Ruth van Holst

(Principal Investigator), PhD


Research activity per year

Personal profile

Research interests

Throughout my career, I pursued a clear line of research that focused on understanding why people make unfortunate decisions and display harmful behaviours, and importantly, why don’t they stop?! My Ph.D. elucidated specific neurobiological characteristics of pathological gambling and its similarities and differences with alcohol dependence. Directly after obtaining my Ph.D. I received an ECNP Research Grant, enabling me to focus on the neural correlates of risky decision-making at the University of Cambridge. With my NWO Rubicon fellowship grant, I focused on elucidating the role of dopamine in pathological gambling using PET scans at the Donders Institute.

Since dysfunctional decision-making and dopamine functioning underlie more psychiatric disorders than pathological gambling alone, I am intrigued to find the common denominator across psychiatric disorders. Therefore, I expanded my research to also include game addiction, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and obesity, for which I collaborated with different international research groups. To better understand food-related motivational processes I currently collaborate on a translational study using optogenetics in mice.

With a personal ABC-talent grant in 2014, I moved to the AMC to study the neural fundaments of confidence estimation in compulsive behaviour and be co-promotor of two Ph.D. students investigating habitual behaviour and the effect of non-invasive brain stimulation in addiction. In the coming years, I will use a variety of neuroimaging techniques (fMRI/PET), brain-activity modulators (rTMS/pharmaca) and approaches (network/DSM/transdiagnostic) to psychiatry with the aim to contribute to the understanding of the neural fundamentals of psychiatric disorders, especially of disorders in which people display faulty decision-making.


pathological gambling, alcohol dependence, functional MRI, neuropsychology

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

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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