CPEGraduationMaster thesisCognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology

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  • MCP1 - Reduction in Contralateral Alpha power, Sensory or Short Term Memory?


    Master thesis – 25EC

    Several studies that examined the relation between Short Term Memory and Spatial Attention with bilateral visual stimulus areas observed reduced EEG alpha power in visual brain areas contralateral vs. ipsilateral to the relevant target not only when the target was actually present, but also when it was retrieved from memory (e.g., see Kuo et al., 2009; Van der Lubbe et al., 2014). As these studies used lateral relevant targets with a specific color, and also used central color cues, one might argue that repetition priming may have some contribution to the observed effects (e.g., see Grill-Spector et al., 2006). Goal of the project is to determine whether effects may have been modified by repetition priming by using two memory retrieval tasks, one task with central color cues signaling the relevant target, and another task with central verbal cues. Furthermore, a control task will be added in which the arrays can simply be ignored to establish repetition priming effects without the need to memorize the arrays.

  • MCP2 - Motor Execution, Motor Imagery and Motor Suppression in Musicians and Controls examined with Event-related (de)-synchronization of the EEG


    Master thesis – 25EC

    In a recent study (Van der Lubbe et al., 2021), we explored whether changes in alpha, beta, and theta power differentiate between conditions in which participants had to execute or imagine carrying out a response sequence with their left or right hand. In another study we examined differences in these tasks between musicians and controls (Sobierajewicz et al., 2018), but did not focus on changes in these frequency bands. Goal of the project is to examine these changes, which may help to explain why musicians performed these tasks much more efficiently than controls.  

  • MCP3 - Enhancing motor learning with meditation


    Master thesis – 25EC

    Motor learning is an important activity that underlies most physical tasks such as driving to playing music.  Learning motor skills quickly and accurately is therefore an asset to enhance these activities.  Despite this, little is known about how it can be enhanced from the cognitive domain.  Recently, there has been increased importance for cognitive enhancement activities such as meditation to further increase cognitive control (Chan et al., 2020; Hommel & Colzato, 2017).  The goal of the project is therefore to investigate if meditation can enable better learning in the Discrete Sequence Production task (DSP) (Verwey, Shea, & Wright, 2015).  This may be coupled together with modifications to sequence scheduling could induce faster learning.  As a masters student, you will measure motor learning performance such as reaction time and memory recall in the dance-based version of the DSP task and have the opportunity to learn more about meditation as a cognitive practice.  Analysis will be performed using mixed-effects models in R/Python to understand changes pre-post program changes in a randomized controlled fashion.

    Requirement: 1 Masters student with some understanding of R and/or Python for analysis.


    Chan, R. W., Alday, P. M., Zou-Williams, L., Lushington, K., Schlesewsky, M., Bornkessel-Schlesewsky, I., & Immink, M. A. (2020). Focused-attention meditation increases cognitive control during motor sequence performance: Evidence from the N2 cortical evoked potential. Behav Brain Res, 384, 112536. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2020.112536

    Hommel, B., & Colzato, L. S. (2017). Meditation and Metacontrol. Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, 1(2), 115-121. doi:10.1007/s41465-017-0017-4

    Verwey, W. B., Shea, C. H., & Wright, D. L. (2015). A cognitive framework for explaining serial processing and sequence execution strategies. Psychon Bull Rev, 22(1), 54-77. doi:10.3758/s13423-014-0773-4

  • MCP4 - Integrating sensor technology in psychology research


    Master thesis – 25EC

    This is a hands on project that requires the student to investigate potential application of sensor technologies in the form of electromyography and electroderma activity sensors.  The goal of this project is to create program to integrate sensors to capture behavioural measures that could index changes in bodily states associated with mental state changes.  Two potential applications are offered: 1) Capture muscle activity that is associated with workplace applications like surgeons in complex operations; 2) Capture electrodermal activity that is assocaited with mental state changes.  The specific details of the project are discussed with the supervisors for integration of the students interests.

    Requirement: Basic programming knowledge in R/ Python and further desire to create a program.


    To be advised at first meeting.


