Prof. dr. L.J.M.J. (Louk) Vanderschuren

Animal Welfare

“By playing, children learn to deal with a changeable and often unpredictable environment.”

Louk Vanderschuren is Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. Vanderschuren investigates the relationship between behavior and brain function in the areas of social play behavior, impulse control and addiction. Through his research he wants to contribute to a better understanding of mental health and well-being in humans and animals.

Vanderschuren explores why children and young animals play, what benefits this provides and which brain mechanisms are involved in play. He also investigates how impulse control comes about in the brain and what the relationship is between impulse control, social development and addiction. With regard to addiction, he investigates what happens in the brain when someone loses control over drug or alcohol use, and which brain and behavioral mechanisms determine susceptibility to addiction.

Vanderschuren participates in the HUB 'Playing = Growing Up Healthy'. In the HUB researchers from different disciplines jointly explore the power and possibilities of play. The main purpose of this is to gain insight into how play can help children to cope better with their (chronic) illness. Vanderschuren also transfers his expertise within education to students of veterinary medicine, medicine, biomedical sciences and social sciences.


Vanderschuren studied Medical Biology in Utrecht and obtained his PhD for his research into the role of endogenous opiates in the social behavior of rats. He previously worked as a researcher at the VU University in Amsterdam and at the University of Cambridge in England. Vanderschuren is editor-in-chief of Behavioural Pharmacology and past president of the European Behavioral Pharmacology Society.

Behavioural Neuroscience
Inaugural lecture date