Your brain is the most complex structure in the universe. My research aims to unravel its mysteries.

Lara Wierenga

I am a neuroscientist and assistant professor in the Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology at Leiden University.

I am author of the 'Atlas van ons brein', that I created in co-creation with graphical designer Dirma Janse

In addition, I develop open science solutions to make my scientific work more transparent and accessible. 

I think it is important that we make science transparent, because this benefits the quality of research.

Book

atlas van ons brein
atlas van ons brein

The 'Atlas van ons brein'  is a graphical journey through neuroscience

In this book, I have made neuroscience research accessible to the public. I have interpreted and translated my research, colleagues' research, and the literature in novel ways using insightful infographics. These will help you understand complex research findings. 
In this book I answer everything you wanted to know about your brain
Spoiler alert: this book doens't have a satisfactory ending. You may end op with more questions than you had started with. But I do give you tools to feel comfortable with what you do not know. 

Research

neuroscientist
Neurowetenschapper

Understanding the brain to help children grow

In my research, I focus on the question of why some disorders (like ADHD and ASD) are more prevalent in boys than girls and vice versa. Herein, I aim to understand how biological and environmental effects may shape brain development and explain individual differences. In addition, I will study the developmental stage in which these effects may have more impact on brain development. I study these sensitive periods by focussing on environmental enrichment through musical training. If we better understand how brains grow and when, where, and how the brains of boys and girls differ, we will be better able to diagnose children and apply effective interventions to help them and their families.  
Source: Atlas van ons Brein

Scientific grants

  • 2022 LUF grant Scientific Project

    'Rethinking sex differences in neuroscience of mental health' using co-creation sessions

    €35.000
    2022 Young Academy Leiden beurs voor outreach project

    Podcast on sex differences in neuroscience of mental health 

    €1.000
  • 2020 co-applicant, SSH grant

    Connecting Data in Child Development (CD2), main applicant prof. dr. Chantal Kemner

    2018 Collaboration Hendrik Mullerprijs prof. E.A. Crone

    Support the writing of a book, Atlas van ons Brein

    €5.000
  • 2016 KNAW

    ter Meulen Beurs for postdoctoral fellow at UCSD, San Diego

    €23.200
    2014

    Internationalization committee UMC Utrecht for visiting scholar at UCSD

    €1.500
  • 2017 Travel award

    Flux society conference meeting, Portland

    €826
    2013 Rudolf Magnus poster award

    Brain Center Rudolf Magnus, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    €100

Societal Impact

science communication and co-creation
from science to society

Science communication

In my work, I use data visualizations to make my work insightful. This helps me explain my work to colleagues, students, and the public. This was one of the aims of my book Atlas van ons brein. As visual information is processed faster than text, we may as well use that when communicating complex topics. I also advise policymakers, which you can read about, for example, in this report of the Dutch education council. 

Co-creation with stakeholders

Through co-creation, I involve societal stakeholders in my research. I believe this method may have insightful contributions to how research develops and answers pressing questions that have a societal impact. In one of these projects, I organized a Lorentz workshop, 'Rethinking sex differences in mental health,' where neuroscientists and clinicians come together to discuss how we can better study sex differences in the brain to help individuals with mental health problems. In addition, I will work with a youth panel, to discuss this issue and herewith guide a research agenda that answers both fundamental questions and has societal impact. 
 Source: Atlas van ons Brein

Open Science

Transparancy in science
transparency & accesibility

Making my research transparent and accessible

I think the open science movement is an important development that will highly improve scientific quality. In my work, I highly value making scientific procedures, methods, and results transparent and accessible. In this way, the scarce resources in science have more impact, and we can answer more complex research questions with higher quality. 

Therefore I work on open science solutions that make this possible. This has, for example, resulted in an accessible software Qoala-T tool. And in and open science website for leiden-cid. I have aimed to make these open science products accessible for all researchers with different (levels of technical) backgrounds. 
Lara in de media

Watch & Listen

  • SPUI25 SEPT 2022

    Boekpresentation 'Atlas van ons brein' at SPUI25

    Neuroscientist Lara Wierenga and graphic designer Dirma Janse joined forces for a unique book project, the Atlas of Our Brain. A visual journey through the brain. Watch the book presentation here on how to show what the eye cannot perceive. Or read the report here
    SPRAAKMAKERS RADIO1 2022

    "This book is a candy store!"

    "Did you know that 12% of people dream in black and white? And that children can only stand on their tiptoes when they are 4 years old? You can find these, and other brain facts, in the book 'Atlas of Our Brain'. The creators, neuroscientist Lara Wierenga and graphic designer Dirma Janse, are our guests." 


  • Quest juni 2022

    How much do brains of males and females really differ? 

    "Men and women are quite different. Physically, at least. But what about our brains? Is there such a thing as a male and a female brain? And if so, does this have functional benefits for one sex or the other?" Elly Posthumus delved into this subject and interviewed me. Read her article in the Quest or listen to the podcast. Read her article in Quest or listen to this podcast.
    NOS journaal 2022

    Young research talent

    Why is it essential to invest in young researchers? In the NOS news, I explain why the current financing system is broken and why research talent and our knowledge capital will break down if this still needs to be solved. 
  • Onderwijsraad 2020

    Why do boys perform worse in our educational system than girls do? 

    Based on our research report that we wrote for the Research Council, they conclude: 'Sex differences are not so much related to differences in skills or differences in the brain. And boys do not perform worse in school because of an overrepresentation of women in primary education.'

    Double-click to edit button text.
    NRC 2019

    There is no such thing as a male and female brain

    It is the first study to directly link brain development to sex differences and school achievement. 'With this research, we disprove the neuromyth that boys have delayed brain development compared to girls.'
  • Chemie Magazine 2019

    Superconducting Niobium invaluable for neuroscientists

    "MRI is invaluable for neuroscientists. No other technique allows you to look inside the heads of living people without causing damage."
    BNR radio 2019

    Zijn er verschillen tussen de hersenen van jongens en meisjes?

    We know there are differences between boys and girls, but do those differences also apply to the brain? Sex differences in the brain are present, but not directly in the way you expect. Listen to the podcast here.

  • Sleutel radio 2019

    Sex differences in school performance

    In this interview, I explain why we study brain development in boys and girls in relation to school performance and how we interpret our findings.
    NPO 2018

    Me jane you tarzan?

    Men are physically stronger than women, but to what extent are other assumptions correct about, for example, our brains? In this show, Sofie's brain will be scanned by our MRI facility to study sex differences in the brain. 

  • Onderwijsbijlage Holland Media Combinatie 2019

    'Richt je niet op verschillen'

    Together with Jiska Peper I explain why it is important to study diversity rather than focus on sex differences. 
    Leiden pyschology Blog 2017

    Brains over biases: Is there a biological basis in the brain for the increasing number of boys that perform worse at school than girls?

    A commonly heard argument in this debate is that male brains are wired or develop differently. However, scientists have been puzzled about where, when, and how male and female brains differ. Do boys and girls differ in that the male brain could have been designed on Mars and the female brain on Venus?
  • Science guide 2020

    “Dat de hersenen van jongens achterlopen is een neuromythe”

    “Boys differ more from each other than girls do.” Brain researcher Lara Wierenga looked for sex differences in brain development, but did not find them.


It is collaboration that leads to new insights and significant breakthroughs to solve major social and fundamental issues.

Questions?

Do you have questions about my research, book or lectures? Please contact by e-mail. Or follow me on Twitter and Linkedin.
info@larawierenga.nl

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