  • MCP5 - Stress effects on conflict processing @ IfADo. Dortmund


    Internship (10EC) + Master Thesis (25EC)

    Stress is characterized by an activation of peripheral bodily response systems culminating in the release of stress hormones, most notably adrenaline and cortisol. These messengers act in concert to alter brain function leading to changes in perception, cognition and behavior under stress. While it is generally assumed that stress inhibits top-down control, recent evidence suggests rather process specific effects enabling a fine-tuned adaptation of psychological functions. The master project will focus on how stress influences automatic processes and cognitive control during the processing of conflicts.  A stress experiment will be conducted in which participants perform in a conflict task after being exposed to a laboratory stressor (Cold Pressor Test) or a control procedure. Stress responses are quantified via analysis of salivary stress hormone concentrations along with cardiovascular and psychological parameters. Effects on conflict processing are assessed via neuroimaging (EEG) as well as behavioral data. This project offers the opportunity to gather insights into psychobiological stress research and acquire experience in the acquisition and analysis of (electro-)physiological data. The experiment will be carried out at the IfADo in Dortmund, Germany, and will be supervised by Dr. Mauro Larra.


    Larra, M.F., et al., 2016. Stress and selective attention: Immediate and delayed stress effects on inhibition of return. Brain Cogn 108, 66-72.

    Joels, M. & Baram, T.Z., 2009. The neuro-symphony of stress. Nat Rev Neurosci 10, 459-466.

    Hermans, E. J., et al., 2014. Dynamic adaptation of large-scale brain networks in response to acute stressors. Trends Neurosci 37(6): 304-314.

  • MCP6 - Physiological foundation of extinction learning @ IfADo. Dortmund


    Internship (10EC) + Master Thesis (25EC)

    Fear extinction refers to the abolishment of fear reactions to stimuli no longer coupled with an aversive stimulus. Extinction plays a crucial role in this adaptive behaviour. Studies have shown the ventromedial, and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and the cerebellum (Baldi & Bucherelli, 2015) as the key players in this fear extinction network. In connection to this, our previous study showed that anodal transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) improves fear extinction (Vicario et al., 2020). However, mechanistic information about its mode of action in extinction learning is incomplete. Thus, in this study we aim to explore the brain networks involved in fear extinction with a well-established fear extinction task.

    Prior to starting the maters thesis, the student will have the chance to complete a few months of internship. This internship will equip the student to gain hands-on experience necessary to do their masters thesis. During this period the student will be responsible to do an extensive literature review on neurobiology of fear extinction process with major focus on imaging and behavioural studies. Further, the student will be given a hands-on experience with tDCS administration and conducting the MRI experiments. The student will also have the opportunity to learn about various aspects of endodermal activity (EDA) and eye-tracking.

    During the master’s assignment the student will have the opportunity to collect simultaneous Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-tDCS and physiological data (like endodermal activity) during a three-day extinction learning experiment. The student will gain in depth knowledge on tDCS administration and structural and functional MRI procedures and will also have the chance to learn different MRI analysis tools that can be used to identify the brain regions involved in extinction learning. The student will also have the opportunity to do the hands-on analysis of physiological and eye-tracking data. Both the internship and the masters study will be carried out at IfADo, Dortmund, Germany and will be supervised by the researchers involved in the project. 


    Baldi E, Bucherelli C (2015) Brain sites involved in fear memory reconsolidation and extinction of rodents. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 53: 160-90. 

    Vicario CM, Nitsche MA, Hoysted I, Yavari F, Avenanti A, Salehinejad MA, Felmingham KL (2020) Anodal transcranial direct current stimulation over the ventromedial prefrontal cortex enhances fear extinction in healthy humans: A single blind sham-controlled study. Brain Stimul. 13: 489-491.

