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M.Sc. Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience

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Developmental/ Evolutionary Neuroscience

The module will entail a comprehensive overview of the neuroanatomy of human and non-human primates. The focus is on the development of the neural substrates involved in social-cognitive, emotional and communicative skills of humans in comparison to monkeys and great apes, in evolutionary times (phylogeny) as well as individual life times (ontogeny). Discussions will cover the qualities as well as methodological and ethical limits of the application of neurocognitive methods to children (e.g., eye-tracking, infrared spectroscopy, electroencephalography and functional magnetic resonance imaging), as well as invasive procedures used with non-human primates (e.g., single cell recordings and lesions). The co-evolution of brain and behaviour as well as the influence of the social environment on the development of children and nonhuman primates will be analyzed and the resulting similarities, or lack thereof, between humans and other primates will be discussed. 

Themes of the module include:

- Language evolution and language acquisition including the lateralization of functions

- Mirror neurons and their underlying impact on socio-cognitive skills

- Social bonding

- Empathy and emotion regulation

- Self-concepts and awareness

All of which will be discussed with respect to the underlying neural structures responsible as well as the related neurocognitive processes. 

At the end of the module students will have an in depth knowledge of neuro-cognitive psychology with an emphasis on the evolution and development of neural correlates of socio-cognitive and emotional skills. They will know several core theoretical concepts, empirical findings as well as practical applications of a variety of neurocognitive procedures with a special focus on their use with children and non-human primates. They will be able to, based on their acquired knowledge of brain anatomy and primate development, develop arguments regarding the similarities and differences of social-cognitive, communication and emotional skills of people and their closest relatives. 

The module is a lecture series where students are also expected to present scientific literature of their choice to the class.