Course Syllabus

Affective Neuroscience:
Emotions, Cognition, and Behavior

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2019 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Core Course Study Tours:

Paris, France

Major Disciplines:

Neuroscience, Psychology

Faculty Members:

Élodie Cauvet -

Program Director:

Carla Caetano -

Time & Place

Monday/Thursday 8:30 – 9:50,

Location: 1E-510


Description of Course

Prerequisite: One semester of neuroscience, physiological psychology, or biological psychology at university level

Co-requisite: Enrollment in Affective Neuroscience Research Lab


How do we understand the interplay of human emotions and their neural networks? This course applies findings from the interdisciplinary field of neuroscience and the psychological study of cognition, emotion, and personality. Basic, complex, and social emotions are explored from the perspective of, for example, the subjective experience of emotion, non-conscious processes, how emotions are interpreted, expressed, or regulated. Affective systems, neural networks, and their relationship to cognitive processes such as attention, learning, memory, and decision making are addressed. Where relevant, human brain imaging findings, pathological conditions, treatment and cultural perspectives are considered.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Discuss the main theoretical perspectives in affective neuroscience
  • Contrast different emotions on their physiological and neurological correlates
  • Critically analyze the impact of emotions on cognitive processes, including - but not only - higher order functions
  • Integrate the different levels of emotion processing (cognitive, psychological and neurological) and their interplay within multimodal models
  • Compare and discuss the alterations of affect and its regulation in terms of cognitive and neural processes from typical and pathological perspective
  • Reflect upon the developmental milestones of emotions and their regulation in terms of behavior and neurological process
  • Present, discuss and criticize scientific papers
  • Critically evaluate research methods used in the affective neuroscience field


The following topics will be covered during the course:

Theme 1: Key elements in neurobiology of emotion

Neuroanatomy and cerebral organization of emotion systems

Hormonal systems

Autonomic nervous systems

Theme 2: Foundations: theories of emotion in cognitive psychology

Overview of cognitive functions

Cognitive and psychological theories of emotion: the role of neuroscience  

Interplay of emotion and cognitive domains

Theme 3: Methods in affective neuroscience research


Physiological measures

Psychological measures

Theme 4: Emotions: from basics to complex and their cognitive and neural correlates

Positive emotions: excitement, pleasure, desire and their relation to happiness

Negative emotions: Anger, disgust, fear and sadness

Social emotions: moral, empathy

Theme 5: External antecedents of emotions: selected topics

Emotion and the body: from touch to olfaction

Emotion and audition: from music to language

Theme 6: Emotion and cognition

Emotion and attention: bias and top down effects

Emotion and memory

Emotion regulation and the prefrontal cortex         

Theme 7: Variability in emotion

Sex differences


Cultural differences



Élodie Cauvet obtained her PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, from Pierre & Marie Curie University in Paris (France). Her research interest started with language acquisition in infants leading to the study of the cerebral processing of language and music in adults. She became interested in neurodevelopmental disorders starting with developmental dyslexia then expending into autism spectrum disorders as well as ADHD. She is using techniques from psychology as well as neuroimaging in her research; this includes MRI (anatomical and functional) as well as EEG and eye tracking. She has been conducting her latest research at Karolinska Institutet Center for Neuro-developmental Disorders (KIND). Her interests include social cognitive skills, empathy and emotion processing within the whole spectrum of functioning from typicality to disorders such as ASD. With DIS since 2016.



            Required textbook

Armony, J.  & P. Vuilleumier (Eds.), (2013) The Cambridge Handbook of Human Affective Neuroscience; Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.

Books: (selected chapters)

Kandel (2013): Principles of Neural Science, 5th edition, chapter 48, Emotions and Feelings and chapter 47, The Autonomic Motor System and the Hypothalamus.


Aviezer, H., Hassin, R. R., Ryan, J., Grady, C., Susskind, J., Anderson, A., ... & Bentin, S. (2008). Angry, disgusted, or afraid? Studies on the malleability of emotion perception. Psychological science, 19(7), 724-732.

de Gelder, B., De Borst, A. W., & Watson, R. (2015). The perception of emotion in body expressions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 6(2), 149-158.

