Program - Max Planck School of Cognition

Program - Max Planck School of Cognition

The Max Planck School of Cognition offers an international four-year doctoral program starting with a one-year orientation period followed by three years of research for the doctorate.  Students can enter with a Bachelor’s (fast-track) or a Master’s degree.

Table 1: Overview of the four years PhD program at the Max Planck School of Cognition.

First Year

Figure 1. Geographical distribution of the German labs, UK and Netherlands associated to the Max Planck School of Cognition.

During the first year (so-called orientation period), there is an emphasis on teaching and prolonged laboratory rotations in three different labs of fellows of the Max Planck School of Cognition. A major feature of the orientation period is that doctoral candidates can acquire interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary perspectives on a common research theme (e.g., by combining artificial intelligence and cognitive neuroscience or psychology and basic anatomy).

  • Laboratory Rotations

    Allow first-year doctoral candidates to explore several research groups (Figure 1). This will help define their research interests and aid in choosing the laboratory where they would like to develop their doctoral research work.

  • Lectures
    Doctoral candidates will take basic courses consisting of two main sections each:

    1. E-learning during which the essentials are covered (Table 2)
    2. Cognition academies (classroom weeks) in which all doctoral candidates will come together: a) welcome week at the beginning of the academic year on introduction to the Max Planck School of Cognition; b) three academies, each between two-three teaching weeks, on basic courses

    The first year will end with an evaluation of the doctoral candidates, before one can advance to the 'research-phase' (i.e., second to fourth years).

Basic Courses
Cognitive Neuroscience
Functional Neuroanatomy & Neurophysiology
Artificial Intelligence & Intelligent Systems
Philosophy of Mind, Ethics
Methods in Cognitive (Neuro-)Sciences
Experimental Design & Statistics
Basics in Molecular Neurobiology and Genetics
Clinical Neuroscience

Table 2: Basic courses during the first year (orientation period)


Second and Third Years

  • Doctoral research work
       At the beginning of the second year doctoral candidates will work together with their supervisor to develop a feasible and
     relevant project proposal, to be presented to a thesis advisory committee. After its approval, doctoral candidates can start
       the project.
  • Cognition Academies
    Doctoral candidates will attend two academies per year, each of which lasts two weeks. Each academy involves one week of courses on advanced topics and one week of doctoral candidate, faculty and guest speaker presentations on their research topics.


Fourth year

  • Doctoral research work
       Students are expected to finalize their dissertation by the end of the fourth year
  • Cognition Academies
       Students will have one cognition ‘academy’ involving only presentations by the faculty, students, and guest speakers
       on their research topics
  • Degree
       Doctoral degrees will be awarded by the university to which the supervisor of the respective candidate is affiliated to
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