(4), 23- 35.
- Grootendorst-van Mil, N.H., Bouter, D.C., Hoogendijk, W.J.G., Van Jaarsveld, S.F.L.M., Tiemeier H., Mulder, C.L., & Roza, S.J. (submitted). The iBerry Study: A longitudinal cohort study of adolescents at high risk of psychopathology.
- Manenschijn, L., Koper, J. W., Lamberts, S. W., & van Rossum, E. F. (2011). Evaluation of a method to measure long term cortisol levels. Steroids, 76(10), 1032-1036.
- Mehta, P. H., & Prasad, S. (2015). The dual-hormone hypothesis: A brief review and future research agenda. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 3, 163-168.
Inviting participants for follow-up measurements, data-collection adolescents and parents (including an extensive psychiatric interview and physical measurements), data processing and data-entry, administrative tasks, literature study, data analysis, reporting results. Final study results are presented at the Department of Psychiatry.
An internship at the iBerry Study introduces you to all the facets that are relevant in conducting a longitudinal study on such a large scale. Hard work? Yes, we are looking for students who have a hands-on mentality. But we believe that hard work pays off. Participating in the complete process of data collection while writing your thesis helps you to understand your data much better and therefore makes the writing process a lot more efficient and rewarding!
In consultation with the internship coordinator.
- You are a master student in Medicine
- You have a good verbal and written command of the Dutch language
- You can work independently but also as a valuable team member
- You have good communication skills and telephone skills
- You have a great sense of responsibility
- You work very precise
- Relevant work experience and venipuncture qualification are a plus.
Medical students: 5 days per week / 20 weeks
Unfortunately, we cannot reimburse travel expenses and there is no internship allowance.
Questions regarding this internship can be addressed to internship coordinator Nita de Neve-Enthoven:
firstname.lastname@example.org / +31 (0) 10 703 59 78. If you want to apply for the position, please send a recent resume and a motivation letter to