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

Target Group

Open to PhD students from the Doctoral School of Life Sciences and Medicine, the Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law, and the Doctoral School of Social and Behavioural Sciences who are using psychophysiological measures in their PhD project.


In this specialist course, students will get in depth theoretical and practical insight in commonly used psychophysiological biomarkers of stress (regulation). An international expert will focus on all steps in the research circle (applicable for all research disciplines): 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.

Topic and Objectives

Psychophysiology is a field of psychology that investigates the physiological basis of core cognitive and affective psychological processes. Cortisol and alpha amylase comprise two common and transdiagnostic psychophysiological measures and are used to determine hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal axis and autonomic/sympathetic nervous system reactivity to emotional stimuli and/or stressful events. As compared to self-report data, these measures give objective indices of current emotional states. Yet, these psychophysiological measures are sensitive to many biases and noise, as well as many challenges appear during data collection, processing and analyses. This course will focus on how these measures can be used to inform about transient stress and emotion-related processes. In this course, the students from different research disciplines will be able to learn to use and interpret cortisol and alpha amylase data in a valid and reliable way. Interdisciplinary research questions will be discussed in light of its adequate psychophysiological measurements.

This course will provide an overview of the principles, theory and practical application of cortisol and alpha amylase, two commonly used psychophysiological measures in psychological and neuro-scientific research. The objective of the course is to teach students a) the theoretical background of these assessments, b) how these measures can be used to infer specific psychological processes (e.g., acute and long-term stress, emotional state), 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 comprise of theoretical lectures and hands-on training sessions. The doctoral students will be able to work with example data – made available for the purpose of the course – or bring their own data. Taken together, the end goal of this course is to teach researchers how to correctly use these psychophysiological measures to address their own specific research questions, throughout the entire research cycle.

Dates and Venue

Dates (1 course = 2 days) Venue
01.12.2021 – 02.12.2021 UZ Ghent Campus, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, 9000 Gent, Buidling 13K12

Program and Time schedule

Day 1

  • 9-11hs: Introduction to the HPA-axis: Circadian activity and stress response
  • 11-13hs: HPA-axis and mental and physical health problems
  • 13-14h: lunch break
  • 14-15:30 - Cortisol assessment in saliva, blood, urine, and hair samples: theory
  • 15:30-17:30hs - Cortisol assessment in saliva, blood, urine, and hair samples: practice, part I (Sample collection, Storage and shipping, Biochemical analyses)

Day 2

  • 9-11:30hs – Cortisol assessment in saliva, blood, urine, and hair samples: practice, part II (Interpretation, Statistical analyses)
  • 11:30-13hs – Introduction to alpha-amylase as a marker of ANS activity
  • 13-14h: lunch break
  • 14-17:30: Alpha-amylase assessment in salivary samples: practice (Sample collection, Storage and shipping, Biochemical analyses, Interpretation, Statistical analyses)


Matías Miguel Pulópulos Tripiana is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology and Sociology, University of Zaragoza (Spain) since 2020. He obtained a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Valencia (Spain), and worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Ghent University (from 2017 to 2020), funded by FWO. Matias also was visiting researcher at Harvard University (USA), Maastricht University (the Netherlands), and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland).


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If the course is fully booked, you can ask to be added to the waiting list by sending an e-mail to In case of cancellations, you can take the open place.

Registration fee

Free of charge for Doctoral School members of Ghent University

Teaching Methods

The course consists of theoretical lectures, which will be alternated with practical demonstrations, study simulations, and hands-on computer exercises (see Tentative Programme for the exact time slots dedicated to each activity). Overall, the specialist course will consist of 7 hours of lectures and 8 hours of hands-on training. A week before the start of the training, all attendees will have to prepare and send specific questions to the experts, and (if data has been collected recently) send a processed file of data. This way, experts will be able to provide detailed and individual constructive feedback. Moreover, during the course, acquisition methods will be discussed with the materials on site and all possible errors and flaws will be discussed.

Teaching material that will be available to the participants: The instructors will provide the students with the material covered during theoretical presentations (i.e., PowerPoint slides, scientific articles, guidelines). The packages for the processing and analysis will be freely distributed, and will be used during the practical demonstrations. Examples of physiological data (cortisol, alpha amylase) with and without artefacts, and material to collect samples will also be available during the practical exercises.

Number of participants

Max. 20 participants



Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

Evaluation criteria include attendance and active participation.

Organizing & Scientific Committee

  • Prof.Dr. Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt (Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Head and Skin (GE34))
  • Prof. Eva Van den Bussche (KU Leuven, Brain & Cognition)
  • Stefanie De Smet (Doctoral researcher, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Head and Skin (GE34))
  • Mitchel Kappen (Doctoral researcher, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Department of Head and Skin (GE34))