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Psychology (research): Cognitive Neuroscience


Students who choose to take the Research Master’s track Cognitive Neuroscience acquire in-depth knowledge of the psychological, computational, and neuroscientific bases of human cognition. Key topics include the integration of perception and action, the relationship between cognitive, affective and social processes, the way perceptual and value-based decisions are made, and neuromodulatory influences on cognition.


Staff members in the Cognitive Psychology Unit use a wide variety of methods, including EEG, fMRI, pharmacology, transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), and computational modeling. Master students in the Cognitive Neuroscience track are encouraged to play an active role in ongoing behavioural and neuroscientific research. They are provided with their own laboratory including six testing rooms, dedicated work places for the development of psychological experiments, and a discussion room. Read more on the webpage Master’s programme – Track Cognitive Neuroscience.


General Coursework

Eight obligatory general courses (40 EC) are taken by students of all four tracks. These courses cover the research skills needed in the empirical cycle. Students learn how to design an empirical study, how to collect data, how to analyse data with advanced statistical techniques, and how to report and present their findings.

Track coursework

In the obligatory track-specific courses (20 EC) students gain a state-of-the-art overview of theoretical developments and debates in their domain of specialisation. These courses focus on the cognitive neuroscience of action control, social cognitive neuroscience, the computational and neural basis of reinforcement learning and decision making, and the role of neurotransmitters in modulating cognition.


Students can further specialize in their area of interest by choosing 20 EC from a wide range of relevant courses offered in the other three tracks of the Research Master’s program and/or from courses offered in the one-year MSc in Psychology. Research master students have access to all extensive courses offered in the one-year MSc program, and to intensive courses on the condition that there are places available for additional students. Students who wish to take electives outside the Institute of Psychology (or outside Leiden University) are required to ask approval from the Board of Examiners of the Institute of Psychology. Students are responsible for verifying whether an elective course fits into their schedule of obligatory coursework.

Internship and master thesis

In their second year, students acquire hands-on research experience. In their Research Internship (20 EC), they become acquainted with various research designs and/or methods of data collection and analysis. In addition, they carry out a relatively independent project to gain experience with all phases of empirical research in psychology, including the writing of a Master Thesis (20/25 EC) in the form of a research article. Students are encouraged to conduct the research for their Research Internship and/or Master Thesis at a research institute abroad.

Master's Kick Off

At this day (29 August 2024 for students starting in September and 30 January 2025 for students starting in February) your attendance is strongly advised.

During the Master's Kick Off you will be handed important information on how to organise your studies at Leiden University. The coordinator of your specialisation will be present. You do not want to miss this!

You can find the event page of the Master's Kick Off on the right-hand side of this page.

First year

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory coursework

Scientific Writing 5
Evaluating an Empirical Study 5
Experimentation I: Programming Psychological Experiments 5
Experimentation II: Neuroscientific Research Methods 5
Applied multivariate data analysis (fall) 5
Applied multivariate data analysis (spring) 5

Track-specific compulsory coursework

Cognitive Neuroscience of Action Control 5
Social Cognitive Neuroscience 5
Neuromodulation of Cognition 5
Reinforcement Learning and Decision Making: Computational and Neural Mechanisms 5

Relevant track-specific electives

Overview of all possible electives

Evidence based Cognitive Enhancement (ECE) 5
fMRI Data and Statistics 5
Introduction to R 5
Psychology of the Climate Crisis 5
Essentials for Data Science

General elective

Research Apprenticeship Psychology 5

Second year

Please note: in academic year 2024-2025, two versions of the Research Master Thesis are offered.

Master Thesis in Research Master Psychology (20EC)

  • This course is open to students in the Research Master Psychology who started in the Research Master's programme before September 2024.

Master Thesis in Research Master Psychology (25EC, CNS)

  • This course is open to students in the Research Master Psychology, track Cognitive Neuroscience, who started in the Research Master's programme in September 2024 or February 2025.

