“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”

Roald Dahl, Matilda


Caring for others, especially for children, requires a whole repertoire of skills. It requires regulating your impulsive behavior, being sensitive to the needs of others, and empathic responding to these needs.

Although millions of years of mammalian evolution has yielded one of the strongest social bonds you can imagine, the bond of a parent to its child, in humans this bond is can be reflected in a huge variety of caregiving behavior.

My research focuses on the neuroendocrinology that underlies such variation in caregiving behavior. Thus, how can hormones influence our brain, and thereby alter emotional regulation, social sensitivity, and empathic behavior, leading to variation in caregiving behavior.

More broadly, I am interested in the topics of social bonding, parent-child communication and interaction, facial mimicry, attachment behavior, and children’s social-emotional development.


The research methods I employ are: hormone  administration (testosterone, cortisol, oxytocin), functional MRI, facial electromyography (fEMG), electroencephalography (EEG), and behavioral measures.


I am currently working on the following projects:

Off to a bad start: fMRI study on the effects of oxytocin on the neural correlates of caregiving behavior and the modulatory role of experienced harsh caregiving.

Getting together: EEG and behavioral study in young adults investigating the role of epigenetic variation of the oxytocin-receptor in social sensitivity and empathic responding towards children.


Projects in collaboration:
Eddie Brummelman: Effects of parental communication on children’s biology and psychology.

Jack van Honk & Isabell Meier: The role of the opioid system in social buffering, affective touch, and empathy.

Jack van Honk & Sarah Heany: Effects of testosterone on neural mechanisms of affective empathy.

Estrella Montoya: Effects of estradiol administration on neural and behavioral measures of caregiving behavior.