The Evens Science Prize 2020

The Evens Science Prize 2020 goes to Professor Karin Roelofs of Radboud University (Behavioural Science Institute and Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behaviour).

The international expert jury of the Evens Science Prize 2020 decided unanimously to award the prize to Prof. Karin Roelofs for her research on acute stress responses, resilience in the face of traumatic events and the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms that shape how we react when confronted with these events.

Prof. Roelofs' research has important implications for our understanding of how to design intervention programs aimed at training those imbued with societal responsibilities to exert effective control over their own behavioural responses when confronted with stress. The research aligns with the Evens Science Prize’s mission to further our understanding of human behaviour, with an emphasis on ethical aspects, cooperation and altruism.

The jury praised the work for its ambitious scope as well as for the richness of its measures and its careful design. Based on solid theoretical frameworks rooted in animal literature, such as freeze-fight-flight reactions, Prof. Roelofs research involved a longitudinal study comparing control participants and populations exposed to stress – in this case 340 Dutch police officers whose responses were studied over an extended period of time – and employed a wide variety of cognitive, physiological, hormonal, and imaging measures. The results demonstrated not only that the frontal lobe of the brain exerts control over emotional fight-or-flight responses in stressful situations but, crucially, that the extent of this modulation is predictive of long-term resilience.

More about the Laureate

Prof. Roelfs chiefly studies psychological and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying social-motivational behavior in healthy individuals and in patients with stress-related and social-motivational disorders, such as social anxiety and aggression.

She focuses on key research questions such as: how do people regulate their emotional actions? Can we improve emotion control by administering hormones, by directly influencing brain activity or by real time biofeedback? Can we predict who will develop psychopathology on the basis of freeze and fight-or-flight tendencies in longitudinal studies? Answering these questions will eventually lead to increased insight in affective disorders and promote their early detection and treatment.

The focus of the prize

This edition of the Evens Science Prize focused on scientific research with the potential to further the understanding of stress and resilience.

Stress is a highly complex, multifaceted phenomenon, the study of which engages disciplines as varied as biology, neuroscience, affective neuroscience, psychology, the social sciences, and neuro-ethics. Stress can be chronic or acute. It may concern individuals, families, organizations, or entire social groups.

Not only can the very same state of affairs (i.e. loud music) be experienced as enjoyable or as stressful, but different individuals may also respond to it in very different ways – some exhibiting resilience in the face of traumatic situations, others developing long-term pathological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Evens Science Prize 2020 goes to Professor Karin Roelofs of Radboud University (Behavioural Science Institute and Donders Institute for Brain Cognition and Behaviour).

The international expert jury of the Evens Science Prize 2020 decided unanimously to award the prize to Prof. Karin Roelofs for her research on acute stress responses, resilience in the face of traumatic events and the underlying neurocognitive mechanisms that shape how we react when confronted with these events.

Prof. Roelofs' research has important implications for our understanding of how to design intervention programs aimed at training those imbued with societal responsibilities to exert effective control over their own behavioural responses when confronted with stress. The research aligns with the Evens Science Prize’s mission to further our understanding of human behaviour, with an emphasis on ethical aspects, cooperation and altruism.

The jury praised the work for its ambitious scope as well as for the richness of its measures and its careful design. Based on solid theoretical frameworks rooted in animal literature, such as freeze-fight-flight reactions, Prof. Roelofs research involved a longitudinal study comparing control participants and populations exposed to stress – in this case 340 Dutch police officers whose responses were studied over an extended period of time – and employed a wide variety of cognitive, physiological, hormonal, and imaging measures. The results demonstrated not only that the frontal lobe of the brain exerts control over emotional fight-or-flight responses in stressful situations but, crucially, that the extent of this modulation is predictive of long-term resilience.

More about the Laureate

Prof. Roelfs chiefly studies psychological and neuroendocrine mechanisms underlying social-motivational behavior in healthy individuals and in patients with stress-related and social-motivational disorders, such as social anxiety and aggression.

She focuses on key research questions such as: how do people regulate their emotional actions? Can we improve emotion control by administering hormones, by directly influencing brain activity or by real time biofeedback? Can we predict who will develop psychopathology on the basis of freeze and fight-or-flight tendencies in longitudinal studies? Answering these questions will eventually lead to increased insight in affective disorders and promote their early detection and treatment.

The focus of the prize

This edition of the Evens Science Prize focused on scientific research with the potential to further the understanding of stress and resilience.

Stress is a highly complex, multifaceted phenomenon, the study of which engages disciplines as varied as biology, neuroscience, affective neuroscience, psychology, the social sciences, and neuro-ethics. Stress can be chronic or acute. It may concern individuals, families, organizations, or entire social groups.

Not only can the very same state of affairs (i.e. loud music) be experienced as enjoyable or as stressful, but different individuals may also respond to it in very different ways – some exhibiting resilience in the face of traumatic situations, others developing long-term pathological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.