Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Psychiatrist and psychologist with an interdisciplinary expertise in the fields of mental health, biological psychiatry, and psychonomics. She is fascinated by changes in mental health over time, especially the course of mood.

With a focus on adolescence, as it is arguabely one of the most challenging and dynamic periods of development. The malleablity of the (nervous) system at adolescence can be harnessed and may provide a critical window of opportunity to safely mitigate f.e. depression. This goal ask for a complexity approach, in which multiple factors at distinct levels interact and psychobiological systems are a potential end-point to target. Lok's dual training and expertise in psychiatry and psychonomics allows her to approach this topic in a genuinely interdisciplinairy manner, whereby methods and concepts of both fields are integrated.  

Her work has expanded to include the microbiome as a source of novel approach to the analysis and modification of mental health. The microbiome is operating at the nexus of the exposome and psychobiological functioning. The latter program of research involves discovery, mechanistic and intervention studies of microbiology in mental health in collaboration with the faculty of Science, Swammerdam Institute of Life Sciences, University of Amsterdam. Strives to translate this knowledge to the public by diverse media content and participates in a museum exhibition (Rijksmuseum Boerhaave Leiden).

Lok's clinical work in psychiatry focusses on affective disorders in youth, which was granted by the board of the Amsterdam University Medical Center to set up a Transition center for Affective Disorders (www.tas.nl). Adolescence is a critical time for mental well-being, as alsmost 75% of adult mental disorders have origins during youth.  Globally depression is the number 1 cause of illness and disability in this age group (WHO). This center attempt to serve as a springboard for accelerated action on adolescent health and to intervene on time.

Since 2016 Lok is appointed as executive board member and theme leader Mental Health of the HEalthy Life In an Urban Setting (HELIUS)-study (www.heliusstudy.nl) for which she collaborates with different (inter)national research groups of diverse disciplines in translational psychiatry. The HELIUS Study is designed as a prospective cohort study, including six ethnic groups living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The general objective is to study the causes of the unequal burden of diseases across these ethnic groups. Lok is, together with a team, working f.e. on machine learning models to predict who develop stress-related disorders over time and who are not in this multi-ethnic population in an urban context.

Parallel and complementary to her mentioned work, Anja Lok is fascinated by creative processes that occur in real-time where idea generation and evaluation may occur in rapid succesion or simultaneously. One model behavior that is topic of interest and using neuroscience methods is musical improvisation within the style of jazz. Offering a complexity model to study spontaneous creativity under considerable temporal constraints. 





Mental Health. Biological psychiatry. Psychonomics. Mood disorders. Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Suicidality. Gut-Brain-Axis. Neuromodulation. Youth and affective disorders.

#Personalised / precision medicine. #Complexity approach. #Art and improvisation approach.


Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities

Education/Academic qualification

Basiskwalificatie Onderwijs (BKO), Amsterdam UMC

Award Date: 18 Apr 2019

External positions

Associate PI, UvA, The Centre for Urban Mental Health, UvA, Amsterdam

1 Apr 2020 → …


  • QR180 Immunology
  • Microbiome
  • R Medicine (General)
  • Psychiatry

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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