Zou, L. Q., van Hartevelt, T. J., Kringelbach, M. L., Cheung, E. F., & Chan, R. C. (2016). The neural mechanism of hedonic processing and judgment of pleasant odors: An activation likelihood estimation meta-analysis. Neuropsychology, 30(8), 970.

Calvo, M. G., Gutiérrez-García, A., & Del Líbano, M. (2018). What makes a smiling face look happy? Visual saliency, distinctiveness, and affect. Psychological research, 82(2), 296-309.

Oatley, K., & Johnson-Laird, P. N. (2014). Cognitive approaches to emotions. Trends in cognitive sciences, 18(3), 134-140.


Field Studies

1) Wednesday, January 16th 9:30 – 13:00

How are emotions represented in photography? Representing and experiencing emotions

We will visit the Fotografiska museum of Stockholm. Students will team up in two’s and will go through the different exhibitions for approx. 1.5 hours. Questions will be used to guide the experience and allow for reflection. These reflections will be discussed together afterwards.

Each group will be assigned a different couple of emotions. Each group will select pieces of art that depict these emotions, analyze how these emotions are rendered, (specifically identifying which features were critical for this emotional recognition). Each student will further reflect upon the individual emotions that were elicited by these pieces. Specifically, each student will need to pay attention to their own feelings but also to the physiological responses individually experienced. These emotional responses can be related to other moments in life when similar responses were experienced and how these responses might have affected decisions, actions etc. After the visit, we will meet at the café of the fotografiska museum for a Fika (Swedish tradition to gather around coffee and pastries) with it’s beautiful view of Stockholm. The discussion at the café (with pastries) is for each group to present their reflections and findings in order to define the emotions and their physiological, psychological and neural correlates. This field study constitutes the introduction and presentation of the class.

Learning objectives:

  • Define different emotions
  • Assess individual knowledge in terms of: emotion psychological constructs, psychological and cognitive models, neural representations
  • Introduce the class content
  • Discuss class expectations
  • Ice-breaker: meet fellow students and teacher in a cozy location


2) Wednesday, February 20th 13:00 – 17:00

The Fisher Lab, Stockholm university

The lab focus on different aspects of emotional, social, and cognitive information processing, and how age, gender, genetics, personality, and sleep deprivation affect these processes.


Study Tours

Study tours are an integral part of the class. Class content will be reviewed and integrated with real word settings (research, clinical etc.) and experience.

The goal is to experience first-hand different settings related to the class content: including high-end research lab and facilities and  clinical venues. We will inquire how emotions are elicited by different mediums and their subjective individual experience and importantly use also scientific objective description of their neural correlates and mechanisms.


Core Course Week and Short Study Tour: Göteborg

Expressing and experiencing emotions: Disorders and Remediation

Improvisation workshop: "Acting = Fake emotions?”  

Experience how to display emotions and group social interaction from an acting point of view. Discuss the characteristics of such emotional displays from the emitter and receiver perspectives. Learn about the physiological and neurological processes elicited by acting/faking emotions and about group interactions. Practical experience.

Music therapy: Communication, contact and collaboration: grounding experiences in physio-music-therapy within psychiatry

Anna-Karin Kuuse, is a music therapist and Anna Behn is a Physiotherapist in Gothenburg. They have been working together in an Adult Psychiatric Outpatient Unit with groups in Physio-music-therapy. Within these groups, they tackle grounding, communication, contact and collaboration. The work they developed is adequate for several clinical groups. This workshop will initiate discussions about different treatments and resources.  


Serotonin, SSRI in relation to anxiety and depression: Elias Eriksson: Lecture overview of pharmacological treatment of depression with focus on SSRI. Discussion about the controversy of the efficacy of antidepressant. (to be confirmed)


The Science behind emotions: link with different fields including species comparison: Visit of the Universeum of Gothenburg.Discover, explicit and discuss the relationship emotions and affect maintain with other scientific fields (for instance health, or life in space etc.). Visit a typical scientific place in Göteborg.


