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Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience


Entry requirements

Open to MSc Psychology (research) students


Developmental cognitive neuroscience investigates the relations between brain development and cognitive, affective and social development. This class will cover the biological bases of cognitive and affective functioning from a developmental perspective, focusing on childhood and adolescence. Fundamental questions that will be covered include: How does brain development, including changes in function, morphology, and connectivity, relate to typical and atypical development? We will discuss and debate brain maturation, plasticity, sensitive periods, and the influences of environmental influences such as adversity, poverty, and social interactions.

Course objectives

After completing this course, the student:

  • knows therelevant theoretical debates and questions in the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience, with a specific focus on the relation between brain maturation, (early) environmental influences, and social development.

  • is able to consider the pros and cons of major methods of developmental cognitive neuroscience, with a focus on (functional) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and behavioral marker tasks.

  • is aware of the unique challenges and research considerations of applying these methods to the study of children and adolescents.

  • gained proficiency with group-based course work including leading a paper discussion, and giving peer-feedback

  • can design a research proposal and formulate accompanying hypotheses on a topic relevant to the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience.

  • has gained proficiency with writing a preregistration on a topic relevant to the field of developmental cognitive neuroscience


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

Class sessions will usually consist of a lecture period discussing a specific research topic in the DCN field, followed by a student-led paper discussion or an in-class assignment. To facilitate discussion, students should prepare questions that arose for them while reading the week’s material and answer questions about these readings beforehand. In addition, a written research proposal is due at the final class.

Assessment method

The assessment for this course is based on:

  • Class preparation and participation: Come to class having done all of the readings, and having completed a brief written assignment, 20%;

  • Presenting 20%;

  • Paper: A preregistration of a newly designed proposted study on the topic of your choice in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 60%.

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

All readings (journal articles) will be made available for download on the course blackboard website. Exemplary literature list Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience

  • Dalgleish, T., Walsch, N.D., Mobbs, D., Schweizer, S., van Harmelen, A., Dunn, B., Dunn, V., Goodyer, I., & Stretton, J. (2017). Social pain and social gain in the adoelscent brain: A common neural circuitry underlying both positive and negative social evaluation. Scientific Reports, 7: 42010

  • Kilford, E. J., Garrett, E., & Blakemore, S. J. (2016). The development of social cognition in adolescence: An integrated perspective. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 70, 106-120.

  • Somerville, L. H. (2016). Searching for signatures of brain maturity: what are we searching for?. Neuron, 92(6), 1164-1167.

  • Tooley, U.A., Bassett, D.S. & Mackey, A.P. (2021). Environmental influences on the pace of brain development. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 22, 372-384.

Contact information

Dr. A.C.K. van Duijvenvoorde