  • MCP7 - Cognitive-Motor interference (mobile EEG) @ IfADo, Dortmund


    Internship (10EC) + Master Thesis (25EC)

    Walking and simultaneous information processing are crucial elements of our everyday life but underlying cognitive processes are still under investigation. In this project, a mobile EEG study will be carried out while participants are executing a cognitive-motor dual-task. Earlier studies and theories suggest that tasks that require visual attention strongly interfere with active locomotion due to a high amount of shared cognitive resources. Auditory cognitive tasks, on the other hand, should not interfere as much with walking, though there is little evidence from cognitive-motor literature. In this master assignment, the task will be to re-evaluate the role of cognitive task modality and sensory complexity of visual environments in a cognitive-motor dual-task in the IfADo’s GRAIL laboratory (https://www.ifado.de/ifadoen/blog/2020/07/08/grail/) using mobile EEG, a tiltable and swayable treadmill, motion tracking, and immersive virtual reality applications. Such a dual-task comprises a primary locomotor task, such as walking on a flat or a tilted surface, and a cognitive task, such as a visual and/or auditory stimulus detection task. This project offers the opportunity to gather insights into mobile neurophysiological research and acquire experience in the acquisition and analysis of electrophysiological data and motion parameters. The experiment will be carried out at the IfADo in Dortmund, Germany, and will be supervised by Dr. Julian Elias Reiser.

    An internship (10 EC) will be offered in association with the master thesis project. The intern will be part of the research and laboratory team and of the ergonomics department at the IfADo. Over the course of the internship, the student will learn how to plan, execute, analyze, and report a (neuro-) psychological experiment. To be prepared for the master thesis project, the intern will have the task to review the essential literature in the field of cognitive-motor interference and mobile EEG, write a literature review, and develop a research plan for the upcoming experiment. Also, the intern will be guided through the process of how to conduct an EEG experiment by learning how to prepare an EEG cap, to measure and to analyze EEG data. The intern will also have the possibility to assist in different cognitive psychology / human factors experiments and to learn about the many tasks a scientist’s job profile comprises.

    The internship and thesis can only be carried out in conjunction.


    Reiser JE, Wascher E, Rinkenauer G, Arnau S. Cognitive‐motor interference in the wild: Assessing the effects of movement complexity on task switching using mobile EEG. European Journal of Neuroscience. 2020;0(August):1-21. doi:10.1111/ejn.14959

    Reiser JE, Arnau S, Rinkenauer G, Wascher E. Did you even see that? visual sensory processing of single stimuli under different locomotor loads. Di Russo F, ed. PLoS ONE. 2022;17(5):e0267896. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0267896

    Wascher E, Reiser J, Rinkenauer G, et al. Neuroergonomics on the Go: An Evaluation of the Potential of Mobile EEG for Workplace Assessment and Design. Hum Factors. Published online April 16, 2021:1-21. doi:10.1177/00187208211007707

  • MCP8 - Age-dependent effects of task interruptions, and the modality of interruptions on working memory and attentional control @ IfADo, Dortmund


    Internship (10EC) + Master Thesis (25EC)

    Project Description

    Interruptions are inevitable in day-to-day life and workplace situations. They are remarkably different from pure distractions, since a person must attend an additional task before returning to the first, sometimes at the expense of the initial task. Previous work has shown that interruptions affect multiple aspects of performance, attention, and working memory.

    The present project aims at the neurocognitive mechanisms related to the handling of task interruptions, focusing on working memory related processes and the interaction of known influencing factors in interruption tasks. Another aim is to apply all these conditions both to younger and older age groups, to see how aging affects the attention and working memory performance.

    The next planned experiment will explore how the modality of the secondary task changes the degree it affects attention and working memory performance. In addition to having a working memory task as the primary task, the participants would be asked to complete secondary tasks in different modalities and conditions.

    The main work lies in implementing the experimental paradigm, collecting data from around 24 participants per age group and in analysing the data. In addition to behavioural data, neurophysiological indicators for underlying cognitive processes are to be collected. Previous experience with EEG, either theoretical or practical, is not required but would help you be more comfortable with the experiment.

    The internship would be consisting of preparatory work before the experiment begins: as in preparing the protocols, going through the questionnaires and preparing forms for the subjects, implementing the piloting and making sure that the paradigm works properly before going ahead with the main run, and working with the data for the preliminary and main analysis. Basically anything and everything we do before and after the data collection. In addition to the lab work related to the experiment, the students would be attending weekly colloquiums both internal and external, where one can keep track with the newest research happening at the institute and in the field of research. The internal colloquiums also provide an opportunity to discuss problems and solutions more related to the student life at the research institutes, or how to come up with better written code scripts, and so on. There would be additional meetings for the respective research groups, in which the researchers can give more direct updates of the work they are doing or planning to do. In this way the intern will get to know people and daily life in a research institute.

