PhD student

Joanne van Slooten

PhD student

Room: 1B-61


I am working on the ERC-project ‘What you get is what you see: How reward determines perception’. In this project, I work together with my promotor prof. dr. Jan Theeuwes.


My name is Joanne van Slooten and I’m currently a PhD student in the field of cognitive neuroscience at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. I studied at the University of Amsterdam, where I graduated with a BSc degree in Clinical Neuropsychology in 2011 and a research MSc degree in Psychology (major: Brain and Cognition, minor: Clinical Neuropsychology) in 2014. During my master’s training I carried out a combined clinical/research internship with dr. Sieberen Van der Werff, where I performed neuropsychological assessments in patients. As well, I set up a study into the effects of sleep apnea on long term memory consolidation. I conducted my second internship abroad at the visual perception lab of prof. dr. Philipp Sterner at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. We investigated whether reinforcement learning shapes conscious visual perception in a combined behavioural and MVPA fMRI study using binocular rivalry. As a job during my studies I worked as a research assistant at the Spinoza Center Amsterdam, where I operated a 3T scanner for the Department of Psychology and for Neurensics, a neuromarketing company. Currently in my PhD project, I’m conducting eye tracking experiments into the effects of reward on pupil dilation. In the near future I will combine these experiments with EEG measurements and VNS and tDCS manipulations to further investigate the relationship between pupil dilation and neuromodulatory brain processes.

Research interests

When visiting your favourite restaurant, would you choose something familiar or something that’s completely new to you? This everyday decision problem confronts you with the exploration-exploitation dilemma: on the one hand, there is the option to pick the dish you’ve had previously, in the hope it tastes as good as before. On the other hand, you could pick a dish you’ve never had before that might taste even better. Because the result of your choice strategy can change over time, you constantly need to evaluate whether the current strategy is optimal and therefore should be exploited, or whether you should explore and change to a different, more valuable choice strategy. In my PhD project I want to study how humans solve this exploit-explore dilemma and which neuromodulatory brain mechanisms play an important role in solving it. Theory suggests two highly interconnected neuromodulatory systems to play an important role: the locus coeruleus-noradrenaline system and the midbrain dopamine system, however studies into their relationship remain scare. Using both measurement (eye-tracking, EEG) and manipulation techniques (VNS, tDCS), I therefore want to study how the noradrenergic and dopaminergic neuromodulatory systems interact to influence choice behaviour in the explore-exploit dilemma.


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Recent publications

JC Van Slooten, S Jahfari, T Knapen & J Theeuwes (2018) How pupil responses track value-based decision-making during and after reinforcement learning. PLoS computational biology 14 (11), e10066321
JC Van Slooten, S Jahfari, T Knapen & J Theeuwes (2018) Pupil responses as indicators of value-based decision-making. bioRxiv, 3021661
JC Van Slooten, S Jahfari, T Knapen & J Theeuwes (2017) Individual differences in eye blink rate predict both transient and tonic pupil responses during reversal learning. PloS one 12 (9), e01856652
JC van Slooten, THJ Knapen & JL Theeuwes (2016) Through the eyes, fast and slow: behaviourally relevant pupil responses on separate timescales.
G Wilbertz, J van Slooten & P Sterzer (2014) Reinforcement of perceptual inference: Reward and punishment alter conscious visual perception during binocular rivalry. Frontiers in Psychology 5, 137717
J van Slooten, G Wilbertz & P Sterzer (2013) Does punishment influence conscious visual perception? A study of binocular rivalry using operant conditioning. Perception ECVP abstract 42, 180-180

View full list of publications on Google Scholar