40838 - Cognitive Neurosciences

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Life on land

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

The aim of this course is to describe the neurophysiological bases of mental functions, and specifically of cognitive functions.

All our behaviours are generated by changes in neuronal activity, which can be described from different points of view (molecular, biochemical, or electrical). Specific neuronal activation or deactivation produces specific behaviours. Not long ago attributing a particular aspect of behaviour to an unobservable mental process (such as planning a movement or remembering an event) was thought to be a reason for excluding this aspect of behaviour from experimental analysis. Today our ability to visualize functional changes during normal mental activity permits even complex cognitive processes to be studied directly.

We will start from the analysis of differences between the human brain and the brain of other animal species. In particular, we will explore cerebral cortex organization through a comparative approach. Then neurophysiological bases of cognitive functions, such as attention, learning and memory, emotions and sleep, will be illustrated

Course contents

Course contents:

1. Human brain evolution (Zoccoli)

2. Executive Functions (Bosco)

3. Decision Making (Bosco)

4. Emotion: the limbic system (Zoccoli)

5. Learning and Memory (Zoccoli)

5.1 Explicit and Implicit memory

5.2 Memory disorders

6. Attention (Bosco)

7. Sleep (Zoccoli)

The course will take place during the first semester (from September to December 2022) at the Bologna division of the Department of Psychology (address: Viale Berti Pichat 5, Bologna).


D Purves, R Cabeza, SA Huttel et al. Principles of Cognitive Nuroscience, Sinauer Associates, 2nd edition, 2013


M Gazzaniga, RB Ivry, GR Mangun, Cognitive Neuroscience: the biology of the mind W. W. Norton & Company; 5th edition, 2019


During the course the teachers will provide supplementary material

Teaching methods

The Course consists of 8 CFU, corresponding to 60 hours of teaching. The teaching is divided between Prof. Zoccoli (4 CFU) and Prof. Bosco (4 CFU). The exam program is covered in its entirety during the course. The lessons are based on frontal teaching. There will be moments of discussion on topics indicated by the students.

Assessment methods

The assessment test is aimed at verifying the acquisition by students of theoretical knowledge relating to the topics presented in class.
The exam is carried out in written form and will include 6 open-ended questions (3 on the part of the program carried out by Prof. Zoccoli, 3 on the part of the program carried out by Prof. Bosco), to be answered in 1 hour; the final score (out of thirty) is given by the algebric sum of the score reported in the six questions, with a maximum evaluation of 5 points per question; the exam is passed with a score equal to or greater than 18/30. During the test it is not allowed to use support material such as: textbooks, notes, computer supports.

At the end of the course there will be a test reserved for attending students, as described above. The exact date will be communicated in class, or can be requested from the teachers after the course has started.

Teaching tools

Slides (PowerPoint) and reading material for this course will be made available on website:



Office hours

See the website of Giovanna Zoccoli

See the website of Annalisa Bosco