Suzanne van de Groep is a postdoctoral researcher in the SYNC lab. She studies the behavioral and neural development of prosocial behaviors in adolescence. Prosocial behaviors such as giving, cooperating, and helping are essential for forming and maintaining social relationships, which is an important developmental goal in adolescence. Suzanne’s work specifically focuses on the influence of social contexts and individual differences on the development of different types of prosociality, such as trust, reciprocity, and giving.

Suzanne works on an ERC consolidator project called ‘Brainlinks’, a longitudinal three-wave study in which 142 adolescents and their parents are followed over the course of several years. In this project, Suzanne uses a variety of techniques (e.g., fMRI, daily diaries, experiments, questionnaires, and brainstorm sessions) to behaviorally and neurally investigate adolescents’ prosocial behaviors, as well as how these are modulated by different social contexts (e.g., pertaining to beneficiaries and audiences) and individual differences in personality (e.g., in perspective taking).

Suzanne has a background in developmental psychology and completed her research masters in Leiden in 2016 (cum laude). In February 2022, she defended her PhD dissertation called ‘Growing in Generosity? Unraveling the effects of benefactor-, beneficiary-, and situational characteristics on the development of giving and its neural correlates in adolescence’, which was supervised by Prof. Eveline Crone and Dr. Kiki Zanolie. Apart from gaining a better understanding of prosocial development, Suzanne has a passion for connecting science and society, for example through science communication and citizen science projects, as well as mentoring, talent development, and recognition and rewards in academia.

Suzanne was awarded several grants and prizes, included a grant to visit UCLA during her PhD, two EGSH PhD Excellence Awards (best societal impact and best poster), a DPECS Dragon’s Den seed fund, and a NWA Science Communication Grant (together with her YoungXperts colleagues).

Yara Toenders is a postdoctoral researcher at the Erasmus SYNC lab. She is interested in mental health during development from childhood to young adulthood.

Yara previously did her PhD at the Centre for Youth Mental Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia. During her PhD she focused on depression in young people, more specifically on the onset of depression and the heterogeneity of depression. She was also involved in the international ENIGMA MDD consortium, a worldwide effort to combine data to increase our understanding of depression.

Before her PhD, Yara obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Neuroscience and finished a Neurobiology research master at the University in Amsterdam. During this Master she first gained experience with neuroimaging in young people. At the Amsterdam Medical Centre, she studied brain connectivity in children with a posttraumatic stress disorder.

Kayla Green is a PhD candidate in the Erasmus SYNC Lab. Her work focuses on the behavioural and neural predictors of wellbeing during adolescence and young adulthood. She investigates the short- and long-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on adolescents’ mental health: which vulnerabilities put some adolescents at risk to be disproportionably hit by the pandemic, and are there protective factors that might buffer against the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health? In addition, she leads the longitudinal Braintime project on brain development during adolescence. She aims to shed light on how structural brain development and neural activation in subcortical brain regions during adolescence may lead to greater wellbeing later in life depending on one’s social environment. 

She is co-founder and social media officer of the YoungXperts youth participation platform. She is passionate about connecting science to society and policy. Green uses living lab methods, like citizen science, to stimulate the combination of impact-driven research and more (fundamental) curiosity-driven research in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience. 

Green is also a member of the Diversity & Inclusion office, where she works on projects that are aimed at increasing the proportion of underrepresented groups in higher education and improving the success and wellbeing of underrepresented EUR-students.

Green has a background in psychology (Utrecht University, 2015). After obtaining her bachelor degree, she continued with the research master Neuroscience & Cognition (2018) and the clinical master Neuropsychology (2017) at Utrecht University. She did her clinical internship at the Neurology and Geriatrics Department of the Spijkenisse Medisch Centrum, where is also obtained her BAPD (certificate in psychodiagnostics). 

Simone Dobbelaar is a PhD candidate at the SYNC lab at Erasmus University Rotterdam and the Brain and Development Research Center at Leiden University. During her PhD, Simone focuses on the role of the social environment in the neurocognitive development of social competence. Specifically, she is interested in the development of prosocial behavior and aggression regulation, and the co-occurence of these behaviors. Moreover, she tries to discover whether changes in the social environment, such as parenting behavior, can influence the development of prosocial behavior and emotion regulation on both a behavioral and neural level. Simone studies these questions in twins that are followed from middle childhood to early adolescence, as part of the longitudinal twin study of the Leiden Consortium on Individual Development. Her PhD project is supervised by Prof. dr. Eveline Crone, Dr. Anna van Duijvenvoorde and Dr. Michelle Achterberg.

During her bachelors Psychobiology and Psychology, Simone developed an interest in research that bridges the gap between brain and behavior. She obtained her Reseach Master Psychology at the University of Amsterdam with a specialization in Brain and Cognition and Clinical Psychology (2018, cum laude). Her master thesis in the Emotional Memory Lab of the University of Amsterdam focused on the role of context in declarative memory interference and was awarded as research master thesis of the year.