Neuro-Cognitive Psychology

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Neuro-Cognitive Psychology

Since its establishment as a scientific discipline, Psychology has been concerned with the explanation and prediction of normal and disordered human behavior and experience. Over the past two decades, basic issues (e.g., how does memory work?) have been approached increasingly not only using the methods and concepts of experimental psychology, but also those of the neuro-sciences. For example, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows for the “observation” of brain processes involved in specific psychological operations (e.g., a search in memory). As a consequence of these developments, an innovative, interdisciplinary research and educational field has emerged, which, depending on the point of focus, has been termed "Cognitive Neuroscience" or "Neuro-Cognitive Psychology".

Special Features of the NCP study program

The Neuro-cognitive Psychology program

  • is an English-language study program designed for a selected group of outstanding students.
  • is taught by leading scientists in their fields, both at the University of Munich (home institution) and at national and international (European) partner institutions.
  • has a major focus on attentional and executive control of vision and action. is interdisciplinary in focus, integrating state-of-the-art theoretical and methodological approaches of Experimental Psychology and the Cognitive Neurosciences (Neurobiology, Neurology, Neuropsychology, Neuropsychiatry).
  • is research-oriented, providing advanced training in basic-science Neuro-Cognitive Psychology as well as its applications in the emergent fields of Neuro-Cognitive Diagnostics and Ergonomics.
  • consists of intensive, small-group and individual teaching, using both traditional and innovative methods (e.g., debating club seminar).
  • provides individual supervision and advising through a personal mentor system.
  • awards successful students with an international Master’s degree, which qualifies the holder for professional work in cutting-edge scientific and applied (e.g., health and industrial) settings.

Program Goals

  • The course is designed to provide an advanced, research-oriented study program in Neuro-Cognitive Psychology (NCP), an emerging field at the intersection of Experimental Psychology and the Cognitive Neurosciences.
  • The course has two interrelated foci, one basic and one applied. The first focus is on basic-science Neuro-Cognitive Psychology theories and methods, and the second on the application of Neuro-Cognitive Psychology in selected fields, in particular, human-factors engineering and experimentally based diagnostics of neuro-cognitive disorders.

Study Program M.Sc. in Neuro-Cognitive Psychology

The main goal of the new Neuro-Cognitive Psychology (NCP) program is to provide a selected group of students, to be recruited from around the world, with a state-of-the-art education in this brain research-oriented discipline of psychology. In terms of its emphasis on basic science, as well as its desired level of achievement, the NCP course of study is competitive with similar international study programs. What sets the NCP program apart from these, however, is its experimental-psychological focus within the field of brain research and that it offers an applied focus beyond the relaying of basic-science knowledge.

The aim in the first two semesters is to relay state-of-the-art basic-science knowledge within an optimally structured curriculum. Subsequently, the second stage of study provides students with the opportunity to extend and deepen their knowledge within individual areas of specialization. At this stage, students also choose an innovative applied subject area, such as “Neuro-cognitive Ergonomics” or “Experimentally-based Diagnostics of basic neuro-cognitive functions”, in addition to furthering their basic-science studies.

Applied and Professional Fields

In addition to the basic-science focus, which prepares students for a career in research (e.g., a Ph.D. program), the program provides students with the opportunity to choose from two innovative applied subject fields. The first of these is “Neuro-Cognitive Ergonomics”, which is concerned with neuro-cognitive processing capabilities and limitations in complex human-machine interactions (“Human-Factors Engineering”). The second applied field is that of “Experimentally-based Diagnostics of basic neuro-cognitive functions” (attention, memory, etc.) in normal individuals and neurological and psychiatric patients. Progress is to be expected in this field, where previously employed instruments of diagnosis will be replaced by more powerful, neuro-scientifically conceived procedures over the next few years.

Integration of Basic and Applied Fields

The instruction provided by the NCP program is primarily research-oriented, to enable students to tackle basic-science questions and to enhance their awareness of Neuro-Cognitive Psychology’s creative applications within industrial-ergonomic and clinical-diagnostic settings, especially as concerns the discovery of new fields of application and the development of innovative solutions for problems in these fields. Students’ research projects are closely tied to existing basic-scientific and applied research projects of cooperating instructors and our European partners. For the two applied fields of Ergonomics and Diagnostics, cooperations are envisaged with corporations in the industry (working relationships have been established, among others, with BMW and Siemens) as well as in the field of public health (a cooperation exists, among others, with the neuro-surgical and neurological clinic at Kipfenberg). With respect to the current developments in Ergonomics, a trend can be registered toward the design of human-machine interfaces (HMI) as well as usability research based on neuro-cognitive foundations as central challenges within the field.

Teaching Network

The NCP program is conceived as an interdisciplinary study program, with course offerings from the brain research-oriented sub-disciplines of Psychology (general and experimental, biological, neuro-, and developmental psychology) as well as from Medicine (neuroanatomy and -physiology, neurology, neuropsychiatry) and Computer Sciences (neuro-computing). In addition to the Department of Psychology of the LMU, courses in Munich will be offered by instructors from the LMU departments of Neurology and Psychiatry, as well as the TUM Psychiatry. Additional contributions will be made by the Bavarian partner universities in Regensburg (functional imaging) and Würzburg (neuro-cognitive ergonomics), as well as by the Research Center Jülich (cognitive neurology). Finally, leading international researchers from European countries will also take an active cooperative role within the program (e.g., providing places for laboratory internships outside of Germany).

Organizational Background

  • The program is supported by the German Federal State of Bavaria as part of the academic "Elite Network Bavaria"
  • The program is organized jointly by Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich (lead institution), the Technical University of Munich, Universities of Berlin, Jena, Edinburgh (GB), and the Research Center Jülich
  • University of Regensburg, University of Würzburg, Research Center Jülich, and further academic and research institutions.
  • As an "elite" study program, the course is directed at a select group of highly able and motivated students, and is taught by leading scientists in their fields of expertise, within a structure of small-group (including one-to-one) instruction and advising.
  • Within this "elite" framework, the traditional German semester structure has been replaced by course components that progress continuously, enabling a shorter period of intense study. Students undertake two years of individually supervised course work, comprising of lectures, tutorials, seminars, methods courses, colloquia, independent research projects (laboratory rotations), and the Master thesis. For more detailed information see Curriculum.

Ph.D. in Systemic Neurosciences

When the NCP program was established in 2004, it was conceived as a research-oriented Master program, without offering an opportunity for further graduate (Ph.D.) studies. However, a new "Graduate School for Systemic Neurosciences" is being set up at the LMU Munich (funded as part of the "Excellence" initiative of the Federal Republic of Germany), which will be recruiting the first cohort of students in the winter semester 2007. Although admission to the Graduate School is dependent on a competitive selection process, especially qualified graduates of the NCP program will have a competitive advantage in this process (the NCP program offers a privileged access route to the school). The Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences provides qualified students with an opportunity to further their studies in this new and exciting field of interdisciplinary research (including a guaranteed scholarship for the first year of graduate studies), leading to the award of a "Ph.D. in Systemic Neurosciences".