Course Syllabus

Affective Neuroscience:
Emotions, Cognition, and Behavior

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Semester & Location:

Summer 2022 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Neuroscience, Psychology


One course in neuroscience, physiological psychology, or biological psychology at university level

Faculty Members:

Élodie Cauvet  (current students please use the Canvas Inbox) 

Academic support: 

Program Director:

Suman Ambwani -

Time & Place:

Monday to Friday, 9:30 – 13:00 or 13:00 - 16:30 depending on the days,   Location: 1E-510


Course Description

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
  • 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:

Module 1: Theories of emotion and its cerebral correlates from a developmental perspective

Theories of emotions

Definition and classification

The example of Social Emotions

The development of Emotion

Module 2: Affective disorders

Perception alteration and everyday life difficulties

Genetics of affective and social disorders

Remediation: clinical applications  

Module 3: Emotions - mutual relationship between elicitation and cognitive skills

Emotion and the body: from touch to vision

Emotion and audition: language and music

Emotion and Olfaction: specific link to memory processes

Emotion and consciousness

Emotion regulation and the prefrontal cortex

Module 4: Variability in emotion

Sex and Gender differences


Cultural differences

Emotions in non human animals

Embedded within the different topics, students will acquire critical knowledge in neuroanatomy, hormonal and autonomic nervous systems, neuroimaging, physiological and psychological tools used in affective neuroscience research



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.

Chapter 1: Models of emotion: The Affective Neuroscience Approach, D. Sander

Chapter 3: A Two-Way Road: Efferent and Afferent Pathways of Autonomic Activity in Emotion, N. Harrison, S. Kreibig, H. Critchley

Chapter 4: Electro- and Magneto-Encephalography in the Study of Emotion, A. Keil

Chapter 5: PET and fMRI: Basic Principles and Applications in Affective Neuroscience, J. Armony, J. Han

Chapter 6: Lesion Studies in Affective Neuroscience, L. Fellows

Chapter 8: Bodily Expressions of Emotion: Visual Cuest and Neural Mechanisms, A. Atkinson

Chapter 10: Examining Emotion Perception and Elicitation via Olfaction, A. Mohantry, J. Gottfried

Chapter 11: Emotional Voices: The Tone of the (True) Feelings: C. Brück, B. Kreifelts, T Ethofer, D Wildgruber

Chapter 12: Emotion and Music, S. Koelsch

Chapter 15: Top-Down Attention and the Processing of Emotional Stimuli, L. Pessoa, L. Oliveira, M. Pereira

Chapter 16: Emotion Regulation, K. Luan Phan, C. Sripada

Chapter 23: Empathy from the Perspective of Social Neuroscience, O. Klimecki, T. Singer

Chapter 26: Sex Differences in Emotion, A. Schirmer

Chapter 27: Development of Affective Circuitry,E. Viding, C. Sebastian, E. McCrory

Chapter 28: Emotion and aging: Linking the Neural Mechanisms to Psychological Theories, P. St Jacquest, A. Winecoff, R. Cabeza

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 - Fotografiska Museum

How are emotions represented in photography? Representing and experiencing emotions

We will visit the Fotografiska museum of Stockholm. You will team up and go through the different exhibitions for approx. 90min. Questions will be used to guide the experience and allow for reflection. These reflections will be discussed together right afterwards around a Fika.

Each student in the group will select pieces of art that depict one different emotion, analyze how these emotions are rendered, (specifically identifying which features were critical for this emotional recognition). You will further reflect upon the individual emotions that were elicited by these pieces. Specifically, you need to pay attention to your own feelings but also to your physiological responses. Think that these emotional responses can be related to other moments in your life. Reflect on how these responses might have affected your decisions, actions etc. After the visit, we will meet for a Fika (Swedish tradition to gather around coffee and pastries)  to discuss and present your reflections and findings in order to eventually 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


2- Board Game creation workshop

Through a fun 3 hour workshop, you will start exploring the relationship between emotions, playing and learning.

To guide you through the final assignment, namely creating a board game on the topic of affective neuroscience, you will kickstart the creation of your own board game with a professional board game designer. Concretely, you will work iteratively through the process of creating a board game.


