Marieke van Vugt is an assistant professor at the Institute of Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Engineering (ALICE) of the University of Groningen (Netherlands). She obtained her PhD in neuroscience focusing on the role of brain oscillations in recognition memory with Dr. Michael Kahana at the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. She then went on to do postdoctoral research on the neural correlates of decision making with Dr. Jonathan Cohen at Princeton University before starting her own group as a tenure track assistant professor in Groningen in 2010.
Her research focuses on dissecting the fundamental cognitive operations and neural processes involved in making decisions, and on how our decisions are affected by mind-wandering on the one hand, and meditation on the other. She makes use of a combination of computational modeling, neuroscience, and experimental psychology tools. She has developed a unique approach to studying meditation by using computational models of cognition. Using these methods, she showed that meditation reduces mental noise. She has also developed a novel method to track perseverative cognition, with which she showed that after mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, people were less "stuck" in recalling negative memories. More recently she has started to build models of the meditation and mind-wandering to better understand why, how, and when we get distracted.
In addition to this academic career, she has been a practicing Tibetan Buddhist since 1998, and she also is a semi-professional classical ballet dancer. She very much enjoys projects were science, art, and contemplation meet.