The human mind is among the most fascinating products of evolution and has been studied from many different points of view – philosophical, psychological, computational, physical and biological. Cognitive Neuroscience is a relatively new and interdisciplinary approach that combines methodologies from all these fields to answer the ultimate question “how does the brain enable cognition?”

Modern brain imaging techniques offer a myriad of possibilities to study human cerebral architecture and physiology in relation to cognitive functions such as perception, attention, learning, memory, and language, as well as behaviors such as sleep. Cognition is not unique to humans, however, and many aspects are studied in animals using powerful experimental technologies. An insight into the neural underpinnings of cognition is of fundamental interest, but it also has many applications in fighting disease and dysfunction from brain damage, for example through brain-computer interfaces and other innovative medical technology, or in machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Courses in cognitive neuroscience are a very good match for anyone interested in Psychology and Sociology, as it addresses the neural underpinnings of the human mind and behaviour. Cognitive neuroscience is also getting recent attention in Economics, in an emerging subfield called neuroeconomics. Prospective economists who are interested in applying neuroimaging techniques to study, e.g. rational and irrational decision making in Homo economicus should consider this track. Careers in the field of Linguistics will benefit much from a background in cognitive neuroscience, as a considerable part of research in the subfield of psycholinguistics now takes place at the level of neural processes, and this will undoubtedly increase further in the future. Courses in this track are also a very good match for those who are interested in Philosophy, especially philosophy of the mind or aesthetics, or in cognitive aspects of Art.

Within the natural sciences, courses in cognitive neuroscience are a good combination with Biology, providing a basis for further studies into molecular, neurophysiological and evolutionary aspects of neuroscience. In combination with Chemistry (especially Biochemistry and Medical Chemistry), knowledge of cognitive neuroscience forms a foundation for a future in designing medicines for brain disorders, while a combination with Medical Science prepares those who want to specialize in the fields of neuropsychology, (biological) psychiatry, neurology, or neurosurgery.

No courses in other tracks depend on courses in the cognitive neuroscience track, but its brain-centred perspective nicely complements many other tracks and courses. Students with main interests in other fields of science, as well as many students in the humanities and social sciences, appreciate the level 1 course, UCSCICOG11, which provides an introduction to many concepts in the field.

Conversely, if cognitive neuroscience itself is a main interest of yours, there are no courses in this track that depend on other courses or tracks, although knowledge of high-school level

biology is recommended. However, it is important to realize that the field of cognitive neuroscience is very broad, including examples as diverse as research into neuronal mechanisms of memory formation, clinical work with patients suffering from brain damage, research on brain degenerative diseases, and the development of brain-computer interfaces. The Cognitive Neuroscience track only covers core aspects that are common to these specializations, but not the expertise or skills that are specific to them. Students who are considering a career in (cognitive) neuroscience should, therefore, note that the track is not sufficient as a basis for all further career paths in cognitive neuroscience, and they should prepare for future specialization by carefully selecting appropriate courses from other tracks.

The track is relatively small with only four full courses and two lab courses. There is one level 1 course (UCSCICOG11), and one level 2 course (UCSCICOG12). At level 3 you can choose between two courses, UCSCICOG31 in SEM2, and UCSCICOG32 in SEM1, or take both.

The track Cognitive Neuroscience, supplemented with appropriate other courses or tracks at UCU (see above for good combinations), provides an ideal basis for an MSc program in (cognitive) neuroscience. This is a popular field and many universities offer such programs. In the Netherlands:

  • Master Neuroscience and Cognition, Universiteit Utrecht University
  • Master Neuroscience and Cognition, Radboud Universiteit
  • Master Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Master Biomedical Sciences: Neurobiology, Universiteit van Amsterdam
  • Master Neurosciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
  • Master Behavioral and Cognitive Neurosciences, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
  • Master Cognitive And Clinical Neuroscience, Maastricht University
  • Cognitive Neuroscience (research), Universiteit Leiden
  • Master Neuroscience, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Of course, there are also many good Master programs in this field in the rest of the world. For Europe, see the website of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies:

In addition, this track may also help students preparing for and being admitted to other MSc or MA programs. At UU this is, for example, the case for programs on Artificial Intelligence, Linguistics, Applied Cognitive Psychology, Philosophy, Medical Imaging, and Neuropsychology.

UCSCICOG11: Cognitive Neuroscience I

UCSICOG21: Cognitive Neuroscience II

UCSCICOG31: Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience: Spatial Cognition

UCSCICOG32: Advanced Cognitive Neuroscience: Imaging Human Brain Functions

UCSCICOGL1: Visual Psychophysics Lab

UCSCICOGL4: Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) analysis


Lab Courses

Full courses are complemented by two lab modules: Visual Psychophysics (UCSCICOGL1), and Functional-MRI Data Analysis (UCSCICOGL4). UCSCICOGL1 requires either UCSCICOG11, or UCSCOBIO13, or UCSSCPSY11.  UCSCICOGL4 requires either UCSCICOG11, or both UCSSCPSY11 and UCSCOBIO13.

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