In Stockholm, 7th and 8th of February

Genetics of Affective Disorders: Visit of the bioclinicum and Tammimies lab with lecture on genetics of affective disorders.


Rück Lab: Research on OCD and related disorders at Karolinska Institutet (to be confirmed)

The lab focuses on internet-based CBT, OCD and related disorders including hoarding and body image problems. Another research focus is the relationship between genetic variation and response to psychological treatment.


Long Study Tour: Paris, France

More details in the study tour booklet.

Guest Lecturers

Monica Siquieros is a psychologist and a PhD student at the Center for Neurodevelopmental Disorders at Karolinska Institutet. In her PhD research, she aims to investigate the contribution of genetic and environmental factors to individual differences in cognitive measures associated to Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder in children and infants combining eye-tracking, EEG and a twin design.


Kristiina Tammimies is a senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet. Her research aims to understand how genetic factors contribute to the etiology of neurodevelopmental disorders (NDDs) and how these factors translate into biological pathways affecting brain development using genome-wide techniques such as whole genome sequencing. Here, Kristiina will give an introduction into genetic factors affecting NDDs and the techniques used to to study them.


Lisa Espinoza is a PhD student at the Emotion Lab of Karolinska Institute. Her research creates a bridge between clinical field and experimental research by investigating how social interaction (in the form of social support) could affect emotional memory after an aversive experience.



Refer to the co-requisite syllabus for all details


Approach to teaching

I am an enthusiastic teacher whose goal is to develop your curiosity, sense of questioning and critical thinking. As such, I encourage asking questions whether for clarification or for deeper understanding. There is no such things as bad questions: what appears trivial might actually turn into the most interesting and insightful questions.

Each class include both lectures by the teacher and discussions led by the students.  We will develop and reflect upon the emotions, mood and their typical and atypical correlates from different descriptive scales: physiological, psychological, cognitive and neural. Classes’ content relies on the readings. Content of the readings is expected to nourish the discussions and will not be developed in details during the class. However, any unclear areas, pointed out by students’ questions, will be reviewed in class. 


Expectations of the students

Students are expected to be involved in their studies and are responsible for them. In addition to being present in class, having read the required readings and handing in assignments at the due time (all mandatory), students are expected to participate actively in class and to create a lively and positive learning environment. This includes (but is not restricted to) participating in the discussions and asking questions to both the teacher and peers.

Students are responsible for their learning. This implies taking notes from the lecture and summarizing the content of both lectures and discussions. Presentations include graphs, pictures and illustrations necessary to understand the class. Students are expected to take notes complementing and explaining the slides. The presentations  are a support and should be treated as such and not as the main source of information. Class content delivered orally by the teacher need to be written down individually by the students. Main discussions must be summarized by the students and transcribed on white board. A picture of these will be available on Canvas for the respective classes.



The course consists of lectures, discussions and assignments at home and in class as well as field studies, core course week and long study tour. Students’ attendance of the classes, visits, tours and their active participation in the discussions are mandatory and taken into account in the evaluation. In discussions and assignments (in class or in tours), students are required to demonstrate that they read and understood the required literature. They should be able to integrate their knowledge to discuss in depth research questions and topics. Showing independent and critical thinking is expected.




Active Class Participation


Core Course Week Assignment: affective disorders

15%  (5% + 10%)

Long Study Tour Assignment: Mood diary and Emotion reulation

15%  (5% + 10%)



Class topic presentation     

       Group oral presentation



       Integrative Paper (group)


Final Exam




 Detailed assignment description and rubrics will be available via Canvas and in-class


Descriptions of assignments

Active class participation (10%):

The student is active in discussions and group work. Active participation and engagement includes asking questions related to readings and material presented in the class and taking part in discussions as well as being active during field trips, study tours and guest lectures. Active participation also means taking the initiative. Attendance is mandatory and will be reflected in this assignment grade. See Canvas for class participation grading.


