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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 lecture 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 1-5). 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 4-5). 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 6-7). Skills trained in this course (learning objectives 4-7) are paramount to become a successful scientist.

Course objectives

After completing this course,
1. Students will be able to demonstrate basic knowledge of the analytical principles of common psychophysiological analysis methods (EEG, ECG, EMG).
2. After completing this course, students will be able to demonstrate advanced knowledge of various experimental paradigms that can be used to test psychophysiological research questions.
3. Students will be able to demonstrate advanced knowledge of the functional significance of EEG components (e.g., N1, N2, P3, as well as ECG metrics (e.g., HRV) in both health and disease.
4. Students will have further developed their critical reading skills (i.e., highlighting and explaining the strengths and weaknesses in empirical research to others).
5. After completing this course, students will have gained improved skills in presenting research ideas and proposals.
6. Students will have gained improved skills in writing a research proposal. These skills are demonstrated via: (a) explaining the necessity of the proposed research, (b) choosing an appropriate research design, (c) clearly communicating the methodological design, (d) and explain the utilization of the knowledge that will result from the proposed research.
7. Students will have gained improved skills in 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.


You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. You cannot take an exam without a valid registration 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

This course consists of 3 grades that pertain to the research proposal (grade 1), workgroup participation (grade 2), and presenting & peer review (grade 3).

  • Grade 1 (research proposal) pertains to writing the research proposal on the topic of your choice and revising of the proposal based on the feedback provided by the lecturer and students. This grade counts for 60% of the total grade, and 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.

  • Grade 2A (workgroup participation) pertains to active workgroup participation. That is, coming to all sessions, taking active part in the session by discussing the papers, taking turn in the discussion, and class preparation (e.g., submitting weekly assignments and present one of the weekly topics). This grade counts for 15% of the total grade.

  • Grade 2B (presentation + peer review) pertains to presenting your research proposal to the group, and providing feedback on a research proposal from another student (written feedback). This grade counts for 25% of the total grade.

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

Compensation between the grades:
The final grade will be based on the weighted average of Grade 1 (60%) and Grade 2 (A+B = 40%), but each grade needs to be at least a 5.00 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 5.50; this grade is never awarded. For the final grade to be a 5.00 or a 6.00, rounding off rules are:

  • a grade higher than or equal to 4.75 and lower than 5.50 is rounded to 5

  • a grade higher than or equal to 5.50 and lower than 6.25 is rounded to 6
    For more information, see Rules and Regulations

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. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. 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 Brightspace.

Contact information

Dr. Melle van der Molen