Course Syllabus

Neuroscience of Emotion

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Semester & Location:

Spring 2024 - DIS Stockholm

Type & Credits:

Core Course - 3 credits

Study Tours:

Sweden: Umeå
France: Paris

Major Disciplines:

Neuroscience, Psychology


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

Corequisite Course

Neuroscience of Emotion Lab

Faculty Members:

Élodie Cauvet (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact

Department email address

Academic support:

Time & Place

Mondays/Thursdays 8:30 - 9:50,

Location: 1E-510


Course Description

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 neuroscience of emotions
  • 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 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 neuroscience of emotion 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


Human emotions and nature


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

Articles: (included but not restricted to)

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

Please note that the field studies from the Neuroscience of emotion class and lab are complementary to each other.

1) How are emotions represented in photography? Representing and experiencing emotions

We will visit the Fotografiska museum of Stockholm. Students 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). 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. 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 students 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 emotion terms
  • Assess individual knowledge in terms of: emotion psychological constructs, psychological and cognitive models, neural representations
  • Introduce the class content
  • Discuss class expectations


2)  Experiences around smell, taste and emotion: Museum of New Experiences and discussion.

We will first go together at the museum of new experiences and you will get to try out different olfactory and tasty stimulation. After the visit (between 60 and 90min), we will gather in a café to discuss the neuroscience behind your emotional and sensitive experiences.


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 the elicitation of emotions by different mediums as well as their subjective experience. Importantly, we will learn and use scientific objective description of their neural correlates and mechanisms.


Core Course Week - Umeå, Sweden

Expressing and experiencing emotions: Disorders and Remediation

Examples of activities might include:

    Visit of genetic labs and discussion about the genetics of Affective Disorders

    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 and development

    Visit of internet psychiatry lab and discussion


Long Study Tour - Paris, France

From sensory modalities and their deprivation to social emotions

Some examples of learning objectives:

  • 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 emotion regulation strategies and the 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.)


Guest Lecturers

Janina Seubert is a senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet. She is leading a research team within the Perception Lab that conducts experimental work on odor-taste integration. Her other projects investigate the role of olfactory decline on health in the elderly using longitudinal population data, as well as the processing of olfactory reward in anorexia nervosa and binge eating disorders. She will talk in this course about the link between olfaction and emotion.

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.

Joshua Juvrud  obtained his PhD in Psychology from Uppsala University. As a research psychologist, his work has focused on the ways that novel techniques in research (eye-tracking, pupil dilation, virtual reality) can be used to assess how children and adults perceive and interpret people, emotions, and actions. Josh focuses this research in two fields. In developmental psychology at the Child and Babylab in Uppsala, he seeks to understand how children learn about their world and the social cognitive development of face perception and socialization processes such as gender, race, and ethnicity. In games research at the Games & Society Lab at the Department of Game Design in Visby, Gotland, his work examines the psychology of people, their actions, and emotions in game development, player engagement, learning, and immersion to understand better how different game players (with different personalities, traits, and experiences) interact with various game mechanisms and are, in turn, affected by game experiences. With DIS since 2020.



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 deepening your understanding. 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

Active participation: Students are expected to participate actively in class. This includes taking part in the discussions, asking or answering questions. There are no stupid questions and I encourage and reward student expression. Opinions can be expressed as such and scientific sources to discussion points are always rewarded. You are expected to behave professionally and treat each other with empathy. This is a crucial skill that as a teacher I nurture and cherish which greatly helps communication, learning and in general well-being.

Absences: Students have to inform the teacher in advance in case they cannot attend a class. Missing a class unexcused will affect the active participation grade.

Preparation to the class: To engage with the class material properly, you are expected to come to class prepared. To this end, you are expected to spend 6 hours per week outside of class time with the different materials. This includes but isn't restricted to:

  • answering online quizzes before the class.
  • read and understand the required readings before class. Think about what are the crucial points in the reading, what did you find super interesting, what is still unclear. Take your own notes so that we can discuss and answer your questions in class. This will also serve as a start for creating your own study guide.

