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Psychology (research): Cognitive Neuroscience


Students who choose to take the Research Master’s track Cognitive Neuroscience acquire in-depth knowledge of the psychological, computational, and neuroscientific bases of human cognition. Key topics include the integration of perception and action, the relationship between cognitive, affective and social processes, the way perceptual and value-based decisions are made, and neuromodulatory influences on cognition.


Staff members in the Cognitive Psychology Unit use a wide variety of methods, including EEG, fMRI, pharmacology, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and computational modeling. Master students in the Cognitive Neuroscience track are encouraged to play an active role in ongoing behavioural and neuroscientific research. They are provided with their own laboratory including six testing rooms, dedicated work places for the development of psychological experiments, and a discussion room. Read more at Master’s programme – Track Cognitive Neuroscience.


General Coursework

Eight obligatory general courses (40 EC) are taken by students of all four tracks. These courses cover the research skills needed in the empirical cycle. Students learn how to design an empirical study, how to collect data, how to analyse data with advanced statistical techniques, and how to report and present their findings.

Track coursework

In the obligatory track-specific courses (20 EC) students gain a state-of-the-art overview of theoretical developments and debates in their domain of specialisation. These courses focus on the cognitive neuroscience of action control, social cognitive neuroscience, the computational and neural basis of reinforcement learning and decision making, and the role of neurotransmitters in modulating cognition.


Students can further specialize in their area of interest by choosing 20 EC from a wide range of relevant courses offered in the other three tracks of the Research Master’s program and/or from courses offered in the one-year MSc in Psychology. Research master students have access to all extensive courses offered in the one-year MSc program, and to intensive courses on the condition that there are places available for additional students. Students who wish to take electives outside the Institute of Psychology (or outside Leiden University) are required to ask approval from the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Psychology. Students are responsible for verifying whether an elective course fits into their schedule of obligatory coursework.

Internship and master thesis

In their second year, students acquire hands-on research experience. In their Research Internship (20 EC), they become acquainted with various research designs and/or methods of data collection and analysis. In addition, they carry out a relatively independent project to gain experience with all phases of empirical research in psychology, including the writing of a Master Thesis (20 EC) in the form of a research article. Students are encouraged to conduct the research for their Research Internship and/or Master Thesis at a research institute abroad.


At the very start of your study programme, all master’s students enrol for all courses at the Master’s introduction and course enrolment day. At this day the attendance of first year master’s students in Psychology is required if they start with a master’s programme. Master’s course registration

First year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory coursework

Experimentation I: Programming Psychological Experiments 5
Designing an Empirical Study 5
Experimentation II: Neuroscientific Research Methods 5
Scientific Writing 5
Applied Multivariate Data Analysis (A and B) - Mini-Courses in Statistics 10

Track-specific compulsory coursework

Cognitive Neuroscience of Action Control 5
Social Cognitive Neuroscience 5
Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making: Computational and Neural Mechanisms 5
Neuromodulation of Cognition 5

Relevant track-specific electives

Overview of all electives from the 1-year-MSc programme in Psychology

Human Potential: Theory 5
Introduction to R and Statistical Computing 5
Human Computer Interaction (Psychology) 5
fMRI Data and Statistics 5
Decision Making: Theory and Practice 5

General elective

Research Apprenticeship Psychology 5

Second year

Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2
Responsible Research in Practice 5
Presenting Your Research 5
Master Thesis in Researchmaster Psychology 20
Research Internship Psychology (RMSc) 20

More info

Additional information



Sander Nieuwenhuis

Student representative

Find your student representative in the overview of programme committee members: Student representative