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Developmental Psychophysiology and Psychopathology


Entry requirements

Open to MSc Psychology (research) students


In this research master course students will get familiar with various psychophysiological methods (e.g., EEG, heart rate, electrodermal activity), and how such methods can be utilized to study various research questions in the field of developmental psychophysiology. The course is structured around the following themes: (1) Psychophysiology and the gene-brain-behaviour paradigm. This theme focuses on how genes influence behaviour and interact with the environment to bring about psychopathologies, with specific emphasis on the role of psychophysiology; (2) The diversity of psychophysiological methods in research on cognitive, social and emotional development; (3) Facts and myths of psychophysiological markers of developmental psychopathology: (4) Promises and pitfalls of psychophysiological assessments in children.

Students will gain knowledge about current conceptions in developmental psychophysiology (learning objectives 1-3). Students will be familiarized with important concepts such as epigenetics, endophenotypes/biomarkers, neural oscillations, event-related brain potentials, heart rate variability (learning objectives 1-3). In the lectures series, examples are provided of various experimental paradigms that can be used to investigate specific psychophysiological indices of attention, cognitive control, memory and emotional reactivity. Students will be trained to use this information in developing their own research proposal on Developmental Psychophysiology and Psychopathology (learning objectives 1-4). In active workgroup sessions, students will develop skills in critically reading relevant research papers, comment on the papers, and discuss their pros and cons in order to develop improved research designs (learning objectives 3-4). Furthermore, students will be trained in presenting, writing, and commenting on a scientifically sound research proposal that complies with standards for research funding (learning objectives 5-7). Skills trained in this course (learning objectives (4-7) are paramount to become a successful scientist.

Course objectives

On completion of this course, students will be able to:
1. Demonstrate basic knowledge of the analytical principles of common psychophysiological analysis methods (EEG, ECG, EMG).
2. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of various research designs that can be used to test psychophysiological research questions.
3. Demonstrate advanced knowledge of functional significance of EEG components (e.g., N1, N2, P3, as well as ECG metrics (e.g., HRV) in both health and disease.

Furthermore, students will have gained improved skills in:
4. Critically reading papers and discussing them with others.
5. Presenting research ideas and proposals.
6. Writing a research proposal.
7. Providing peer feedback on scientific output.


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

7 workgroup of 2 hours each (weekly), each addressing one of a number of themes, based on recent empirical publications. Each workgroup starts with a short lecture followed by group discussions and paper presentations. Students are responsible to thoroughly study the assigned readings, which will be made available via blackboard. Workgroup will revolve around discussion of these readings. To facilitate these discussions, students should prepare questions that arose for them while reading the week’s material. In addition to these workgroups, students will write an individual research proposal, which is due at the last session. During the last session, students will present their research proposal. Based on feedback of both students and the lecturer, research proposals will have to be revised in order to get graded.

This course is in English (participation and assessment).

Assessment method

Grade 1A: Workgroup participation (15%): come to all sessions, take active part in the session by discussing the papers, take a turn in the discussion, and class preparation.
Grade 1B: Presentation + Peer Review: (25%): Present one of the session’s topics and provide an overview of the literature, presentation of the research proposal, provide feedback on the students’ research proposal (both oral as well as written feedback).
Grade 2: Research proposal (60%): writing the research proposal on the topic of your choice and revise the proposal based on the feedback provided by the lecturer and students. Grade 2 depends on (1) quality of the first draft, (2) quality of the final draft and integrating reviewers’ feedback, and (3) meeting the research proposal deadlines.

Deadlines for submitting workgroup products, as well as the research proposal will be communicated in the course syllabus (available via Blackboard).

Compensation between the grades:
The final grade will be based on the weighted average of Grade 1(A+B = 40%) and Grade 2 (60%), but each grade needs to be at least a 5.0 to be compensated by the higher second grade. Students successfully complete this course when their final grade is a 6.00 or higher. The final grade is rounded to whole and half numbers, except for the 5.50. For the final grade to be a 5.00 or a 6.00, rounding off rules are: ≥ 4.75 and

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

  • Schmidt, L.A., & Segalowitz, S.J. (2008). Developmental Psychophysiology: Theory, Systems, and Methods. Cambridge university press. ISBN: 978-0521821063 (freely available as E-book via the Leiden University Library).

  • An additional reading list for each class will be made available via Blackboard.

Contact information

Dr. Melle van der Molen