Interpersonal Neuroscience: Connecting People via their Bodies and Brains

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Interpersonal Neuroscience: Connecting People via their Bodies and Brains

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    How can friends understand each other without words? Are lovers' brains literally 'on the same wavelength'? Why does communication sometimes fail despite people's best intentions? 

    These and other fascinating questions are central to the study of interpersonal neuroscience. 

    Interpersonal neuroscientists use innovative techniques such as hyperscanning and mobile physiological measurements in their work. These techniques allow them to analyse people's brain and body activity while engaging in shared activities. 

    In this course, we will bring you up to date on the latest developments in the intriguing field of interpersonal neuroscience. You will also be taught basic research skills so that you can both analyse and conduct your own interpersonal neuroscience studies. We will provide you with essential tools for understanding the applications of interpersonal neuroscience in real-world domains such as psychotherapy, romantic relationships, teaching, and team work. 

    Advanced Bachelor

    The field of interpersonal neuroscience signifies a major paradigm shift in the study of the human brain. While neuroscience has traditionally focused on studying the individual brain, which has come to be known as ‘the ‘Lone Ranger’ approach (Rimé, 2009), interpersonal neuroscience encourages new ways of thinking about the brain and, indeed, about thinking itself. 

    Is cognitive activity confined to single brains, or is it distributed across brains and bodies? 

    Do behavioral problems stem more so from the difficulties one brain has in coupling with other brains than they do from a single brain’s malfunctioning?

    These questions demonstrate the new, interpersonal approach to thinking about the brain which could lead to novel ways of intervening and improving human functioning.

    Furthermore, interpersonal neuroscience could pave the way for a new generation of communication technologies geared toward optimizing brain-to-brain-coupling. We will explore these possibilities in a series of engaging lectures, discussions, and workshops throughout the course.

    Active participation is an essential element of this course. In both group and workshop sessions, you will engage in discussions with your peers and expert staff on key topics in the field of interpersonal neuroscience.

    We will explore some of the most pressing and current debates within the field, including the theories of embodied cognition, situated cognition, and dynamical systems theory.

    We will also examine emerging methods and technologies, including the statistical modeling of interpersonal dynamics (e.g., coupled oscillator models, Granger causality), hyperscanning, biofeedback, and virtual reality. 

    Finally, we will discuss the applications of interpersonal neuroscience in psychotherapy, romantic relationships, teaching, teamwork, and art.


    This summer course aims to provide students with:

    • Knowledge of the latest developments in interpersonal neuroscience.
    • Basic research skills which they can use to conduct and analyse interpersonal neuroscience studies.
    • Tools for understanding the real-world applications of interpersonal neuroscience. 

    These general aims are translated into the following specific learning objectives:

    Knowledge Objectives

    1. To grasp the main theoretical perspectives of interpersonal neuroscience. This includes perspectives such as dynamical systems theory, embodied and situated cognition, and coregulation theory.  
    2. To be up to date regarding the latest key research findings in interpersonal neuroscience. This includes brain-to-brain coupling, interpersonal physiological, interpersonal movement dynamics, and linguistic alignment.
    3. To integrate insights from these theoretical perspectives and research findings.

    Research Skills Objectives

    1. To understand the basics of EEG hyperscanning, interpersonal cardio-assessment, and interpersonal movement dynamics.
    2. To have hands-on experience using these interpersonal neuroscience techniques.
    3. To engage in the statistical analysis of the data that is generated by interpersonal neuroscience paradigms.

    Application Objectives

    1. To learn about applications of interpersonal neuroscience in psychotherapy and art.
    2. To design a biofeedback application of interpersonal neuroscience.
    3. To develop new applications of interpersonal neuroscience.

    Interactive seminar, lectures, lab work, fieldwork

    Presentation, research proposal or vlog, peer review

    This course is primarily intended for students, Ph.D. candidates and professionals in (social) psychology, (social-cognitive and cognitive) neuroscience, and linguistics.


    There will be a one-day visit to the Interpersonal Neuroscience Laboratory, where participants will be trained in EEG and cardiological measurements.

    Furthermore, there will be a visit to an art installation on interpersonal neuroscience, which has been set up in collaboration with Suzanne Dikker. 

    The program will also include touristic visits to the city of Amsterdam and several evening programmes.


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