Honorary staff member

Michiel van Elk

Honorary staff member

E-mail: m.van.elk@vu.nl
Phone: +31 (0)20 5988938
Room: C569

Personal webpage


Michiel obtained degrees in philosophy (MA), biological psychology (MSc) and the psychology of religion (MSc) at Utrecht University, VU University and Radboud University Nijmegen. He completed his PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience at the Donders Institute in Nijmegen (cum laude). He worked as a visiting researcher at the University of California Santa Barbara (2010), as a Marie Curie post-dotoral fellow at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (2010-2012), as a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University (2017), as a Research Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Amsterdam (2019-2010) and as a researcher at the University of Amsterdam (2013-2020). Since 2020 Michiel is affiliated as Associate Professor to the University of Leiden and as an affiliate researcher at VU University. Supported by grants from the Templeton Foundation, NWO and the BIAL Foundation he supervises the Religion Cognition and Behavior Lab. Michiel has published several popular science books on such different topics as the Babybrain, the Evolution of Religion, Ecstatic Experiences and Psychedelics.


I have a deep interest in altered states of consciousness (ASCs), as induced through meditation, sensory deprivation, psychedelics and other means. By using a variety of different techniques, including self-report measures, interviews, expectancy manipulations, neuroimaging tools, psychophysiological techniques and pharmacological challenges I aim to understand how ASCs come about, the effects they have on our behavior and well-being and the philosophical implications of ASCs for our views on the self and reality.


  • Altered States of Consciousness
  • Cognitive Science of Religion
  • Charisma & Source Credibility
  • Psychedelics
  • Neuroscience
  • Open Science & Replication


In my free time I like to play the accordion and piano with my band Bieslook Karavaan, with the singer-songwriter Lenya or just on my own. I am father of two teenage boys and live in the center Amsterdam.

Recent publications

No publications could be retrieved.

View full list of publications on Google Scholar