Rüya Akdag, M.Sc.

PhD student

I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2017 from Radboud University Nijmegen. During my bachelor’s, I developed my interest in social neuroscience, especially how digital advancements can solve mental health problems. I further translated this interest by starting a research master’s in cognitive neuroscience at Leiden University. I conducted my research internship and thesis at the CoPAN lab of Dr. Mariska Kret. During my thesis, I investigated whether metacognitive beliefs or emotion recognition skills sustain social anxiety symptoms. I obtained my master’s degree in 2020.

Currently, I have re-joined the CoPAN lab to start my PhD project titled: Mind the Body: Investigating and targeting cognitive and affective mechanisms in youth social anxiety. Under the supervision of Prof. Mariska Kret and Dr. Milica Nikolic, I will examine how manipulating metacognitive (cognition) and heart-rate variability (emotion) disturbances influence social anxiety symptoms and how targeting these disturbances with fitting digital interventions can help reduce social anxiety symptoms in adolescence. Recent research shows correlations between metacognition and heart-rate variability on the one hand and social anxiety symptoms on the other. But there is a clear lack of understanding of the causal role of these factors in the development of SAD and unclarity about how they independently and/or jointly influence social anxiety.

We will combine cognitive, behavioral, and physiological measures to test this new dual theoretical framework and take the first steps in implementing digital interventions to help socially anxious youth. The knowledge we gain from this project will help increase the understanding of the development of social anxiety and implement appropriate interventions to help socially anxious adolescents cope with their symptoms in a minimally demanding and more familiar manner.

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Professor at Leiden University