PSYC480-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024

Special Topic: Computational Contemplative-Neuroscience

15 points

Start Date: Monday, 19 February 2024
End Date: Sunday, 23 June 2024
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Sunday, 3 March 2024
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Sunday, 12 May 2024


This course is highly interdisciplinary and provides students with competency in applying computational neuroscience techniques in researching and understanding concepts in contemplative neurosciences. Contemplative neurosciences are an emerging field of enquiry that focus on the changes within the mind, brain, and body as a result of contemplative practices, or more broadly practises that provide an experience of self-transcendence; these include practice of mindfulness-based meditation, contemplative walking, or yoga. The course is interdisciplinary with a wide ranging learning objectives, from designing experiments to obtaining EEG data from subjects engaged in a contemplative activity, to EEG data analysis, and dissemination of findings. Study modes in this course include, reading and analysing primary literature, completion of an independent research project that further develops research and computational skills, and articulation of research findings in oral format by giving a class group presentation.

PSYC480 is a one semester 15-point (0.1250 EFT) course aimed at postgraduate students who are interested in gaining skills in computational neuroscience. As neuroscience knowledge grows in its scope of societal applications, so does the need to educate a wider audience on how to critically evaluate its research findings. Recent years have seen numerous initiatives to reach a wider university population by making neuroscience more interdisciplinary, integrative, accessible and applicable to students’ lives and intrinsic interests. In addition, we see an increasing global trend in adopting embodied, embedded, enacted, and extended research of cognitive processes (also known as the 4E approach), rather than sufficing with behavioural-only lab studies. The focus of the course will be to apply computational neuroscience techniques to the emerging field of research that aims to understand changes within the mind, brain, and body as a result of contemplative practices, such as mindfulness-based meditation, contemplative walking, or yoga. More broadly, practices where the subjective sense of oneself as an isolated entity can temporarily fade into an experience of unity with other people or one's surroundings. The course is interdisciplinary and attempts to clarify such mind-brain-body changes across emotional, behavioural, cognitive, and perceptual domains with an emphasis for relating such changes to data obtained with Electroencephalogram (EEG) and analysed with the latest computational techniques. Hence, PSYC480 will also be a step towards adopting the 4E approach to cognition.

The goal of this course is to teach computational neuroscience and data science relevant for obtaining neurological data from people using static and portable EEG devices, understand the characteristics of such data sets, develop an understanding of the anatomical structures, physiological, and pathological states of the brain and spinal cord and nerves in various states, and analyse such data sets. At the end of the course, the students will gain an understanding of:
• Structure and function of the brain and neurological processes.
• Psychological and mental health attributes that can be understood and analyzed using electrophysiological signals.
• Be able to understand to design and carry out experiments to obtain EEG signals.
• Be able to analyze EEG signals and apply computational tools to derive appropriate statistical measures from brain rhythm data, such as micro-states.

Note: No prior neuroscience or programming expertise/experience is needed. The course will address these from the basic levels.

Learning Outcomes

  • The student will recognise and describe the anatomical structure and function of the brain and neurological processes and be able to identify the role and function of the different brain regions (frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital).
  • The student will describe the physiological processes in the brain and neural systems (nerve conduction pathways).
  • The student will identify and report the neurological correlates of the various states (such as calmness, agitation, pathological states, stroke, muscle movements).
  • The student will analyse how cultural factors and neurophysiological process act with each other, e.g., with the Māori, Pasifika, and other ethnic groups.
  • The student will explain various psychological and mental health processes as related to experiences that elicit self-transcendent states.
  • The student will define the physics of electroencephalographic signal processing.
  • The student will analyse EEG signals using portable and non-portable devices and understand how such data are used and processed.
  • The student will report processing of EEG signals using Matlab (and other tools such as EEGlab), and/or with other software tools such as MNE (Python) and Neuroconductor suite of packages.


Subject to approval of the Head of School.
Recommended preparation: Bachelors of Science (Psychology), Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Bachelor of Data Science, or
Bachelor of Health Sciences

Recommended Preparation

Bachelors of Science (Psychology), Bachelor of Arts (Psychology), Bachelor of Data Science, or Bachelor of Health Sciences

Timetable 2024

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 09:00 - 11:00 Psychology - Sociology 456 (21/2-28/2)
Psychology - Sociology 210 (6/3-27/3, 24/4-29/5)
19 Feb - 31 Mar
22 Apr - 2 Jun
Lab A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Tuesday 16:00 - 18:00 Psychology - Sociology 225
18 Mar - 31 Mar
22 Apr - 28 Apr
6 May - 19 May

Course Coordinator

Usman Afzali


Assessment Due Date Percentage 
Class Participation 10%
Written Labs 20%
Literature Review/Essay 10%
Oral Group Presentation 20%
Individual Lab Report 40%

Textbooks / Resources

There are no required textbooks for this course. Assigned readings for lectures/labs will be provided online via LEARN.

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,145.00

* All fees are inclusive of NZ GST or any equivalent overseas tax, and do not include any programme level discount or additional course-related expenses.

For further information see School of Psychology, Speech and Hearing .

All PSYC480 Occurrences

  • PSYC480-24S1 (C) Semester One 2024