Wessel van Dam, Ph.D.
Wessel is a postdoctoral fellow in the Psychology Department at Drexel University in the Applied Cognitive and Brain Sciences program. He obtained his Ph.D. from the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior, where he investigated the role of sensory-motor brain areas in the representation of conceptual information. In his research he has demonstrated that the recruitment of perceptual and action systems during language comprehension is not an “all or nothing” effect but that the activation of meaning attributes of words and sentences is a flexible process that depends on contextual constraints. During his stay as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina, he expanded on this research by showing that syntactic constructions themselves drive specific sensory-motor simulations, providing evidence for constructionist approaches that argue that form-meaning correspondences do not only exist at the level of verbs or single words but also at the level of constructions. In his current research, he is exploring if depressed patients that have been marked by a hypofunction of the prefrontal cortex, similarly demonstrate abnormalities in the top-down regulatory control of fronto-parietal brain areas on bottom-up emotional responses elicited within the amygdala and medial-orbitofrontal cortex. Outside the lab, Wessel can be found sipping on an almond milk latte in Joe Coffee Company, running down the Schuylkill river banks or practicing Olympic lifting in his local Crossfit box.