Affective Neuroscience
Psych 251 (3 units)
M 3:00-5:50 PM
Rm. 419, Bldg. 420
Prerequisites: Background in neuroscience or psychology, and instructor consent


Brian Knutson, Ph.D.
Psychology and Neuroscience
Bldg. 420, Rm. 470, Jordan Hall, Stanford CA 94305
Phone: 650.724.2965
Email: knutson'at'
Office Hours: W 2:00-3:30 PM

Josiah Leong (TA)
Email: josiah'at'


This seminar aims to provide an overview of and historical basis for the emerging field of Affective Neuroscience. Emphasis will be on mapping affective experience and behavior to brain function, including cross-level integration of anatomical, chemical, and electrical data. Readings will come from the text as well as relevant selections from the current literature. Course requirements include a midterm, discussion of assigned readings, and a project proposal and presentation. Goals include: (1) enhancing familiarity with theories of affect, (2) identifying related neural circuits, and (3) critiquing and conducting affective neuroscience research.

Primary Text:

Panksepp, J. (1998). Affective Neuroscience. New York: Oxford University Press.


Date Content Readings Findings
03/28/16 Intro / History Intro & Ch. 1 Dalgleish
04/04/16 Measurement / Anatomy Ch. 3 / Ch. 4 Rolls / LeDoux
04/11/16 Chemistry / Electricity Ch. 5 / Ch. 6 Bechara / Martinez
04/18/16 Midterm / Arousal (BK out) Ch. 7
04/25/16 Excitement / Fear Ch. 8 / Ch. 11 Knutson / Mobbs
05/02/16 Anger / Lust Ch. 10 / Ch. 12 Bjork / Walter
05/09/16 Love / Sadness Ch. 13 / Ch. 14 Kosfeld / Zubieta
05/16/16 Playfulness / Self-awareness Ch. 15 / Ch. 16 Blakemore / Kelley
05/23/16 Presentations / Wrap
05/30/16 No class (Memorial Day)


Midterm 25%
Outline (5) / Presentation (5) / Proposal (20) 30%
Notes (10) / Quizzes (10) / Discussion (15) 35%
Attendance (5) / Attention (5) 10%

  • Midterm: The midterm derives from readings and related discussion. The goal is to ensure that you are comfortable with anatomical, chemical, and electrical aspects of brain function. The midterm will include 25 multiple choice questions (2 points each) and 5 (of 8 listed) short answer questions (10 points each). Sample midterm questions can be found here. If you need to reschedule the midterm, let me know in advance, so you can take it within a week after it was administered.
  • Outline / Presentation / Proposal: Proposals should be from 10-20 pages in length and written in APA style (particularly the references). Proposals should focus on a novel topic in affective neuroscience (i.e., investigating links between emotion and the brain) and should include all the elements found in a typical journal article, including Introduction, Methods, Results (projected), and Discussion. The goal of this exercise is to familiarize you with the process of academic writing and editing.

    You should first electronically submit an outline of your proposal by 04/24/16 (midnight), on which we will provide feedback (5% of your grade). The outline should include a question, independent variable, dependent variable, hypothesis, potential confounds, and 3-4 references. Format is flexible (e.g., either paragraphs or bullet points are fine). An APA template for your paper can be found here, and writing tips are here. You will briefly present your proposal in the final class, which will be evaluated by both your colleagues and me (5% of your grade). The final version of the proposal is due at midnight on 06/02/16 (20% of your grade; not meeting the deadline will result in 5% reduction in that portion of your grade per day of lateness).
  • Notes / Quizzes / Discussion: These brief (1/2 page per reading) comments on the readings should include a short summary of each chapter or associated reading and one question that the chapter or reading raised in your mind that you'd like to discuss. Electronically submit notes (to the TA) by midnight on the Sunday before class on Monday (10% of your grade; with participation in discussion determining an additional 15%; notes received after the deadline before class receive half credit, notes received after class receive no credit). At the outset of each class will be a brief multiple choice quiz with four questions covering the readings (10% of your grade).
  • Attendance / Attention: Valid reasons for absence include: (1) arrangements made in advance with the instructors to participate in a Stanford-sanctioned activity (e.g., athletic competition), (2) a medical condition that requires the treatment of a physician, or (3) the death of a close family member. Attention is essentially psychological participation.
  • Guidelines: Plagiarism is considered academic theft and can result in a failing grade. Don't use laptops or devices in class, as they have been demonstrated to impair students' learning (unless explicitly called for in exercises).
  • (updated: 03/26/16)