Assistant Professor

Freek van Ede

Assistant Professor


Personal webpage

Research focus

My team and I investigate the mechanisms by which our brains dynamically extract, retain, prioritise, and utilise sensory information that is relevant to ongoing behaviour. We address how we filter relevant from irrelevant sensations; retain, transform, and prioritise sensory representations in working memory; and translate (memorised) sensations into appropriate actions. In our research, we start from the perspective of the brain as a fundamentally dynamic, anticipating, and action-oriented organ. For our research we mainly use non-invasive neuroimaging methodologies with high temporal resolution – such as magneto- and electro-encephalography and eye-tracking – to investigate the principles, neural bases, and inter-related nature of these core cognitive operations in dynamic settings and in healthy human volunteers. In our modern-day society – in which the amount of information that our brains have to cope with is ever-expanding – it is becoming increasingly important to understand just how our brains flexibly extract and prioritise relevant over irrelevant information and translate this into adaptive behaviour. At the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, I am Principal Investigator of the ERC starting grant “MEMTICIPATION” that will run from 2020 to 2025 and that will investigate how sensory information in working memory is dynamically prepared for action – starting from the perspective that the purpose of working memory is not to store the past, but to prepare for the future.

Academic history

I hold a BSc degree in Psychology from University of Utrecht (2003-2007) and MSc (2007-2009) and PhD (2009-2013) degrees in Cognitive Neuroscience from Radboud University Nijmegen. For my PhD I obtained a TOPtalent scholarship from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition & Behaviour to study how expectations and oscillatory brain activity shape our touch perception. I investigated this in collaboration with Eric Maris (main PhD advisor), Floris de Lange, and Ole Jensen. I received my PhD degree with distinction (cum laude) in 2014. After my PhD, I obtained two further research fellowships – a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship (European Commission) and a Newton International Fellowship (the British Academy and the Royal Society) – to conduct my post-doctoral research at the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity (University of Oxford), in the Brain & Cognition lab of Kia Nobre. I also became Research Fellow at one of Oxford’s colleges (Worcester College). During my time in Oxford (2015-2020), the majority of my research centred on the question how we access internal representations in working memory and prioritise these in service of upcoming behaviour. Building directly on this work, in 2019, I obtained a Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to start my research group at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Selected publications

van Ede F, Chekroud SR, Stokes MG, Nobre AC. (2019). Concurrent visual and motor selection during visual working memory guided action. Nature Neuroscience, 22, 477-483.

van Ede F, Chekroud SR, Nobre AC. (2019). Human gaze tracks attentional focusing in memorized visual space. Nature Human Behaviour, 3, 462-470.

Nobre AC, van Ede F. (2018). Anticipated moments: temporal structure in attention. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 19(1), 34-48.

van Ede F, Chekroud SR, Stokes MG, Nobre AC. (2018). Decoding the influence of anticipatory states on visual perception in the presence of temporal distractors. Nature Communications, 9, 1449.

van Ede F, Niklaus M, Nobre AC. (2017). Temporal expectations guide dynamic prioritization in visual working memory through attenuated alpha oscillations. Journal of Neuroscience, 37(2), 437-445.