Guest Lecturer

Kathinka Evers, Professor of Philosophy is senior researcher in philosophy at the Centre for Research Ethics & Bioethics (CRB) at Uppsala University and Professor ad honoram at the Universidad Central de Chile. Her research focuses on philosophy of mind, neurophilosophy, bioethics and neuroethics. She directs the teaching and research on neuroethics at Uppsala University, where she started the first courses in the subject. Since 2013, she leads the neuroethics and philosophy work in the Human Brain Project. 


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 going more in depth. I believe that 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 might 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 in 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. Presentations include graphs, pictures and illustrations necessary to understand the class. 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. Class content, delivered orally by the teacher, needs to be written down individually by the students. Main discussions must be summarized by the students and transcribed on white board.



The course consists of lectures, discussions, assignments at home and in class, as well as field studies. Students’ attendance to the classes, visits and their active participation in the discussions are mandatory, and taken into account in the evaluation. In discussions and assignments, 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)


Affective disorder presentation (group)


Quiz (individual)


Final Project: Integrative research report  (group)


  Final Project: Serious Board Game  (group)

           Emotion and the brain game




 Detailed assignment description and rubrics are available via Canvas and in-class


 Descriptions of assignments

Active class participation (20%)

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 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. Just being present to all classes will be awarded with a C. You need to actively work to increase your grade.


Affective Disorders Presentation (20%)

Groups of three students will be assigned to an affective disorder that they will need to research on. The goal of this assignment is to be able to provide the class with a comprehensive presentation of the disorder and integrate the content of the course with the state of the art research on the disorder. In addition of the presentation, that will take place, 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. This content might be used for the quiz. During class presentations, students are expected to ask questions and discuss with their peers (20% of the grade).


Quiz  (20%)

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: Serious game and the role of emotions in learning processes.  (40%)

The final project aims to integrate the knowledge acquired through this class in an innovative and playful way. In group, you will create a serious board game on the topic of “Emotions and the Brain” covering as many topics developed in class as possible.

The assignment consists of two parts:

1- an integrative research report on the role of emotions emanating from play sessions into the learning process (b), including as well a summary of the research process leading to the conception of the game (a).

2- the creation of a serious board game and evaluation of its use.

You will have to work on your own for this project. Dedicated time through the semester will allow some in-class check up on advancements.

Final Project, part 1: Integrative research report   (20%)

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 will integrate the effect of pedagogical tools on knowledge dissemination and consolidation. Both form your experience in designing this game but also playing other games: what are the effects of playing on the learning process, how are emotions used in this context. Discuss it from cognitive and affective neuroscience perspectives. References to scientific papers and experiments are required to support the different points developed through the paper.

More concretely, the paper can be split into 2 sections: game design and reflection on the emotions elicited by board game as an effective learning tool.

1- Game design should include a discussion of the iterative research process leading to your final board game. Why did you chose the topics, how are they best conveyed by your board game.

a) the game choice, b) what the game mechanics tries to achieve, c) the choice of content in terms of knowledge dissemination (think about your target group, your goal when designing the game),

2- Emotion in serious games and their effect on learning section should discuss the cognitive and cerebral mechanisms of learning and how emotions play a role in this process. Include also benefits and limitations of using serious gaming as a dissemination tool for others and learning tool for yourself. How building up a game is affecting/has affected 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 if/how the board game tool is well suited to disseminate the affective neuroscience topic.

Final project, part 2:  ‘Emotion and the Brain’ Serious Game  (20%)

The student group will be tasked to develop a serious game covering the class content. They will be able to choose form a variety of games (board games, card games, role playing games, video games). They will work on the game development through the summer term. The involvement and process of board game creation will be graded by the faculty. The final board game will be played together before the concluding dinner.



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.


Use of laptops and phone in class

Based on the latest research on the topic, the only use of laptops or phones that is beneficial to the learning process is if it is solely used as a learning tool, namely taking notes, or taking the quizzes. However, most of the time, it is extremely hard (to to cerebral attentional processes to ignore all other enticement that these devices provide. If you cannot mute/ignore non class related tools/processes, then it has a detrimental effect on learning. As such, I recommend using your laptop only for taking notes in class (or specifically asked class related tasks), any other uses will not be accepted.


Academic Regulations

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


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Course Summary:

Date Details Due