Core Course Week Assignment: Affective Disorders (5% + 10%)


Date: January 31st

Presentation of the visits (oral + visual summary) - 5%: Before departure, students will be grouped in two's or three's and be assigned to one of the visits. They will have to conduct a short research on the visit that they will orally present to the rest of the class on 01/31. They will produce a short descriptive summary including topics related to the class as well as potential questions to ask during the visit. All short visual visit summary (max 1 page each) will be stapled together and handed in to the whole class to be used during the visit on top of the booklet delivered by the teacher. 


Date: February 8th

Students will grouped in two’s or three‘s and be assigned to one affective disorder. Students will have to pay specific attention during the visits and lectures for their assigned disorder in order to learn and ask as many relevant questions as possible. This include preparing discussion topics and/or questions in advance of the academic visits.The goal is to be able, by the end of the core course week, to provide the class with a comprehensive presentation of the disorder and integrate the content of the core course week with the state of the art research on the disorder. In addition of the group presentation, that will take place on the last day of the week (Feb. 8th), students will have to hand in a visual summary (power point presentation slides, poster, graphs) that will summarize and integrate their knowledge of the disorder. Students are expected to ask questions and discuss with the other groups, the content of which will be taken into account in their grade.


Study Tour Assignment: Long Tour (5% + 10%)

Date: March 21st

Presentation of the visits (oral + visual summary) - 5%: Before departure, students will be grouped in two's or three's and be assigned to one of the visits. They will have to conduct a short research on the visit that they will orally present to the rest of the class on 03/21. They will produce a short descriptive summary including topics related to the class as well as potential questions to ask during the visit. All short visual visit summary (max 1 page each) will be stapled together and handed in to the whole class to be used during the visit on top of the booklet delivered by the teacher. 

Date: April 4th

Mood Diary - 10%: use and implications in emotion regulation (5 pages max) Conduct a mood diary on yourself during the length of the study tour and analyze it. Mood diary is a powerful tool used by psychiatrists, psychologists, researchers but also everyday people to get record over time emotional status. After each visits, you will record your mood, emotions and noticeable events that might have triggered these emotions, add any additional info that you deem necessary to the understanding and analysis of your emotions. You can rate your mood on a scale, name the different emotions you felt, add your energy level and the hours of sleep you got since they might influence emotional processing. Login the elements in the visits (or outside if you would like to share). In the end of the week, you will shortly summarize the week objectively and analyze your diary with a focus on emotion regulation with reappraisal strategies (or expressive suppression) that you used or might have wanted to use in light of Cutuli 2014 paper available on canvas.


Midterm (15%)

Date: February 21st 

Short answered questions (between 7 and 10) and two short essays. Short answer questions will be a combination of information recall and explanation of concepts and theory. Short essays will summarize knowledge on a specific topic covered in class and will require integration of class content. This can include describing emotional processing at neural level in a concrete everyday life situation, or proposing an experiment to answer a research question and the expected results.


Class topic presentation (25%)

group presentation (10%) + Integrative paper – Group (15%)

Date: Variable across groups

Students will be grouped in two’s or three’s and will be assigned to one of the themes from classes 12 to 16. Students will have to prepare an oral presentation on this topic (20-30minutes), based on a research paper including a discussion theme with their fellow students. The oral presentation will be graded as a group and the goal is to present the state of the art on this topic as well as the current burning research questions. The group presentation will be complemented by a group paper (four pages, excluding title page and references) integrating the presented information and exploring in depth a subtopic (one research question) in relation to the presented topic. The teacher must have previously approved the research question. Presentation dates and topics will be assigned randomly during class at least 2 weeks before the first presentation. After the presentation, the slides will be handed in. Group grades will take into account the slides (quality and readability), the oral presentation, the information presented (quality of the topic search and organization), and the lead of the following discussion.

The group paper will be handed in 1 week after the last presentation and will be graded according to the rubric, based on the quality of the research papers presented, the integration of knowledge in exploring a new question within the theoretical frameworks discussed in class, constructive criticism of the presented data, coherency  and structure.


Final Exam (20%)

Date: Monday, April 15th          14:50 - 16:50


Short answer questions, short essays and multiple-choice questions will be included in order to cover the content of the whole class. Integration of knowledge within theoretical framework is expected as well as related to the latest research questions discussed in class.


Academic Regulations  

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

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