Addiction: a disease of free will?

poster SCW_behavioural economicsThursday October 27th

19:45 live music
20:15 speakers
Café Loburg

Every day we make many decisions for example on what to do, what to eat or drink, how to dress and how to behave. Most people like to decide for themselves which option to take. Also our societal and legal system is based on the idea that we as individuals have the free will to decide which actions to take or not, allowing individuals to be awarded or punished for their actions. However, it can be questioned to which extent free will really exists. Our brain appears to be very sensitive to its internal reward system which plays a key role in the development of addictions. In this Science Cafe Prof. Roshan Cools will focus on what goes awry in the brains of addicts and how these brain changes lead them to lose control over their decisions. Our speaker Prof. Mark Slors will concentrate on the philosophy of free will and the brain. He will discuss the existence of free will, the self and how insights of philosophy of mind can help in developing treatments to overcome addictions.

Prof. Roshan Cools
Roshan Cools is Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre and principal investigator at the Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. Her area of research is human cognitive neuropsychiatry. More specifically, she studies the role of the major ascending neuromodulators (e.g. dopamine and serotonin) in the cognitive and motivational control of decision making, with the ultimate aim to advance our understanding and treatment of a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders (e.g. impulse control problems, ADHD and Parkinson’s disease). To this end, she combines cognitive science, psychopharmacology, functional and chemical neuroimaging, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and patient research. She received a James McDonnell Scholar Award, the 2012 young investigator award of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, a Vidi and Vici Award from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, the Radboud Science Award and a Human Frontiers Science Program research grant.

Prof. Marc Slors
Marc Slors is Professor in the Philosophy of Mind at the Radboud University Nijmegen. His research is situated in the area of philosophy that deals with issues surrounding the nature of the human mind and its relationship with brain and behaviour. As well as the philosophy of psychology and the philosophy of cognitive neuroscience, philosophy of mind also deals with questions concerning free will, the causal efficacy of mental states and the nature of consciousness. Professor Slors’ work concentrates on the philosophy of neuroscience, free will and the brain, social cognition and the relation between cognition and culture.

Previous session: Rewriting our genes?

poster SCW_Rewriting out genesFriday September 30th

15:00 doors open
15:30 speakers
C1040, Orion, building nr. 103

Prof. Jennifer Doudna and Dr. Edze Westra are known for their work on CRISPR-Cas, a defense system present in many bacterial species. The potential applications of these systems may have a tremendous impact on medicine and biotechnology. CRISPR-systems allow for editing of DNA, the genetic code in humans, animals and plants. A gene causing disease could simply be replaced by a desired variant allowing for example a potentially incurable disease to be tackled, or plant breeding to be accelerated towards specified targets. This raises big ethical issues; Are scientists allowed to pursue these endeavors? Can we oversee the impact and risks of this technology? And if we decide to edit genomes, what are our ethical limits?

The lecture is free but subscription is required before 25th of September:

Registration is FULL


15.00 Room C1040 opens
15:30 – 17:15 Welcome by John van der Oost, lectures by Edze Westra and Jennifer Doudna and a debate moderated by Philip Macnaghten.
17:15- 18:00 Drinks in The Spot (Orion)

Previous session: Behavioural economics

poster SCW_behavioural economicsThursday June 23rd

19:45 live music
20:15 speakers
Café Loburg

Humans have evolved to become decision-making experts. Thousands of years of evolution have fine-tuned our brains to make quick, smart and efficient decisions, essential for our survival. So why do we seem to make irrational choices?

While standard economics assumes that humans are rational beings making optimal decisions, it turns out this is often not the case. Are we faulty decision-making machines? In this Science Cafe session we refer to behavioural economics and consumer studies to explore the process of decision making. How does it work and how can we maybe influence people to make smarter decisions?

Prof. Arno Riedl (Maastricht University) and Dr. Eva van den Broek (WUR) will address these questions. Simon Vink will be our moderator.

Prof. Arno Riedl is professor of public economics at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics and active in the Maastricht University Center of Neuroeconomics. He studied economics at the University of Vienna, and obtained his PhD in economics and social sciences at the same university. He is an expert in behavioural and experimental economics and investigates human decision-making, drawing on insights from ideology, psychology, neuroscience and economics. His research ranges from decision-making under risk and uncertainty (e.g., insurances, pension savings) to the neuronal underpinning of individual and social choices.

Dr. Eva van den Broek is researcher behavioural economics at the agricultural economic institute (LEI, part of Wageningen UR) in Wageningen. She studied Artificial Intelligence at Utrecht University and received a PhD degree in economics and biology at the University of Amsterdam. Her expertise covers economics, consumer sciences and marketing, which she applies in her current research on consumer behaviour. She is also active as a science columnist at, with psychology, (behavioural) economy, sustainability, and health as tags common to her contributions.

Exploring and discussing science with professionals, funky music and a drink.