The road to reliable and valid psychophysiological measurements and analyses II: a practical course

Target group

PhD students that are using psychophysiological measures in their PhD project. Some experience with MATLAB will be beneficial for the workshops. Postdocs are also welcome to attend this course.


In this specialist course, students will get in depth theoretical and practical insight in commonly used psychophysiological markers of (cognitive) effort and motivation-related processes (pupil dilation, impedance cardiography [ICG], and Electrocardiography [ECG]). Every stage of the research progress will be covered by two international experts from: the most optimal data acquisition settings to state-of-the-art methods of analysis and reporting findings following the standards of high-ranking scientific journals.


Psychophysiology is a field of psychology that investigates the physiological basis of cognitive and affective psychological processes. Pupil dilation and cardiovascular reactivity comprise two common and transdiagnostic psychophysiological measures, and are used to determine sympathetic and/or parasympathetic nervous system reactivity to stimuli. As compared to self-report data, these measures give objective indices of current emotional states. Yet, these psychophysiological measures are sensitive to biases and noise during the recording, and many challenges appear during data pre-processing and analyses. This course will focus on how these measures can be used to inform about transient effort- and motivation-related processes. During this course, students from different research disciplines will learn to use and interpret pupillometry and cardiovascular ICG/ECG data in a valid and reliable way. Interdisciplinary research questions will be discussed in light of their adequate psychophysiological measurements. 


This course will provide an overview of the principles, theory and practical application of pupillary responses and cardiovascular reactivity, two common used psychophysiological measures in psychological and neuro-scientific research. Novel and promising psychophysiological indices (e.g., pre-ejection period, T-wave amplitude, etc.) will be introduced and discussed. The objective of the course is to teach students a) the theoretical background of these assessments, b) What can be inferred (e.g., effort, motivation) about specific psychological processes via employment of these methods, c) how to correctly setup data acquisition, d) how to process and analyse the physiological data, and e) how to report findings based on these measures. The structure of the course will consist of theoretical lectures and hands-on training sessions. The doctoral student will be able to work with example data made available for the purpose of the course. The overall aim of this course is to provide researchers with a solid grounding in these psychophysiological measures in order to be able to address their own specific research questions.


  • Prof. Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt

Ghent University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Department: Head and Skin | Psychiatry and Medical Psychology

  • Prof. Eva Van den Bussche

(KU Leuven, Brain & Cognition)

Dates & Venue

14 + 15 September 2020 - Auditorium I (0 K12F, ingang 16), Campus: Campus UZ Gent

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the course will be held completely online. The link will be shared a couples of days in advance.

Program (tentative)

  • Day 1 - Monday 14 September 2020

Dr. Michael Richter, focus on cardiovascular reactivity
9:00 Arrival and lecturer’s introduction
9:15-11:00 Lecture on cardiography (ICG), and Electrocardiography (ECG): physiological basis, methodological issues, applications
11:00-11:15 Mid morning break
11:15-13:00 Data acquisition and analysis 1
13:00-14:30 Lunch break
14:30-16:00 Data acquisition and analysis 2; interpretation and reporting of findings
16:00-16:15 Mid afternoon break
16:15-17:00 Wrap-up and discussion

  • Day 2 - Tuesday 15 September 2020

Dr.  Adriana Zekveld, focus on pupillometry. The demo will be provided by Hidde Pielage, PhD student
9:00 Arrival and lecturer’s introduction
9:15-11:00 Lecture on pupillometry: historical background, physiological basis
11:00-11:15 Mid morning break
11:15-13:00 Application of pupillometry, practical aspects of data collection
13:00-14:30 Lunch break
14:30-15:45 Pre-processing, Analysis considerations. Data analysis: demo intro (Hidde Pielage)
15:45-16:00: Mid afternoon break
16:00-18:00: Demo practical part (Hidde Pielage), general discussion, questions and wrap up.


  • Michael Richter

Affiliation: Faculty of Health, School of Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University
Michael Richter is a Reader in Motivation Psychology in the School of Natural Sciences and Psychology. He received his PhD in 2004 from the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg, Germany, for a thesis on the impact of mood and task-context on effort-related cardiovascular response. From 2004 to 2015 he worked at Geneva Motivation Lab of the University of Geneva, Switzerland, examining cognitive and affective determinants of effort and cardiovascular response. He joined Liverpool John Moores University in 2015.

  • Adriana Zekveld

Affiliation: Section Ear & Hearing, Dept. of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, VU medical center, Amsterdam
Adriana Zekveld (PhD) is a senior researcher at the Section Ear & Hearing, Dept. of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, VU medical centre, Amsterdam. She has obtained her PhD in 2008 from the Amsterdam VU University, the Netherlands. Zekveld currently focuses on the application of pupillometry to assess listening effort during speech perception tasks.


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Registration fee

Free of charge for members of the Doctoral Schools and postdocs of Life Sciences and Medicine and Social and Behavioural Sciences of Ghent University and KU Leuven.

A registration fee of € 250 will be charged for external participants.

Maximum number of participants

maximum 20 participants

Teaching methods

A week before the start of the training, all attendees are encouraged to prepare and send specific questions to the experts, and (if data has been collected recently) send a pre-processed file of data. This way, experts will be able to provide detailed and individual constructive feedback.

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

100% attendance and active participation.