European subsidy for Sander Nieuwenhuis for the brain in action

Adrenaline stimulates our body to take action. Noradrenaline does the same with our brain. It is the effect of noradrenaline on the brain that is the subject of research by cognitive psychologist Sander Nieuwenhuis. With his Starting Grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for talented, up-and-coming researchers, he now has 1.5 million euro to fund his own research team.

Hormone mobilises the brain

Noradrenaline is a substance in the brain that influences the sensitivity of neurons and brain cells. This hormone is released when we receove an important stimulus, for example the starting shot in a competition or an unexpected loud bang. It can be compared to adrenaline, a chemically related hormone. Just as adrenaline mobilises our body to take action, an increased level of noradrenaline mobilises our brain to take action. 

Research techniques
Nieuwenhuis explains his interest: 'Although noradrenaline is present everywhere in the brain, we know very little about how this substance affects cognition, for example how we experience something or our memories of it. My project aims to study the influence of noradrenaline on cognition in humans.' In my research I use fMRI, to measure the activity of the noradrenaline system, and I also use substances that influence noradrenaline to see how the level of this hormone alters cognition. 

Research team

Two postdocs and three PhD researchers have been appointed to the project for a period of five years, funded by the subsidy from the ERC Starting Independent Researcher Grant.



Research profile area
‘The brain itself is multidisciplinary, and should therefore be studied as such.’
Brain function and dysfunction over the lifespan


Brain and cognition

(21 July 2011)

Last Modified: 27-07-2011