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Cognitive neuroscience is the study of the mind and brain, investigating how and why people perceive, think and act the way they do. The knowledge and skills gained in the Master's course will provide a foundation for advanced scientific research, but also prepare for professional applications in the fields of education, consumer and economic decision making, psychology and clinical research.

The Master's course in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Trento provides research-focused training with a diverse, international group of faculty and researchers.

The two year program combines courses in neuroscience, cognition, statistics, advanced signal and data analysis with hands-on training in cutting-edge research techniques. These include functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), magnetic encephalography (MEG), computational modeling, comparative cognition (animal models), EEG, eye tracking, cinematic motion tracking and psychophysics. For the second year an extensive internship and a research project leading to the Master's dissertation are scheduled.

The following courses are for the a.y. 2018-2019.


Mandatory courses

Foundations of Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive psychology is the study of the mental processes underlying our ability to perceive, pay attention, think, categorize, use language and remember. Historically, cognitive psychology began with the information processing approach but we will also explore recent research on topics such as emotions and numerical cognition, and will include insights from neuropsychology, neuroimaging and lifespan development. The teaching methods will include demonstrations, class discussion and lectures and will emphasize the critical link between theory and experimentation. At the end of the course, students should be able to analyse critically the scientific literature on cognitive psychology topics and summarize content of a scientific article with a proper lexicon.

Foundations of Cognitive Neuroscience

This course will examine the neural basis of higher mental functions, including brain systems supporting perception, object recognition, attention, memory, spatial functions, language, and decision-making. We will explore the neuroanatomical and neurophysiological basis of cognitive functions, considering evidence form functional neuroimaging and clinical studies. Cognitive neuroscience approaches to disorders such as autism, schizophrenia, and Alzheimer’s disease will also be explored. The teaching methods will include lectures, demonstrations, patient videos, class discussion and practical sessions in different neuroimaging labs. This first part of the course will concentrate on language, memory, perception and attentional mechanisms. At the end of the course, the students should be able to know basic topics in cognitive neuroscience and describe appropriate cognitive neuroscience methods.

Research Design

This course will cover some fundamentals of algebra, probability theory, and statistics. Furthermore, the course will cover all aspects of a research project, such as, sample sizes, measures, and type of experimental designs. Students will present and comment research on cognitive science topics. Discussions also include presentations of research to various audiences, abstracts, reviews, grant process, and scientific ethics.

Foundations of Brain Imaging

This course will cover basic neural anatomy and methodology for the application of the main techniques used in cognitive neuroscience, such as functional and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Magnetoenchelalography and EEG. At the end of the course, the students should be able to describe the main techniquest used in Cognitive Neuroscience.

Intro to Human Language

This module is an introduction to language science (linguistics) covering phonetics and phonology, morphology and lexical knowledge, syntax, phrase semantics, discourse, and anaphora. No previous knowledge of linguistics is required. Students attending this module will become familiar with the main current issues and methodologies in the field, and will be able to read the relevant technical literature. 

Neural Foundations of Human Behavior

This course has been designed to cover basic anatomical and functional aspects of the central nervous system. Specific topics covered include neuronal function, synaptic transmission, sensory processing, movement, sleep and neural plasticity. At the end of the course, the students should be able to summarize our understanding of the functional organization of the human brain.

Introduction to Computer Programming

The course introduces computer programming, focusing on those aspects that are most relevant to behavioral and neuroimaging studies in cognitive neuroscience. At the end of the course, the students should be able to master the computer language proposed.

Elective courses

Current Issues in Neuroscience: Animal Models

The course would provide the theoretical and empirical foundations of comparative research on animal cognition. It will cover all the traditional topics in animal cognition - perception, learning and memory, categorization, thinking and reasoning, and communication/language. Practical in the animal cognition lab will be part of the course.

Hands on Methods Course

The first part of the class focuses on fMRI data analysis, i.e. the statistics of fMRI data analysis and how that should influence your design decisions and conclusions. By understanding the statistical concepts of fMRI data analysis, students will understand the rationale of the preprocessing pipeline in fMRI and the types of choices fMRI researchers have to make when designing their experiments. By actually modeling and analyzing fMRI data students will get a deeper understanding of fMRI data analysis and at the same time gain experience that will make it easier for them to read fMRI papers and to perform their own imaging studies in the future. The second part of the course involves the hand on analysis of MEG data.