  • This course is open to students in the Research Master Psychology, track Cognitive Neuroscience, who started in the Research Master's programme before September 2024 and have their supervisor's approval to participate in the 25EC thesis. Please note: with a 25EC thesis, the elective space is reduced by 5EC.

Vak EC Semester 1 Semester 2

Compulsory Coursework

Responsible Research in Practice 5
Presenting Your Research 5
Master Thesis in Research Master Psychology (20EC) 20
Master Thesis in Research Master Psychology (25EC, CNS) 25
Research Internship Psychology (RMSc) 20

Career Perspective

Career preparation in the Research master specialisation Cognitive Neuroscience

In addition to offering you a solid university education, Leiden University aims to prepare you as well as possible for the labour market, and in doing so contribute to the development of your employability. In this way, it will become easier for you to make the transition to the labour market, to remain employable in a dynamic labour market, in a (career) job that suits your own personal values, preferences and development.

'Employability' consists of the following aspects that you will develop within your study programme, among others:

  1. Discipline-specific knowledge and skills
    Knowledge and skills specific to your study programme.

  2. Transferable skills
    These are skills that are relevant to every student and that you can use in all kinds of jobs irrespective of your study programme, for example: researching, analysing, project-based working, generating solutions, digital skills, collaborating, oral communication, written communication, presenting, societal awareness, independent learning, resilience. But also think of job application skills: preparing a CV, formulating a cover letter, compiling a LinkedIn profile, networking, practising job interviews, preparing and holding a pitch.

  3. Self-reflection
    This involves reflecting on your own (study) career (choices), reflecting on your own profile and your personal and professional development. Gaining insight into, among other things, your competences and personality, your (work) values and motives. what can you do with your knowledge and skills on the labour market?
    Who are you, what can you do well, what do you find interesting, what suits you, what do you find important, what do you want to do?

  4. Practical experience
    Gaining practical experience through practical and social internships and work placements, external research internships and projects, practical assignments, which are integrated into an elective, minor or graduation assignment, business challenges etc.

  5. Labour market orientation
    Gaining insight into the labour market, fields of work, jobs and career paths through, for example, guest speakers from the work field, alumni presentations and experiences, career events within the study programme, the use of the alumni mentor network, interviewing people from the work field, and shadowing/visiting companies in the context of a particular subject.

Employability in the Research master specialisation Cognitive Neuroscience

In your programme, you will also find these employability elements.

Subject-specific and transferable skills
These skills are addressed in the various courses of the programme. Check the specific course descriptions in the study guide to see which skills are involved.

Examples of courses that pay attention to the other employability elements are:


  • Responsible Research in Practice

  • Relevant elective: Research Apprenticeship Psychology

Practical experience

  • Research Internship Psychology

  • Master Thesis

  • Relevant elective(s): Research Apprenticeship Psychology; fMRI Data and Statistics

Labour market orientation

  • Responsible Research in Practice

  • Research Internship Psychology

  • Relevant elective: Research Apprenticeship Psychology

Activities to prepare for the labour market outside the curriculum

Every year, various activities take place, within, alongside and outside of your study programme, which contribute to your preparation for the labour market, especially where it concerns orientation towards the work field/the labour market, (career) skills and self-reflection. These may be information meetings on decision moments within your programme, but also career workshops and events organised by your own programme, the faculty Career Service or your study association.

For example:

Career Service, LU Career Zone and career workshops calendar

Faculty Career Service
The Career Service of your faculty offers information and advice on study (re)orientation and master's choice, (study) career planning, orientation on the labour market and job applications.

Leiden University Career Zone Leiden University Career Zone is the website for students and alumni of Leiden University to support their (study) career. You can find advice, information, (career) tests and tools in the area of (study) career planning, career possibilities with your study, job market orientation, job applications, the Alumni Mentor network, job portal, workshops and events and career services.

Workshops and events
On the course calendar you will find an overview of career and application workshops, organised by the Career services.




Sander Nieuwenhuis

Student representative

Find your student representative in the overview of programme committee members: Student representative