Course Syllabus

Affective Neuroscience:
Emotions, Cognition, and Behavior

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Semester & Location:

Summer 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 to Friday 10:40 – 12:10, 15:00 - 16:30

Location: 1E-510


Description of Course

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


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
  • 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 to pathological perspectives
  • Reflect upon the developmental milestones of emotions and their regulation in terms of behavior and neurological process
  • Explore emotions and the social context from an evolutionary perspective
  • 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: Theories of emotion and its cerebral correlates from a developmental perspective

Theories of emotions

Definition and classification

The development of Emotion

Social emotions and disorders

Interplay between cognition, emotions and behavior: the role of neuroscience


Theme 2: Emotions from elicitations to cognitive skills

Emotion and the body: from touch to vision

Emotion learning, memory and PTSD

Emotion and Olfaction: specific link to memory processes

Emotion and audition: from music to language

Emotion and attention: bias and top down effects

Emotion regulation and the prefrontal cortex


Theme 3: 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.


Examples of Readings:

Selected readings from the textbook:

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


Other Books: (selected chapters)

Kandel (2013): Principles of Neural Science, 5th edition,

Power, M. & Tim Dalgleis, T. (2008). Cognition and Emotion: From Order to Disorder.. Psychology Press: New York



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.

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.



Field Studies

1) Wednesday 12th of June afternoon:

Fotografiska Museum- Exploring how emotions are expressed in photographic images

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 chose a different couple of emotions. They 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) Tuesday, June 25th, 9:00 - 11:00am

Tammimies Lab at Karolinska Institute

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 us a tour of the genetic facilities at the Biomedicum center of Karolinska institute and give an introduction into genetic factors affecting NDDs and the techniques used to to study them.


Study Tour: Paris, France

From sensory modalities to social emotions: Study tour is an integral part of the class. We aim to experience first-hand different settings related to the class content: including high-end research lab and facilities, and clinical context. Especially in the summer session, we will inquire how emotions are elicited in different sensorial contexts including their deprivation, their subjective individual experience, the importance of current mood via induction and regulation strategies, and last but not least the impact of the different sensory modalities on social emotions.


For instance, the impact of sight on basic and complex emotions will be studied from the content of visits such as Dinner in the dark, tactile gallery museum visits, sensory deprivation tank experience, or music emotion elicitation.   Importantly, we will use and discuss scientific tools to describe and reflect upon the neural correlates and mechanisms related to each one of the visits. The discussion will open onto affective disorders and their specific psychological and neural correlates.


Paris has been the cradle of important scientific discoveries: Louis Pasteur, Paul Broca etc. Using an historical prism, we will reflect upon the evolution of scientific methods from Pasteur to nowadays i.e. neuroimaging including ultra-high-field MRI, machine learning algorithms or simultaneous EEG recording: how these technological revolutions changed our understanding of the brain affective processes?


In later classes, we will build on the knowledge from the study tour to reflect upon the bidirectional relationship between emotions, and different cognitive and sensory systems (olfaction, body, language, memory, music etc.). This tour will serve as an introduction and practical experience of the class content by exploring the interaction between different sensory modalities, including their deprivation, from an affective neuroscience perspective. Finally, this tour will link the multidimensionality of emotion (integration of the different modalities and their deprivation) to its contribution to social emotion and cognition including a pathological perspective.

  • Experience uni- vs. multimodal sensory input and reflect upon the related emotional components.
  • Discover and integrate class content with concrete everyday experience
  • Develop your understanding of social neuroscience and its relationship with emotions, moods and disorders
  • Engage in critical and informed discussions with researchers and challenge you current ideas.
  • Reflect upon the impact of affective and social neuroscience on societal challenges (artificial intelligence, remediation in psychiatry, education etc.)


Visits might include:

    Sensorial deprivation tanks: experience a moment without sensory stimulation, how does it affect your emotional well-being. Reflect upon therapeutic possibility behind this experience.

    Dinner in the dark: Experience a dinner completely in the dark. Taste without seeing what you eat, rely not anymore on vision but on all other sensory input. Reflect about the importance of visual inputs in your perception and emotions. Which cerebral networks have taken over? What happens in terms of emotion perception for blind people? Talk about cerebral plasticity.

     Museum visit and sensory deprivation: Visit a museum with and/or without a guide (such as the Louvre, Orsay Museum) while being sensory deprived, for instance blindfolded. Reflect upon the effect sight on emotions and mood but also what pieces of art are best memorized, which details are focused upon. Discuss the importance of emotion in memory and attentional processes.


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.

 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.


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 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. Slide presentations include graphs, pictures and illustrations necessary to understand the class but are not sufficient on their own. Students are expected to take notes complementing and explaining the slides. The slides are a support and should be treated as such and not as the main source of information for assignments. 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 after the respective classes.



This course is intensive course. In just three weeks, you will cover an extensive content and receive three credits. In order to merit this you should expect a high workload and intensive preparation for classes on a daily basis.



