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Evidence based Cognitive Enhancement (ECE)


Entry requirements

Open to MSc Psychology students with the specialisation Applied Cognitive Psychology.


Cognitive enhancement is the process whereby we aim to enhance human performance (e.g. vigilance, creativity, memory, productivity) by improving the information processing capabilities of the brain. In this course, students will learn about various approaches to cognitive enhancement, including which techniques are applied, the rationale behind their application, whether these techniques are really effective at enhancing performance, and how this is tested. The mechanisms underlying cognitive enhancement are discussed in both a behavioural and psychobiological framework. In the work group meetings students will more deeply explore an approach to or target of cognitive enhancement, with a particular emphasis on critically evaluating existing empirical research through oral presentations, group discussions, and an individual research proposal.

Why learn about cognitive enhancement? It is vital for a worker in the field of Applied Cognitive Psychology (e.g. consultants, HR managers, educators, product developers and testers, policy workers etc) to have a solid knowledge base, grounded both in theory and empirical findings. This is especially important given the numerous strong claims made in the current media (e.g. on the efficacy of meditation or super foods). Moreover, awareness of available tools (e.g. for physiological indicators of attention, stress, and so forth) is key for identifying practical approaches to real-world problems. Furthermore, being able to design and present your own research is important for ACP workers to stay informed on the rapidly evolving field, as well as to communicate and discuss such topics with peers and colleagues.

Course objectives

After completing this course, students:
1. have a comprehensive overview of prevalent techniques for cognitive enhancement and their current scientific status.
2. Are able to critically evaluate scientific literature (in the field of human potential).
3. Can design their own empirical study on a particular ACP related topic and present this design in a written research proposal.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.


It is mandatory for all students to register for each exam and to confirm registration for each exam in My Studymap. This is possible up to and including 10 calendar days prior to the examination. You cannot take an exam without a valid pre-registration and confirmation in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

This is an intensive master course and consists of:
1) 8 2-hour lectures (attendance compulsory)
2) 6 2-hour work group sessions for student presentations and discussions (attendance compulsory)
Common lecture and work group topics include game-based training, drugs and nutrition, meditation, and more.

Lecture overview:

1) Contextual and sleep influences on performance
2) Training capacity and control
3) Bodily influences on performance
4) Game-based training & gamification
5) External support to performance
6) Applying psychophysiology
7) Drugs and neurotransmitters
8) Mental states

Assessment method

All aspects of the course, including assessment, will be in English. The assessment is based on:

1) A written exam (40%)

The written exam will consist of essay questions on the literature accompanying the lectures (multiple papers per lecture, total appr. 350 pages), as well as the lecture slides. Performance on the exam will be indicative of the first course objective.

2) Oral presentation and group discussions (20%)
3) An individual research proposal (40%)

The latter two assessments correspond to the second course objective.

An insufficient grade for one of these three assessments can be compensated for with the grades of the other assessments, as long as each individual grade is a 5.0 or higher and their weighted average is a 5.5 or higher.

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

Examples of literature (the exact papers might differ from the examples below, but will all be accessible at the start of the course):

Vandewalle, G., Maquet, P., & Dijk, D. J. (2009). Light as a modulator of cognitive brain function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 429-438.
Anguera, J. a, Boccanfuso, J., Rintoul, J. L., Al-Hashimi, O., Faraji, F., Janowich, J., … Gazzaley, a. (2013). Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults. Nature. 501(7465), 97–101.
Margolin, S. J., Driscoll, C., Toland, M. J., & Kegler, J. L. (2013). E-readers, Computer Screens, or Paper: Does Reading Comprehension Change Across Media Platforms? Applied Cognitive Psychology. 27(4), 512–519.
Hertzog, C., Kramer, A. F., Wilson, R. S., & Lindenberger, U. (2009). Enrichment effects on adult cognitive development: Can the functional capacity of older adults be preserved and enhanced? Psychological Science in the Public Interest. 9.
Benton, D. (2010). The influence of dietary status on the cognitive performance of children. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 24, 457-470.
Hillman, C. H., Erickson, K. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 9, 58-65.
Lutz, A., Slagter, H.A., Dunne, J.D., & Davidson, R.J. (2008). Cognitive-emotional interactions: Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Science. 12, 163-169.
Gruzelier, J.H. (2014). EEG-neurofeedback for optimising performance. I: A review of cognitive and affective outcome in healthy participants, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 44, 124-141.
Iiyoshi, T., Hannafin, M., & Wang, F. (2005). Cognitive tools and student‐centred learning: rethinking tools, functions and applications. Educational Media International. 42.

Contact information

Dr. Bryant Jongkees