Prior to starting a PhD in Biological Psychology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Melisa graduated with a Psychology Bachelor’s from University of California, Berkeley, and a Clinical Psychology Master’s from Leiden University. She was a research assistant at the psychiatry department of University of California, San Francisco, psychology department of Erasmus University Rotterdam, and was a lecturer at Leiden University. She has been actively involved in psychophysiological -primarily EEG- studies in relation to anxiety, borderline, schizophrenia, dissociation, and misophonia. Her research interests include the physiological pathways through which different psychopathologies get generated, and the precise ambulatory measurement of physiological stress responses.

Research question

“How can we accurately measure physiological stress responses, and furthermore obtain a more precise index of cardiac vagal activity, in daily life using wearable monitors?”


The project involves validation of wearables in daily and laboratory settings to see if autonomic nervous system responses in the face of differing psychosocial stressors, including those personally significant, can be captured. Among the autonomic parameters repeatedly linked with stress, mental and organic diseases comes heart rate variability (HRV). It is delved deeper into controlling for HRV, measured as peak-valley respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA), so that phenomena (e.g., speaking, respiratory rate) known to mask the measurement of true vagal tone during stress periods are minimized. Stress period identification reliability may be enhanced. Multilevel modeling and machine learning are utilized.

Melisa Saygin

PhD student,
VU Amsterdam

Portrait photo of Melisa Saygin

Melisa is member of the
Junior Think Tank