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  (individual)


Study Tour Pre-assignment: presentation of the visits  (group)


Study Tour Assignment: Mood diary and emotion regulation  (individual)


Quiz (individual)


Final Project: Integrative research report  (group)


  Final Project: Serious Board Game  (group)

           Emotion and the brain game




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


Descriptions of assignments

Active class participation (15%):

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. The grade is split into active participation in class, active participation in field studies and active participation in study tour. Class attendance is mandatory and will be reflected in this assignment grade, each unattended class will result in a 7% decrease of the grade. See Canvas for class participation grading.


 Assignment 1: Study Tour pre-assignment: Group presentation of the different visits: (10%)

Date: June 14th

You will be teamed in groups of 2 to 3 students and get assigned to one visit so that all visits are covered. You will create a short summary of the info you find on your assigned visit, write a short paragraph on how this visit relates to the content of the class and add a few critical questions that will be used as a inspiration to the discussion with our guests or with the class members after each visit. Each group will thus produce a maximum  1 page document  that will be bound together into a booket. This booklet ( in addition to the one provided by the teacher) will be used during the study tour. Each group will briefly (5 minutes) present the results of their search to the rest of the class on the Friday prior to departure.


Assignment 2: Study Tour Assignment: Mood Diary and emotion regulation strategies (15%)

Date: June 27th

Conduct a mood diary on yourself during the length of the study tour and analyze this diary.

 A Mood diary is a powerful tool used by psychiatrists, psychologists, researchers in clinical and research settings, but also everyday by people to get a record over time of their emotional status. After each visit, you will record your mood, emotions and noticeable events that might have triggered these emotions; add any additional information that you deem necessary for the understanding and analysis of these emotions.

You will rate your mood on a scale that you will chose; 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). At the end of the week, you will shortly and objectively summarize what you have logged in the diary. You will then analyze your diary with a focus on emotion regulation: which of the reappraisal or expressive suppression strategies have you used or might have wanted to use ad in which context, what are the advantages and disadvantages of these strategies and which cerebral network(s) is/are used by these. You will discuss these strategies in light of reading available on canvas (Cutuli 2014). This assignment will be discussed and used during the session 15 on Emotion regulation.


Assignment 3: Quiz  (15%)

Date: 24th of June

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.


Final project: Assignment 4 and 5

The final project aims to integrate the knowledge you acquired through this class in an innovative and playful way, i.e. by creating a serious board game on the topic of “Emotions and the Brain” and consists of two parts: See Assignment 4 and 5 below.

 In this group project, you will be teamed up by 3 to 4 and create a serious board game that will cover all the topics developed in class. Ultimately, through this project, you will lead a reflection on the role of emotions in the learning process while integrating knowledge acquired in class.

Assignment 4 is  the integrative research report, which aims  to: (a) summarize  the research process leading to the conception of the game, and (b) to reflect upon the role of emotions emanating from play session into the learning process. Assignment 5 consists of the serious game creation process and evaluation. 


Assignment  4: Final Project: Integrative research report   25%

Date: 1st of July

The integrative research reports aims to summarize and integrate the content of this class. Specifically, you will explain in detail the topics that your game will develop, both from a neuroscience perspective but also from a game design perspective. This reflection on your game is designed so that you integrate the effect of pedagogical tools on knowledge dissemination and consolidation. Both form your experience in designing the game but also playing the other group game: what are the effects of playing and the emotions elicited (such as epistemological emotions) on the learning process from a cognitive and affective neuroscience perspective. Scientific papers, experiments will need to support the different points developed through the paper.

You will need to discuss how building up a game is affecting your learning process, how are emotions playing a role in this specific experience regarding the learning outcome of this class. From a dissemination perspective, you will need to discuss how the board game tool is well suited to disseminate the affective neuroscience topic. You will also need to explain the iterative research process leading to your final board game. Why did you chose these topics, how are they best conveyed by your board game.

Your team will have to include game choice motivation, game mechanics, choice of content in terms of knowledge, and reflections upon the learnings, benefits and limitations of using serious gaming as a dissemination tool for others and learning tool for yourself.



Assignment 5: Final project ‘Emotion and the Brain’ Serious Game  20%

Date: 1st of July  

Groups of 3 to 4 students will be tasked to develop a serious game covering the class content. You will be able to choose form a variety of games (board games, card games, role playing games, video games). Work on the game and the reports will span over each class using project time every day.


You will have 30 minutes at the end of each class, where the classroom is available for you to work, , on your group project. In addition to this “pre-organized” unsupervised time, .  Constructive peer review feedback is crucial to any group project and will be graded according to a rubric. The final grading of the game will be conducted both by peer review from the other groups, using pre-defined criteria, as well as by the teacher. The final session of the class will be dedicated to a play session in order to evaluate each final project, which will be complemented by a short presentation (10min max) of the main findings summarized in the integrative research paper.




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 -

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