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Course Detail

Course Name Optimal Cognitive Functioning
Course Code 24CLT642
Program M. Sc. Cognitive Sciences, Learning and Technology
Semester Elective
Credits 3
Campus Amritapuri


Unit I

Unit I – Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, and the Mind
Theories of cognitive psychology and neurosciences
Vedantic philosophy of cognition and mind

Unit II

Unit II – Executive Functioning
Introduction to executive functioning
You and your future self: Unfolding personal potential by connecting executive function, mental time-travel and emotional agility

Unit III

Unit III – The Power of Critical Thinking
The importance of higher-order cognitive skills (abstract, analytical, critical thinking skills; metacognition) for problem-solving and decision-making
Avoiding cognitive biases (e.g., social priming, stereotypes, attribution biases, confirmation bias)

Unit IV

Unit IV –Diversity in Cognition
Theories on how culture shapes our brains
Cross-cultural differences in skill acquisition and definition of achievement/success
Intense world theory (Markram & Markram, 2010) to explain neurodivergence (ADHD, autism, synesthesia)
Unique strengths of neurodivergent thinking

Unit V

Unit V – Harnessing Your Potential – Tools for Personal Growth and Happiness

  • Introduction to mindfulness techniques to enhance cognitive efficiency
    • Self-reflection/analysis to cultivate awareness of obstacles and, such as focusing on the breath, noticing thoughts without judgment, utilizing body scan to enhance
      self-regulation, mindful movement
    • Coherence practices focused on heart rate variability
  • Neural Correlates of noble values and principles that cultivate mental health and wellbeing
    • Accessing research-supported regenerative states through higher principles: gratitude, kindness, compassion & self-compassion, loving-kindness practices, and optimism
    • Research-supported methods for emotion regulation
    • Influence of negative cognitions on physical and mental distress and disorders
  • Lab exposure: Use of different neurophysiology tools to experience and measure cognitive processes in Lab hours


Prerequisite: Good reading and writing skills in English

Understand key concepts in cognitive psychology, neuroscience and the mind associated with the perception, pursuit and attainment of your full potential, including the cultural influences on these processes. Gain knowledge and experience of the mind, body, and brain interaction to maximize your potential, resilience, energy, emotional agility and sense of well-being.

Course Objectives and Outcomes

Course Objectives:

  1. Understand theories of cognitive psychology and neurosciences
  2. Relate ancient philosophical concepts to cognition and mind
  3. Implement cognitive strategies for enhancing well-being, personal efficacy, and executive functioning
  4. Gain insights into the importance of critical thinking skills for problem-solving
  5. Gain a deeper understanding of cultural variations in the definition and pursuit of skills and expertise
  6. Appreciate the unique strengths of neurodivergent thinking
  7. Analyze the role and diversity of cognitive functions in shaping the self

Course Outcomes:

CO1: Acquired knowledge of cognitive processes associated with the perception and pursuit of maximising potential.
CO2: Acquired knowledge and practice of the mind, brain, and body interactions to harness one’s potential and overall well-being.
CO3: Developed an understanding of the brain structures and neurophysiology underpinning perception, decision-making and regulation.
CO4: Understood how executive functioning can be optimized to unfold personal potential CO5: Gained insight into the power of critical thinking
CO6: Understood how to harness the power of cognitive diversity: Cultural diversity in cognitive functioning, as well as the unique potential of neurodivergent thinking


  • Critical reflection on the mind and cognition
  • Appreciation of divergent thinking
  • Personal and professional development strategies
  • Executive function optimization
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills to solve problems and make better decisions
  • Cultural sensitivity in relation to cognitive functioning

Course outcomes CO – Program outcome PO – Mappings

CO1 x x x x x
CO2 x x x
CO3 x x x
CO4 x x
CO5 x x x x x
CO6 x x x x x x x

Evaluation Pattern:

Assessment Internal External
Midterm Exam 30
*Continuous Assessment


End Semester 50

*CA – Can be Quizzes, Assignment, Projects, and Reports, and Seminar


  • McMillan, K. & Weyers, J. (2013). How to improve your critical thinking & reflective skills. Harlow, UK: Pearson.
  • Armstrong, T. (2011). The power of neurodiversity: Unleashing the advantages of your differently wired brain. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
  • Neff, K. (2011). Self-Compassion: Stop beating yourself up and leave insecurity behind.
    HarperCollins Publishers, NY.

