Chantal Kemner studied Biological Psychology and obtained her PhD (in 1992) in Utrecht, at the department of Psychopharmacology. Thereafter she worked as a postdoc, and later as senior researcher, at the department of Child Psychiatry at the University Medical Centre Utrecht (UMCU). Between 2003 and 2008 Chantal Kemner was appointed as a (part-time) full professor at Maastricht University, since then she is a full professor of Biological Developmental Psychology in Utrecht at the faculty of social sciences and since 2013 also at the UMCU.
Chantal Kemner is program director of the Consortium Individual Development, a consortium of Dutch researchers that obtained the prestigious gravitation grant of the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO), program director of the Utrecht University Strategic Theme Dynamics of Youth, director of the YOUth cohort and director of the Child Research Center (KinderKennisCentrum Utrecht). Chantal Kemner is a VIDI and VICI laureate.
Chantal Kemner’s work has a neurocognitive character and combines approaches from vision research with studies on the development of the social brain, in relation to both normal development as well as psychopathology. This integrative approach is reflected in the fact that she is member of three different departments: the departments of Developmental Psychology and Psychonomics at the Faculty of Social Sciences, and the department of Psychiatry at the UMCU. The techniques Chantal Kemner uses involve the assessment of behaviour in children and adults, including eye tracking, and brain activity, mostly by measuring event-related potentials or ERPs, EEG, and sometimes fMRI.
The main theme of the research has been on the role of low-level, perceptual factors in face and emotion processing, and Chantal Kemner is one of the first to assess this especially in relation to autism. The work indicates that problems in social interaction, such as those seen in autism, are not directly the result of relatively circumscribed abnormalities in development of the social brain. Instead, such problems are related to abnormal perceptual processing. It also shows that the development of the social brain is critically dependent on maturation of specific visual functions. These effects are the base for current studies that aim to determine in more detail the relation between development of visual function, face processing and social functioning in infants and young children, both with respect to normal development and autism.