UNDERSTANDING MIND AND BRAIN RESEARCH MASTER S PROGRAMME IN COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY

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1 UNDERSTANDING MIND AND BRAIN RESEARCH MASTER S PROGRAMME IN COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY

2 YOUR PROGRAMME IN A NUTSHELL The Research Master s in Cognitive Neuropsychology is about relating normal and abnormal brain functioning to human behaviour. Fundamental methods and theories in cognitive psychology will help you to explain and model behaviour in healthy individuals. You will learn to interpret clinical cases involving brain damage or neurological disorders using cognitiveneuropsychological theories and put these theories to the test in a clinical environment. Observing these clinical groups will give you insight into the relationship between the nature and the location of the deficit and the patient s symptoms. You will learn to make use of behavioural measurements, neuro-psychological tests and neurophysiological techniques such as EEG and fmri. Acquisition of these essential skills in the cognitive neurosciences will also help you investigate the link between brain and behaviour.

3 STUDYING NORMAL AND ABNORMAL BRAIN FUNCTION UNDERSTANDING THE HUMAN MIND The curriculum combines in-depth courses about normal and abnormal cognitive functioning throughout the lifespan with essential research skills in the neuro - sciences. You will learn to interpret fascinating clinical cases using solid cognitive and neuropsychological theories and to evaluate these theories critically. You will have the option of exploring the emerging fields of educational neuropsychology, social cognition or other related research areas. COURSES INCLUDE: Neuroanatomy; Neuropsychology of Cognitive Dysfunctioning; Advanced Statistics; Memory & Memory disorders; Cognitive Neuroscience; Perception; Seminar Attention; Brain Imaging ELECTIVE COURSES Eleven of the fourteen courses are mandatory. You will be able to select the three remaining courses according to your own interests. THESIS You will conclude your studies by writing a literature survey and the Master s thesis. This work is conducted in the final six months of the programme. The Master s thesis is based on an independent research project. Your specific interests will define the topic for your research and thesis. MASTER OF SCIENCE Once you have completed the programme, you will be awarded the title of Master of Science in Cognitive Neuropsychology. This degree means you are a versatile and skilled researcher capable of pursuing a successful career in academia, at research institutes, in a clinical setting or in the health industry worldwide.

4 COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY AT VU UNIVERSITY AMSTERDAM UNRIVALLED PROGRAMME The research master s in Cognitive Neuropsychology is a two-year programme that operates on the interface of cognitive psychology and clinical neuropsychology. While cognitive psychology is geared towards general theories of brain function, neuropsychology focuses on individual patients with brain damage, whose condition can often provide us with new insights into how the human brain works. The combination of these two approaches into one Master s programme is unique in the Netherlands. INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING AND EXPERIENCED INSTRUCTORS Teaching is done on a small scale. You work closely together with your fellow students and teachers. Each student is assigned an individual mentor who provides him or her with personal guidance and supervision. These mentors run a very active research programme and have a large international network of colleagues at universities in North America and Europe. The programme offers an ideal environ - ment for starting your own research career. INTERNATIONAL ORIENTATION Tuition is in English. You will be part of an international group of students from around the world. Amsterdam is a beautiful, historic, and vibrant melting pot of old and new cultures. The university will provide assistance in acquiring grants, housing, and improving your language proficiency, if needed. At the end of your studies, you can choose to go abroad to conduct your Master s thesis project in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia or other countries. CURRENT RESEARCH TOPICS IS FORGETTING NORMAL? Why does dementia seem like a regression to childhood? Almost any type of brain damage leads to memory loss, but can brain damage predict behaviour? PREDICTING THE OUTCOME Why does one child with ADHD respond to Ritalin, while his classmate does not? In Cognitive Neuropsychology we try to predict the outcomes of pharmacological treatments by developing computer models as well as through other techniques. AWARENESS AND ATTENTION Ever experienced having read a page in a book but no idea of what was written on the page? Were you not paying attention to the words or did you simply forget what you read? Is the experience comparable to deficits in consciousness and memory in brain-damaged patients? A LOOK INTO THE BRAIN Ever looked into a living, working brain? Held a brain that is no longer working? What happens in your brain when you are scared? Are male brains really different than female brains? Cognitive Neuropsychology enables you to explore these aspects of the brain and more.

