Cognitive Control and Decision Making
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleSOW-DGCN25
Credits (ECTS)6
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Social Sciences; Cognitive Neuroscience;
prof. dr. R. Cools
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. R. Cools
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2017
SEM2  (05/02/2018 to 13/07/2018)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesNo
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
This course will provide students with a thorough background in the neurobiological and functional properties of human cognitive and behavioural control, motivation, top-down attention, reinforcement learning and impulsive decision making. This will be achieved by providing a multi-disciplinary and convergent-methods approach, integrating essential theoretical and experimental frameworks from experimental psychology, neuroimaging and electrophysiology, psychopharmacology and computational modeling in humans as well as nonhumans animals.
By the end of the course, students will have obtained knowledge about the various theoretical frameworks that exist for guiding and interpreting empirical evidence on important constructs in this quickly developing field. In addition, the course will engage them in several activities to get them thinking like scientists. For example, they will be taught to leverage existing knowledge to critically evaluate both internationally published research papers, lead discussions on these articles and write papers to evaluate how research findings were portrayed in the popular media. Finally, they will be taught to judge and combine existing knowledge and ideas to create new ideas by developing and presenting a research proposal to address an unanswered question in the field.
Neurobiological aspects. The course will give a detailed and comprehensive overview of the neurobiological basis of human cognitive control, goal-directed and habitual behavior, and decision making, while taking into account research in humans and animal models. The role of the major ascending neuromodulatory systems, such as those of dopamine and serotonin, will be discussed. Fields ranging from functional neuroanatomy via neurophysiology, psychopharmacology, genetics, computational modeling to cognitive and experimental psychology will be covered.
Functional aspects. We will focus on basic constituents of cognitive control, such as value-based and perceptual decision making, top-down control of perception and attention, and reinforcement learning. Furthermore, we will discuss failures of control in neurological and psychiatric disorders and across development.
Theoretical aspects. Current theories and mathematically formalized computational models applied at various levels of abstraction will be presented and discussed in the light of experimental data.
Additional aspects. Where relevant, implications of theories, models and empirical findings for applied and clinical purposes will be discussed. Where necessary, experimental methods and analysis tools for studying cognitive control will be presented.
Additional comments
COURSE: March 6 – June 26, 2018; Tuesday 10.45-12.30
LOCATION: t.b.a.

Test information
EXAM: Tuesday July 3, 2018, 10.45-12.30
TYPE OF EXAM: written exam
NOTE: enrollment for a course automatically registers you for its exam. If you don't want to do the first exam you have to deregister for the exam in OSIRIS, but do not forget to sign up for the retake in OSIRIS.via STUDENT PORTAL until 5 working days before the start of the course.
This course is for CNS students only. Non-CNS students can contact Ellen Janssen ( or Arno Koning (

Contact information
Prof. dr. R. Cools

Required materials
Course material
Lecture notes
Relevant chapters from handbooks of neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and neurophysiology.
Recent papers in top-quality journals like Journal of Neuroscience, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Annual Reviews in Neuroscience, Neuropsychopharmacology, Neuroimage, Psychological Review etc.
Lecture notes and recent papers in top-quality journals like Journal of Neuroscience, Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Science, Nature, Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, Annual Reviews in Neuroscience, Neuropsychopharmacology, Neuroimage, Psychological

Recommended materials
Den Ouden, H.E., Kok, P., de Lange, F.P. (2012). How prediction errors shape perception, attention, and motivation. Front Psyhol., 3, 548. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00548. Epub 2012 Dec 11.
Cools R, Nakamura K, Daw ND. (2011) Serotonin and dopamine: unifying affective, activational, and decision functions. Neuropsychopharmacology. 2011 36(1):98-113.
Rahnev, Lau & de Lange (2011). Prior expectation modulates the interaction between sensory and prefrontal regions in the human brain. J.Neurosci, 31(29), 10741-10748.
Westbrook A, Braver TS (2016) Dopamine Does Double Duty in Motivating Cognitive Effort. Neuron. 2016 Feb 17;89(4):695-710.
Braver TS (2012) The variable nature of cognitive control: a dual mechanisms framework. Trends Cogn Sci. 16(2):106-13.
Schultz W, Dayan P, Montague PR (1997). A neural substrate of prediction and reward. Science. 275(5306):1593-9.
Dolan RJ1, Dayan P (2013). Goals and habits in the brain. Neuron. 80(2):312-25.
Gold JI1, Shadlen MN (2007). The neural basis of decision making. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2007;30:535-74
van Gaal S, de Lange FP, Cohen MX (2012). The role of consciousness in cognitive control and decision making. Front Hum Neurosci. 6:121.
Takahashi H (2012). Monoamines and assessment of risks.Curr Opin Neurobiol. 22(6):1062-7.

Instructional modes
Attendance MandatoryYes

Student assignments
Attendance MandatoryYes

Lectures and student assignments. Student assignments will include (i) writing and/or presenting an evaluation of how research findings are portrayed in the popular media and (ii) developing and presenting a research proposal of an unanswered question in the field. The assignments will be made available on a special course site online, via Blackboard, the digital learning environment of Radboud University Nijmegen.

Written Exam
Test weight1
OpportunitiesBlock HER, Block SEM2