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Human Potential: Theory


Admission Requirements

Master’s students Psychology with specialisation Applied Cognitive Psychology


In this course, a variety of approaches aimed at enhancing cognitive performance (e.g. vigilance, creativity, memory, productivity) is critically evaluated. Students will learn which techniques are applied, whether they really work, and how this is tested. The mechanisms behind cognitive enhancement are discussed in both a behavioral and a psychobiological framework.

Lecture overview (attendance compulsory):
1) Context: circadian rhythm, climate, order, music, light (G.Band)
2) State of the body: motivational states, cardio-vascular fitness, nutrition, stress, plasticity, reward (G.Band)
3) Cognitive training: mnemonics, mental imagery, speed-reading, self-regulation (G.Band)
4) Cognitive training: sleep learning, serious gaming, mental challenge, engaging life style (L. Colzato)
5) Drugs: improving attention, creativity, memory etc. (L.Colzato)
6) Mind set: meditation, hypnosis, mindfulness, spirituality, relaxation, flow, mood (L.Colzato)
7) Brain-machine interactions: neurofeedback, brain-computer interface, prosthetics (P.Haazebroek)
8) External support: robotics, external memory, life hacking, organizers, media (P.Haazebroek)

6 meetings with individual student presentations (attendance compulsory)

Course objectives

This is the theoretical part of the specialization in human potential. After this course, students have a complete overview of prevalent techniques for cognitive enhancement and their scientific status.


Human Potential: Theory (2013-2014)

Mode of instruction

Intensive master course

  • 8 meetings of 2 hours (attendance compulsory)

  • 4 meetings of 2 hours for student presentations (attendance compulsory)

  • 2 meetings of 2 hours for psychophysiology practice

Assessment method

The assessment is based on:

  • Individual presentation

  • Individual papers

  • Essay questions

From January 1, 2006 the Faculty of Social Sciences has instituted the Ephorus system to be used by instructors for the systematic detection of plagiarism in students’ written work. Please see the information concerning fraud .


Information available on

Reading list

Book to be confirmed:

  • Vernon, D. (2009). Human potential: exploring techniques used to enhance human performance. New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. ISBN: 978-0-415-45770-5 (238 pages)

Provisional article list (appr. 200 pages):

  • Achtman, R L., Green, C.S., & Bavelier, D. (2008). Video games as a tool to train visual skills. Restorative neurology and neuroscience, 26(4), 435.. Not all video games are created equal + par 4. How video game play might enhance learning

  • Benton, D. (2010). The influence of dietary status on the cognitive performance of children. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 24, 457-470.

  • Boivin, D. B., Tremblay, G. M., & James, F. O. (2007). Working on atypical schedules. Sleep Medicine, 8, 578-589.

  • Cecotti, H. (2011). Spelling with non-invasive brain-computer interfaces – current and future trends.

  • Colzato et al (2011). Lovingkindness brings lovingkindness: the impact of Buddhism on cognitive task representation. Manuscript under revision.

  • Colzato LS, Szapora A, Hommel B. (2011). Meditate to create. Manuscript under revision.

  • Dahle, C. L., Jacobs, B. S., & Raz, N. (2009). Aging, Vascular Risk, and Cognition: Blood Glucose, Pulse Pressure, and Cognitive Performance in Healthy Adults. Psychology and Aging, 24, 154-162.

  • Diekelmann, S. & Born, J. (2010). The memory function of sleep. Nature reviews. Neuroscience, 11(2), 114.

  • Gilbert, LS (1999). Where is my Brain? Distributed Cognition, Activity Theory, and Cognitive Tools (Working Paper). Houston, Texas: Association for Educational Communications and Technologies (AECT)

  • Green, C S. & Bavelier, D. (2008). Exercising your brain: A review of human brain plasticity and training-induced learning. Psychology and aging, 23(4), 692.

  • Hertzog, C., Kramer, A. F., Wilson, R. S., & Lindenberger, U. (2009). Enrichment effects on adult cognitive development: Can the functional capacity of older adults be preserved and enhanced? Psychological Science in the Public Interest (Vol. 9, Whole No. 1). 1

  • Hillman, C. H., Erickson, K. I., & Kramer, A. F. (2008). Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 9, 58-65.

  • Liyoshi, T., Hannafin, M., & Wang, F. (2005). Cognitive tools and student-centred learning: rethinking tools, functions and applications. Educational media international, 42.

  • Immenroth, M, Buerger, T, Brenner, J, et al. (2007). Mental training in surgical education – A randomized controlled trial. Annals of surgery, 245(3), 385-391.

  • Luders, E., Clark, K., Narr, K.L., & Toga, A.W. (2011). Enhanced brain connectivity in long-term meditation practitioners. Neuroimage, 57, 1308-1316.

  • Lutz, A., Slagter, H.A., Dunne, J.D., & Davidson, R.J. (2008). Cognitive-emotional interactions: Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Science, 12, 163-169.

  • Perham, N, & Vizard, J. (2011). Can preference for background music mediate the irrelevant sound effect?. Applied cognitive psychology, 25(4), 625-631.

  • Pintrich, PR. (2004). A conceptual framework for assessing motivation and self-regulated learning in college students. Educational psychology review, 16(4), 385-407.

  • Principles of Pharmacology (Chapter 1) in the book Psychopharmacology: Drugs, the brain and behavior (2005) by Meyer & Quenzer

  • Van Gerven, M., Farquhar, J., Schaefer, R., Vlek, R., Geuze, J., Nijholt, A., Ramsey, N., et al. (2009). The brain-computer interface cycle. _Journal of neural engineering, 6 _

  • Vandewalle, G., Maquet, P., & Dijk, D. J. (2009). Light as a modulator of cognitive brain function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 429-438.

  • Zhang, J., & Patel, V. L. (2006). Distributed cognition, representation, and affordance. _Pragmatics & Cognition, 14 _


Course enrolment

Students need to enroll for the course via uSis on the master’s introduction and course enrolment day that takes place at the start of each semester. Please, consult the master’s agenda Psychology.

Contact information

Dr. G. Band
Room 2A47
Tel: 071-5273998