    This master project can be carried out only in conjunction with the internship of the same name.

    Key references

    Altmann, E. M., & Trafton, J. G. (2007). Time course of recovery from task interruption: data and a model. Psychon Bull Rev, 14, 1079-1084.

    Arnau, S., Wascher, E., & Küper, K. (2019). Age-related differences in reallocating cognitive resources when dealing with interruptions. Neuroimage, 191, 292-302.

    Bae, G. Y., & Luck, S. J. (2019). What happens to an individual visual working memory representation when it is interrupted? Br J Psychol, 110, 268-287.

    Barth, A., & Schneider, D. (2018). Manipulating the focus of attention in working memory: Evidence for a protection of multiple items against perceptual interference. Psychophysiology, 55, e13062.

    Labonté, K., Tremblay, S., & Vachon, F. (2019). Forewarning interruptions in dynamic settings: Can prevention bolster recovery?. Journal of experimental psychology: applied.

    Trafton, J. G., Altmann, E. M., Brock, D. P., & Mintz, F. E. (2003). Preparing to resume an interrupted task: effects of prospective goal encoding and retrospective rehearsal. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 58, 583- 603.

  • MCP9 - How do elder adults compensate in motor sequence performances?


    Internship (10EC) + Master thesis – 25EC

    Elder adults have the ability to learn motor sequences but are often compromised due to over relliance on prefrontal brain structures. Also, there are many functional benefits to learning sequences not by keyboard but by using whole body movements which is performed here.  The goal of this project is to understand if we can optimise learning in older adults by giving a modified training program that would improve their functional capacity. Working closely with the supervisor, you may learn the use of the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) neuroimaging technology to understand cortical representation of learning sequences.  Specifically, you may be analysing oxygen activation patterns in the prefrontal cortex and motor cortex and interpreting outcomes based on the Cognitive framework for Sequential Motor Behaviour (Verwey et al., 2015). The prediction is that during testing of sequences, a modified program would benefit older adults more than just usual training.

    Requirement: 1 x Dutch-speaking Masters student and interested in working with elder adults. The external collaborator is Livio (https://www.livio.nl/) and this requires coordination with the organisation


    Barnhoorn, J. S., Dohring, F. R., Van Asseldonk, E. H., & Verwey, W. B. (2016). Similar Representations of Sequence Knowledge in Young and Older Adults: A Study of Effector Independent Transfer. Front Psychol, 7, 1125. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01125        

    Verwey, W. B. (1999). Evidence for a multistage model of practice in a sequential movement task. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25(6), 1693-1708. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-1523.25.6.1693               

    Verwey, W. B., Shea, C. H., & Wright, D. L. (2015, Feb). A cognitive framework for explaining serial processing and sequence execution strategies. Psychon Bull Rev, 22(1), 54-77. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-014-0773-4

  • MCP10 - External and Internal Spatial Attention for the Auditory and Tactile Modalities @ Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland


    Master thesis – 25EC (2 students)

    Earlier research (e.g., see Van der Lubbe et al., 2014) revealed that EEG activity during the retrieval of information from visual memory (i.e., internal attention) is in some aspects quit similar during the selection of visual information from the outside  world (i.e., external attention). The question whether similar phenomena can be observed for both the auditory and the tactile modality has not yet been addressed and would provide crucial information that further specifies the relation between spatial attention and spatial memory across different sensory domains. Goal of the MA-projects is to examine these issues by measuring participants while carrying out auditory and tactile task variants of the visual task employed by Van der Lubbe et al. (2014). Both MA-projects are part of a research-project that is supported by the National Research Council from Poland (UMO-2019/33/B/HS6/00096). The project implies cooperation with Dr Darek Asanowicz and other researchers at Jagiellonian University (Krakow, Poland) and is planned to start in spring 2023.


    Van der Lubbe, R.H.J., Bundt, C., & Abrahamse, E.L. (2014).  Internal and external spatial attention examined with lateralized EEG power spectra. Brain Research, 1583, 179-192.