PhD Position in Biobehavioural Synchrony in Prematurely Born Preschool Children

Catholic University of Leuven

Within the context of a large interdisciplinary project, we have a position for a PhD student at KU Leuven, Belgium. The project will be jointly supervised by Bart Boets (Center for Developmental Psychiatry), Els Ortibus (Center for Developmental Disorders), Gunnar Naulaers (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and Guy Bosman (Clinical Psychology) at KU Leuven, Sam Wass at the BabyDevLab at U East London, and Roy Hessels at U Utrecht. 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.


From the very start of life, children grow up in close physical proximity with their caregivers.  As a result of this social and bodily embeddedness, biological and behavioural processes become entrained and coordinated with the interacting partner (i.e. biobehavioural synchrony), preparing the child to live in social groups. Recent technological advances allow us now to quantify this social attunement in real-life interactions, by simultaneously recording multiple biobehavioural signals from multiple partners and investigating how these co-fluctuate (i.e. via dual recordings of EEG, stress physiology, eye-tracking, facial dynamics, behaviour, etc). Here, for the first time, we will apply these cutting-edge new methods to understand atypical development. We will focus on a cohort of prematurely born preschool children, known to be at risk for atypical socio-emotional and cognitive development. This particular cohort has already been studied from birth onwards, yielding a unique longitudinal database of medical, physiological, psychological and endocrinological parameters of both child and parents. At the age of five, we will assess biobehavioural synchrony across multiple contexts (including naturalistic home recordings) and multiple interaction constellations. We will investigate how individual parent and child characteristics determine the quality of dual biobehavioural synchrony, and how these jointly impact on typical and atypical socio-emotional and cognitive development. 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.


  • Master in psychology, behavioural, biomedical or neuroscience, psychiatry, audiology or speech therapy, or related areas.
  • Experience with clinical and/or child populations, experience with psychophysiological methods and signal analysis; good computer (programming) skills (e.g. Matlab, Python); and knowledge of advanced statistics are an asset.
  • Excellent English writing skills. Sufficient Dutch communicative skills are required for interaction with pediatric patient populations.
Key responsibilities:
  • Design and conduct hyperscanning experiments with children and parents simultaneously; 
  • Design and analyse frequency-tagging EEG experiments;
  • Analyse multimodal high-dimensional time-series data (EEG, stress physiology, eye-tracking, facial dynamics, behaviour);
  • Report and present findings at international conferences and in academic journals.


We offer a full-time PhD position for an initial year, renewable for up to 4 years. Salary is competitive and in accordance with university standards. Starting date is as soon as an excellent candidate shows up.


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

Applications should be submitted via email at and through the electronic application system of KU Leuven, providing a motivation letter, full CV (including detailed university study results), and contact information of at least two referents. Applications will be considered on an ongoing basis until a suitable candidate is identified.
You can apply for this job no later than December 01, 2021 via the
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  • Employment percentage: Voltijds
  • Location: Leuven
  • Apply before: December 1, 2021
  • Tags: Neurowetenschappen
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