This course will look at a number of the major neural systems in detail, examining their structure and function.  Contemporary studies will provide much of the teaching material and a strong emphasis will be placed on the latest developments in each field. Subjects to be covered will include the visual system, the auditory system, motor pathways, attention mechanisms, eye movements and memory.

Developmental Neuroscience

This course will address molecular, cellular, anatomical and functional aspects of central nervous system development. Specific topics will include embryonic development, postnatal critical periods of visual, auditory and language areas, neurodevelopmental disorders and neural basis of adolescent behavior. At the end of the course, the students should be able to acquire an updated view of our understanding of human brain development and its impact on brain pathologies.

Clinical Neuropsychology

The aim of this course is to provide an introduction to clinical neuropsychology. The student will be introduced to methods of clinical neuropsychological assessment and rehabilitation. A range of neuropsychological test procedures will be introduced. The student will also be introduced to the neuropsychological profile of a range of neurological disorders assessment and rehabilitation of neuropsychological disorders.. At the end of the course, students should be able to describe the main neuropsychological disorders and to know the main assessment and rehabilation procedure.

Current Topics in Brain Connectivity

In this seminar course, we will read and discuss up-to-date scientific contributions in the field of general brain connectivity, focusing on both functional and anatomical connectivity measures. The goal of this introductory course is to provide a basic knowledge of the state-of-the-art methods and concepts of accessing brain connectivity measures. The course is based on active learning and participation. At the end of the course, students will acquire a good overview of the current debates on brain connectivity and they will learn the appropriate terminology and computational concepts. They will familiarize with the concepts of experimental connectivity measures and they will be able to critically access new publications on the topic.

Free choice courses

Advanced Topics in Perception and Attention

This course is designed for students who already have a background in the study of perception and attention. This advanced course provides an opportunity for an in-depth study of current work in perception and attention, through seminars, readings and discussions. At the end of the course the student will be able to: understand the main notions and the key problems related to the specific topic addressed in the module and to read new literature independently.

Current Debates in Cognitive Neuroscience

The instructional goal of the course is to develop the skills necessary to conduct a critical review of current literature on a specific topic in the field of cognitive neuroscience. Active participation in the presentation of primary research studies will equip students with the ability to analyze, criticize, and explain a scientific experiment. A long-term goal of the course is to provide a foundation of expertise in the important job of peer-review of scientific literature.

Scientific Communication

The instructional goal of the course is to improve the students’ proficiency in presenting scientific research to their peers. Multiple modalities of communication will be addressed including conference presentation, poster preparation, and manuscript drafting. Students will learn though demonstrations and exercises, how to most effectively present data so that it is easily digested and understood by a general or specialist audience. The overall goal of the course is to sharpen the students’ verbal, written, and critical skills to make them into a more effective communicator of scientific material.

Neurobiology of Brain Disorders

This is course on the neurobiological bases of brain diseases, which aims to provides a detailed and updated presentation of the major neurological/neuropsychiatric disorders and their mechanisms. The aim of the course is to make the student able to understand what are the biological mechanisms at the origin of brain diseases.

Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

The main purpose of the course is
to provide students with a general understanding of fundamental molecular properties of neurons and neuronal networks. The course will focus on neuronal signaling through the study of ion channels and receptors, synaptic transmission and axonal transport, and the molecular mechanisms regulating neural networks. 

Advanced Topics in Language/Cognition

This course is designed for students who already have a strong background in the study of language. This advanced course provides an opportunity for an in-depth study of a particular area of language science. At the end of the module the student will be able to: understand the main notions and the key problems related to the specific topic addressed in the module; know the technical terminology related to the problem at issue; know the way in which the problem has been addressed through time (i.e. the history of the problem); understand at least the gist of the relevant technical literature and be able to read new literature independently.

Neurophysiology of Language

The course will introduce students to neurolinguistics, and address the question of what can we learn from non invasive neurocognitive experiments about language processing in the brain. Most of the data discussed come from electropshiological and neuromiagins studies on healthy adults but theories and models will be discussed also in reference to data that comes from studies on language acquisition and loss.