Articles and Book Chapters

  • Basso J., McHale A., Ende V., Oberlin D., Suzuki W. (2019). Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators. Behav Brain Res. Jan 1;356:208-220. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2018.08.023. Epub 2018 Aug 25. PMID: 30153464
  • Bornemann, B., Herbert, B., Mehling, W., & Singer T. Differential changes in self-reported aspects of interoceptive awareness through 3 months of contemplative training. Front Psychol. 2015 Jan 6;5:1504. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01504. PMID: 25610410; PMCID: PMC4284997.
  • Edwards S., Edwards D., Honeycutt R. (2022). HeartMath as an Integrative, Personal, Social, and Global Healthcare System. Healthcare (Basel), 10(2):376. doi: 10.3390/healthcare10020376. PMID: 35206990; PMCID: PMC8871721.
  • Elbers, J. & McCraty, R. (2020) HeartMath approach to self-regulation and psychosocial well-being,
    Journal of Psychology in Africa, 30:1, 69-79, DOI: 10.1080/14330237.2020.1712797
  • Fatmawati, A., Zubaidah, S., Mahanal, S., & Sutopo. (2019). Critical thinking, creative thinking, and learning achievement: How they are related. Journal of Physics: Conference Series, 1417, 012070.
  • Hölzel, B., et al. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatric Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1) 36-43.
  • Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. (2010). A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi. Am J Health Promot., 24(6):e1-e25. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248. PMID: 20594090; PMCID: PMC3085832.
  • Jha, A. P., Stanley, E. A., Kiyonaga, A., Wong, L., & Gelfand, L. (2010). Examining the protective effects of mindfulness training on working memory capacity and affective experience. Emotion, 10(1), 54–64.
  • Kim H., Cheon E., Bai D., Lee Y., Koo B. (2018) Stress and heart rate variability: A meta-analysis and review of the literature. Psychiatry Investig, 15(3),235-245. doi: 10.30773/pi.2017.08.17. Epub 2018 Feb 28. PMID: 29486547; PMCID: PMC5900369.
  • Luders, E., Toga, A., Lepore, N. & Gaser, C. (2009). The underlying anatomical correlates of
    long-term meditationL Larger hippocampal and frontal volumes of gray matter. NeuroImage, 45(3) 672-678.
  • Lupien, S., McEwen, B., Gunnar, M. et al. Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition. Nat Rev Neurosci 10, 434–445 (2009).
  • Markram, K., & Markram, H. (2010). The intense world theory – A unifying theory of the neurobiology of autism. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 4, 224.
  • McCraty, R., Barrios-Choplin, B., Rozman, D., Atkinson, M., Watkins, A. (1998) The impact of a new emotional self-management program on stress, emotions, heart rate variability, DHEA and cortisol. Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science, 33(2), 151- 170.
  • Mishra, R. C. (2001). Cognition across cultures. In D. Matsumoto (Ed.), The handbook of culture and psychology (pp. 119-135). Oxford University Press.
  • Newberg, A., & Iversen, J. (2003). The neural basis of the complex mental task of meditation: Neurotransmitter and neurochemical considerations. Medical Hypotheses, 61(2) 282-291.
  • Sood A, Jones DT. On mind wandering, attention, brain networks, and meditation. Explore (NY). 2013 May-Jun;9(3):136-41. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2013.02.005. PMID: 23643368Park, D. C., &
    Huang, C. M. (2010). Culture wires the brain: A cognitive neuroscience perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 5(4), 391-400.
  • Salili, F. (1994). Age, sex, and cultural differences in the meaning and dimensions of achievement. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 20(6), 635-648.
  • Varnum, M. E. W., Grossmann, I., Kitayama, S., & Nisbett, R.E. (2010). The origin of cultural differences in cognition: Evidence for the social orientation hypothesis. Curr Dir Psychol Sci, 19(1), 9-13.
  • Wang Y, Pan B, Yu Z, Song Z. The relationship between preschool teacher trait mindfulness and teacher-child relationship quality: The chain mediating role of emotional intelligence and empathy. Curr Psychol. 2023 Mar 17:1-12. doi: 10.1007/s12144-023-04512-5. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37359607; PMCID: PMC10021046

Reference Books

  • Forman, J. (1990). Cognitive biases: A fascinating look into human psychology and what you can do to avoid cognitive dissonance, improve your problem-solving skills, and make better decisions.
  • Mitchell, K. J. (2020). Innate: How the wiring of our brains shapes who we are. Princeton University Press.
  • Silberman, S. (2017). Neurotribes: The legacy of autism and how to think smarter about people who think differently. Atlantic Books.
  • Kok, A. (2020). Functions of the brain. A conceptual approach to cognitive neuroscience. Routledge.

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