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Dissertation Prize for Developmental Psychologist Michelle Achterberg

For her research on social-emotional regulation in children Michelle Achterberg on Wednesday, May 25 2022 received the Dutch Association of Developmental Psychology (VNOP) Dissertation Prize. With her PhD research, she mapped out which mechanisms play a role in social emotion regulation in childhood. The research shows that the brain can pick up social signals well, even from an early age.

Childhood essential for the development of social interactions

Michelle also shows that social rejection is often followed up by aggressive behaviour with her doctoral research. Controlling these reactive emotions is related to control mechanisms in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC). Michelle's study shows that the architecture for this brain activity is present early in childhood. Therefore, it is plausible that the brain networks that assess social interactions become more accurate throughout the rest of childhood. The study thus demonstrates the importance of including childhood in developmental models of social-emotional regulation.

Developmental psychology pur sang

About her dissertation, the jury writes: "Her doctoral research is impressive. Not only in terms of the number of participants and the range of methods used, but also in terms of the innovative insights she describes in her research. Moreover, it is developmental psychology pur sang, using a longitudinal design and combining the contribution of genes and environment in studying social-emotional regulation."

Dissertation Prize recognition for neurodevelopmental work

Michelle enjoyed the jury's comments and receiving the prize: "I feel very honoured to receive the VNOP dissertation prize! I am intrigued by the brain and how underlying neural mechanisms can help us understand psychological processes in developing children. I am extremely happy and proud that my neurodevelopmental work is receiving such important recognition from my peers at the Dutch Association for Developmental Psychology."

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