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Evidence based Cognitive Enhancement (ECE)


Entry requirements

Only open to master’s students in 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 behavioural and a psychobiological framework. In the workgroup meetings the various topics will be elaborated upon and critically evaluated in oral presentations and (prepared) group discussions.

Course objectives

This is the theoretical part of the specialization in human potential. After completing this course, students:
1. have a comprehensive overview of prevalent techniques for cognitive enhancement and their current scientific status. It is vital for an ACP worker (e.g. HR managers, educators, product developers and testers, policy workers etc) to have a solid knowledge base, grounded both in theory and in empirical findings. Especially given the numerous strong claims made in the current media (e.g. on the efficacy of meditation or super foods). Moreover, awareness of available tools (e.g. for physiological measures indicators of attention, stress and so forth) is key for identifying potential approaches to real-world problems.
2. Are able to critically evaluate scientific literature (in the field of human potential).
3. Can design their own empirical study, in a particular ACP related topic and present this design in a written research proposal. This skill is important for ACP workers to stay informed on the rapidly evolving field, as well as to communicate and discuss such topics with peers and colleagues.


For the timetables of your lectures, work groups and exams, please select your study programme in: Psychology timetables

Lectures Workgroups



Students need to enroll for lectures and work group sessions. Master’s course registration


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date. Students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination. Registering for exams

Mode of instruction

This is an intensive master course and consists of:
1) 8 2-hour lectures of 2 hours (attendance compulsory)
2) 8 2-hour work group sessions for student presentations and discussions (attendance compulsory)

Weblectures will be made available after each lecture. Lecture attendance however, is compulsory.

Lecture overview:

1) Contextual and sleep influences on performance (G. Band)
2) Training capacity and control (G. Band)
3) Bodily influences on performance (G. Band)
4) Game-based training & gamification (K. Olfers)
5) External support to performance (K. Olfers)
6) Applying psychophysiology (K. Olfers & G. Band)
7) Drugs and neurotransmitters (lecturer t.b.a.)
8) Mental states (lecturer t.b.a.)

Assessment method

The assessment is based on:

1) A written exam (40%)

The written exam will consist of essay questions on the literature accompanying the lectures (multiple papers per lecture, total appr. 350 pages), as well as the lecture slides / weblectures. Performance on the exam will be indicative of the first course objective.

2) Oral presentation and group discussions (20%)
3) An individual research proposal (40%)

The latter two assessments correspond to the second course objective.

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. 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

Examples of literature (the exact papers might differ from the examples below, but will all be accessible at the start of the course):

Vandewalle, G., Maquet, P., & Dijk, D. J. (2009). Light as a modulator of cognitive brain function. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 429-438.
Anguera, J. a, Boccanfuso, J., Rintoul, J. L., Al-Hashimi, O., Faraji, F., Janowich, J., … Gazzaley, a. (2013). Video game training enhances cognitive control in older adults. Nature. 501(7465), 97–101.
Margolin, S. J., Driscoll, C., Toland, M. J., & Kegler, J. L. (2013). E-readers, Computer Screens, or Paper: Does Reading Comprehension Change Across Media Platforms? Applied Cognitive Psychology. 27(4), 512–519.
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. 9.
Benton, D. (2010). The influence of dietary status on the cognitive performance of children. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 24, 457-470.
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.
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.
Gruzelier, J.H. (2014). EEG-neurofeedback for optimising performance. I: A review of cognitive and affective outcome in healthy participants, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 44, 124-141.
Iiyoshi, T., Hannafin, M., & Wang, F. (2005). Cognitive tools and student‐centred learning: rethinking tools, functions and applications. Educational Media International. 42.

Contact information

Kerwin J.F. Olfers MSc