5 A FUNDAMENTAL AND CLINICAL APPROACH The Research Master s in Cognitive Neuropsychology at VU University Amsterdam is supported by two departments: the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology and the Department of Cognitive Psychology. Research in these laboratories at VU University Amsterdam is focused on a number of specialized topics that concern both the fundamental and clinical aspects of human performance. ADHD VU University Amsterdam has a leading role in a large international ADHD project (IMAGE), which aims to unravel different levels of this neuropsychiatric disorder. More than 500 families (ADHD and controls) are participating in this project. The project is aimed at gathering phenotypic and neuro - psychological data from both children and their parents, as well as collecting structural and functional MRI data including DTI from affected as well as unaffected children. This groundbreaking research offers students in the Research Master s unique opportunities to develop their own projects. ATTENTION AND HUMAN PERFORMANCE The focus of the Department of Cognitive Psychology is on attention: the ability to selectively process some information rather than other information. Specific research projects involve top-down and bottom-up control of visual selection, the relationship between attention and eye movements, visual search, visual short-term memory and cross-modal attention. Different approaches and techniques are used to investigate these topics. For example, performance is investigated by measuring reaction times, recording eye movements, recording EEG, MEG and fmri and the modelling of neural networks. In addition to basic research on attention, some activities are concerned with applied research in the areas of information processing, traffic behaviour and human decision making. DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER S At the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology, one line of research deals with studying the effects of non-pharmacological interventions on cognition, behaviour and the sleep-wake rhythm of older people with dementia. Non-pharmacological interventions include: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS), Cranial Electrostimulation (CES), Median Nerve Stimulation (MNS), and various types of physical activity. A second line of research focuses on the relationship between cognitive functioning and pain experience in patients with Alzheimer s disease. SKILLS AND TECHNIQUES BRAIN IMAGING Major brain imaging techniques: EEG, MEG, MRI, PET. PRACTICAL SKILLS FOR RESEARCHERS Methodological issues in cognitive and neuropsychological research and the necessary practical skills and experience. PROGRAMMING AND NEURAL NETWORKS Programming skills for experimentation and analysing data. Using computational modelling to explain cognitive processes.

6 BROADEN YOUR PERSPECTIVES WITH INTERNSHIPS Spending part of your studies on external traineeships and research projects is a good way to prepare for and familiarize yourself with the labour market and to expand your network. Internships can be arranged at our two research laboratories at VU University Amsterdam (the Department of Cognitive Psychology and the Department of Clinical Neuropsychology) or at a university or research institute in our national or international network. EXAMPLES MARC BOHLKEN, MASTER S STUDENT IN COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY I entered the programme with a background in Biomedical Sciences. I had always been especially interested in the neuroscientific subjects. My specific interest for human cognition is what led me to look into Master s programmes outside of my own faculty. The programme s primary attraction for me is the opportunity to develop research skills in a multidisciplinary environment. The programme really pulls together subjects ranging from medical neuroscience and cognitive psychology to clinical psychology. It creates a coherent whole that gets you ready for a position as a PhD student in a broad range of disciplines. INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN RESPONSE TO LOOKING AT SCARY PICTURES; DIFFERENCES IN BRAIN ACTIVITY? Observers pay more attention to pictures that provoke a certain emotion. For example, human observers are quicker at detecting an angry face than a neutral face, or a spider than a mushroom, and some people respond more dramatically to alarming images than others. Measuring brain activity may reveal where these differences come from. PHYSICAL ACTIVITY TO IMPROVE COGNITIVE AND EXECUTIVE FUNCTIONING IN ADHD, DEMENTIA AND ALZHEIMER S DISEASE There is a strong relationship between physical activity and cognitive function, especially executive function, in older people. The Department of Clinical Neuro - psychology is researching the extent to which people with ADHD and people suffering from dementia or Alzheimer s disease may benefit from aerobic physical activity.

7 LOOKING FURTHER CAREER PROSPECTS You will be trained to be a versatile and skilled researcher. You will have excellent prospects for a successful career in the Netherlands or abroad, in academia, at research institutes or in a clinical setting. There are also career opportunities for Cognitive Neuro - psychology researchers in health and pharmaceutical industries. POST-GRADUATE DEGREE PROGRAMMES Your Master s degree in Cognitive Neuropsychology will give you access to a number of PhD degree programmes. In fact, 70% of our graduates of the first year found a funded PhD position after completing the programme. For more information on PhD-programmes and Research Schools, please check with research institutes such as ONWA Neurosciences Amsterdam, the EPOS centre for graduate training and the William James Graduate School.

8 ADMISSION REQUIREMENTS This programme is primarily is intended for students who graduated with good grades and have a Bachelor s degree in Psychology, Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, Biology, Medicine or a related discipline. We require our students to be motivated and to have a genuine interest in research in the field of Cognitive Neuropsychology. The programme s admissions board will assess each application individually. LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS It is also essential that you have a good command of the English language. Non-native speakers need to present sufficient TOEFL or IELTS scores. Details can be found on the website ANNA KAISA SARKKA, MASTER S STUDENT IN COGNITIVE NEURO PSYCHOLOGY My master s thesis in Finland was in cognitive neuroscience and my interest in neuropsychology was growing. This programme seemed like a tailor-made fit. Now, at the end of this Master s, I feel that I have gained plenty of new skills and knowledge. The level of the studies has varied throughout the courses, since I was already familiar with some of the topics, while others proved to be quite challenging. The academic atmosphere was somewhat different here at VU University Amsterdam than what I was used to. Here the style of studying feels more structured. I first had to adjust to an educational environment with more guidance and supervision, but the structure has also been helpful in keeping up with the hectic and sometimes demanding nature of the programme.

9 MORE INFORMATION Visit our website for further information and a video introduction contact VU University Amsterdam Faculty of Psychology and Education Van der Boechorststraat BT Amsterdam T: +31 (0) (Ms. Carla Heldens) E: For general information about studying at VU University Amsterdam Visit the Master s Day in March! VU Marketing & Communications Department 21380_feb2011 Photo: M&C. Cover: HH Altforst ADHD; Marcel van den Bergh No rights may be derived from the contents of this brochure.

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