In class and after: Slides include graphs, pictures and illustrations necessary to understand the class. Students are expected to take notes complementing and explaining the slides. Slides are a support and should be treated as such and not as the main source of info required. Class content need to be written down individually by the students. Main discussion will be summarized by the students and transcribed on white board and pictures of these will be available on Canvas in 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



Long Study Tour Assignment: Mood diary and Emotion regulation discussion






Final project: integrative research paper



Final project: Board game creation





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


Descriptions of assignments

Active class participation: Individual

Activity in discussions and group work. Active participation and engagement include among others 1- asking questions related to readings and material presented in class, 2- taking part in discussions, 3- being active during field trips, study tours and guest lectures. Active participation also means taking the initiative. Active participation takes into account the capacity to lead discussions during some classes that will be mentioned beforehand.

Quizzes: Active participation also includes taking the mandatory quizzes that are used to prepare the lectures. These quizzes will not be graded as such, but should be used by the students as their memo for the key points. Quizzes are present for a subset of the classes and not all. They will be taken at home and used by the students to help extract the main points of their reading. The teacher will review the answers in class and use them to tackle the most crucial, and less understood sections.

Study tours: Finally, active participation also has a component for each of the study tours (core course week and long study tour) which will take into account the contextualization and presentation of the student assigned visit. Before visits (and departure for the trips), students will be assigned to some of the visits and will have to conduct a short research on the visit. 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 visits on top of the booklet delivered by the teacher. Further, before each visit, the assigned group will orally contextualize the visit.

Core Course Week Assignment: Affective Disorders : Group

Groups of two students will be assigned to an 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 includes 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 events and visits with the state of the art research on the disorder. In addition of the presentation, students will have to hand in a visual summary (power point presentation slides) that will summarize and integrate their knowledge of the disorder. This content will be used for the midterm exam. During class presentations, students are expected to ask questions and discuss with their peers. The involvement in the discussion corresponds to 20% of this grade.


Midterm : Individual

A mix of short answered questions (between 7 and 10) and short essays. Short answer questions will be a combination of information recall and explanation of concepts and theories. 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.

You will have 2 trials for this midterm both taken at home on your own computer; 80min each. You will have one dedicated day when you can take the midterm, at any time during the day. Plan for 80min uninterrupted with an internet connection. You will take the tests without any materials, just rely on your brain. The first try isn't graded and the answers are reviewed the next class. The second try is graded (and not mandatory if you are happy with your first answers). In the same way, you will have one day when this second try is accessible. I rely again on you completing the midterm without any additional material. The goal of this process is to relieve the stress of an exam while ensuring you have the best long term memory of the course content.


Long Study Tour Assignment: Mood diary and emotion regulation : Individual

Mood Diary and emotion regulation: 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 record over time their emotional status. After each visits, you will take a few minutes to 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 should rate your mood on a scale, name the different emotions you felt, add your energy level and the amount of sleep in hours since they might influence emotional processing. Log the elements in the visits (or outside if you would like to share). In the end of the week, you will shortly and objectively summarize the week, then analyze your diary with a focus on emotion regulation, think about reappraisal strategies or expressive suppression or any others, which strategies did you use or might have wanted to use?  Check Cutuli et al. 2014 paper available on canvas for more complementary info on the strategies as well as the course on emotion regulation.


Final project: Serious game and the role of emotions in learning processes. : Group

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, including as well a summary of the research process leading to the conception of the game.

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 in on advancements.


Final Project, part 1: Integrative research report  

The integrative research report 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 from 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 from cognitive and neuroscience of emotion 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: 1- game design and 2- 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 neuroscience of emotion topic.

Final project, part 2:  ‘Emotion and the Brain’ Serious Game  

Each 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 semester. The involvement and process of board game creation will be graded by the faculty. The final board game will be presented during the showcase. During the last class session, students will present shortly (10min max) the main findings from their integrative research paper.


Use of laptops and phones 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 for cerebral attention 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 required 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:

 DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -

Course Summary:

Date Details Due