Maarten van den Ende

Psychological Methods
Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
University of Amsterdam

Academic webpage Maarten van den Ende


Computational modelling of psychological and social dynamics and urban mental health conditions

There is a well-established association between psychological disorders and for example substance abuse, with very high reported comorbidity rates. The complexity of their interaction stems from the realization that addiction and mental health problems are driven by underlying psychological (e.g., mental unrest) and social (e.g., peer pressure) processes.  

Significant progress has been made through a complexity approach to psychology. In particular, the network perspective of psychology conceptualizes behavior, affect, and cognition as emergent phenomena from a complex interaction of psychological and biological components, such as in [1]. However, societal environments and social components are often modeled in simplistic ways, typically as mere covariates [2]. Increasing urbanization places the individual in ever increasingly complex social and environmental contexts that can no longer be ignored.

Categorizing within-person dynamics together with computational models for social dynamics is a novel direction of research that is required to fully grasp the complexity of human behavior [3]. Cross-disciplinary collaborative efforts, partly facilitated by the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS), have recently led to computational theoretical models to study, e.g., the usage of addictive substances, attitude formation, panic disorder, and avoidance behavior [4]. I will develop novel computational models to study the interplay of substance use and mental health, by creating a modeling framework. Possibly high levels of cooperation with other members in the Urban Mental Health group will be used to achieve mutual benefit. Next, using this framework I will provide a toolbox applicable to study other common mental health conditions throughout the Urban Mental Health (UMH) research priority area.

[1] Cramer AOJ, van Borkulo CD, Giltay EJ, van der Maas HLJ, Kendler KS, Scheffer M, et al. (2016) Major Depression as a Complex Dynamic System. PLoS ONE 11(12): e0167490.

[2] Fried, E. I. (2020, February 5). Lack of theory building and testing impedes progress in the factor and network literature.

[3] Huys, Q., Maia, T. & Frank, M. Computational psychiatry as a bridge from neuroscience to clinical applications. Nat Neurosci 19, 404–413 (2016).

[4] This model was developed in an IAS master thesis by Julian Burger. An updated version of this work is under review at BMC Medicine (

Prof. dr. H. van der Meer, prof. dr. P. Sloot, dr. S. Epskamp, dr. M. Lees

Financed by
Center for Urban Mental Health

1 February 2020 – 1 February 2024