Hasso-Plattner-InstitutSDG am HPI
Hasso-Plattner-InstitutDSG am HPI

Neurodesign Lecture – Physiological Perspectives on Engineering Design, Creativity, Collaboration and Innovation (Wintersemester 2019/2020)

Dozent: Dr. Julia von Thienen (Internet-Technologien und -Systeme)

Allgemeine Information

  • Semesterwochenstunden: 2
  • ECTS: 3
  • Benotet: Ja
  • Einschreibefrist: 01.10.2019-31.10.2019
  • Lehrform: Vorlesung
  • Belegungsart: Wahlpflichtmodul
  • Lehrsprache: Englisch

Studiengänge & Module

IT-Systems Engineering MA
  • Kommunikation
Data Engineering MA
Digital Health MA
Cybersecurity MA


This lecture series is a unique teaching event. Internationally recognized experts on topics such as the neuroscience of creativity, design, collaboration and innovation – as well as creative engineers in the realm of neuroscience – visit the HPI to grant insights into their works and projects. Together we discuss relevant findings, methods and work objectives for creative engineers and design thinkers.

This is the festive kick-off event for neurodesign education at the HPI. In this emerging research field, with a curriculum that evolves in close collaboration of multiple institutes including the universities of Stanford and Potsdam, we explore topic areas that are pertinent and exciting at the intersection of (i) neuroscience, (ii) engineering and (iii) design thinking - creativity - collaboration - innovation.

In the lecture sessions, we will have one-hour inspiration talks by guest experts. Most often, these talks share insights from neuroscientific research on creativity and collaboration. When do people experience empathy, successful communication and collaboration? What emotional preconditions, attention mechanisms and cognitive control strategies predict high levels of creativity and collaboration? How can engineering approaches help to facilitate communication and collaboration based on body information? After the talks, in moderated conversations between the audience and the speaker, we will jointly discuss the meaning of the presented material and ideas that emerge from it. How do neuroscientific findings match or complement design thinking research outcomes? How shall we refine communication strategies, team-collaboration, project planning, leadership etc. in the practice of creative engineering? What can be learned in terms of self-understanding and -management? Together we explore opportunities that seem relevant and promising for professionals in the three domains of neurodesign (i-iii).       

Along with the Neurodesign Lecture (Mondays, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.), a Neurodesign Seminar is offered (Mondays, 3:15 - 4:45 pm) at the HPI. Sometimes, data introduced by guest experts in the lecture can be analysed in more detail in the seminar. Also, theories and findings discussed in the lecture can provide inspiration for design team interventions we develop and test in the seminar, using physiological methods to measure effects. Thus, both courses are related, but they can also be taken independently.


This course will be most pertinent for you when you have a background in at least one of the following domains and interests that cover at least one more domain:

1. (Digital) Engineering

2. Neuroscience and body-related methods

3. Design thinking - creativity - collaboration - innovation.

Beyond this general background, you need no particular pre-experiences to participate in class.

To intensify your learnings, you can also participate in the Neurodesign Seminar on Mondays (3:15 - 4:45 p.m. in room A-1.2), but this is not obligatory.


The grading of this lecture will be based on your abilities to transfer knowledge across different neurodesign domains.

The first task is to transfer knowledge from neuroscience to engineering in a creative and collaborative way. In teams, you will think up a new tool for digital engineers based on neuroscientific insights discussed by the guest lecturers. Your tool can aim at facilitating communication or management and leadership. It can be something tangible or a behavioural intervention. Each team presents prototyped solutions on Dec. 16 and can use the feedback in class to iterate their approach.

The second task is to transfer knowledge from digital engineering to neuroscience in a creative and collaborative way. In teams, you can decide to focus on one of the following domains: (a) data analysis, (b) data visualization or sonification (c) data modelling or (d) programming of a new experimental paradigm. You can work with data brought by the guest lecturers. Let yourself be inspired by the needs that guest lecturers express or by your own visions for the new field of neurodesign. Present prototypes of your digital engineering solutions for neuroscience on Jan. 27 and gather feedback. 

Use the feedback from in-class presentations to refine your team-solutions. Hand in your final documentation where you describe your solutions until Feb. 29.

  • 25% of grade: Your communication/management prototypes presented on Dec. 16
  • 25% of grade: Your digital engineering prototype presented on Jan. 27
  • 25% of grade: Your final communication/management solution submitted until Feb. 29 (your documentation shall include a description of your solution and results from practical trials)
  • 25% of grade: Your final digital engineering solution submitted until Feb. 29


14.10.   Dr. Julia von Thienen (HPI): Introduction to neurodesign

21.10.   Dr. Caroline Szymanski (Max Planck Institute for Human Development & D-School): Social neuroscience & teamwork

28.10.   Dr. Caroline Szymanski: Interbrain-synchrony during collaboration

4.11.     Prof. Dr. Chris Chafe (Director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, Stanford University): Sonification of brain data for seizure detection

11.11.   Dr. Marwa El Zein (Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London): Shared responsibility in collective decisions

18.11.   Dr. Jan Auernhammer (Executive Director of the Leifer Neurodesign Research Program, Stanford University): Psychology of Design: Evolution of the intersection of two inseparable fields

25.11.   Dr. Sergio Agnoli (Marconi Insitute of Creativity, University of Bologna): Attentional mechanisms in the creative thinking process: Insights from psychophysiology

2.12.    Dr. Laura Kaltwasser (Berlin School of Mind and Brain, HU Berlin): We feel therefore we are? About emotions and cooperation

9.12.   Dr. Mathias Benedek (University of Graz): Creativity and cognitive control

16.12.  Student presentations I

6.1.     Dr. Julia von Thienen (HPI) & Joaquín Santuber (HPI): Normative aspects in creativity, collaboration and culture development

13.1.   Dr. Shama Rahman (Centre for Cognition, Computation & Culture, Goldsmiths University of London and CEO of NeuroCreate ): The use of Artificial Intelligence to facilitate human creativity - entrepreneurial and artistic approaches  

20.1.   Dr. Julia Rodríguez (Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, FU Berlin): Examining social influences on brain and behavior across development

27.1.   Student presentations II

3.2.   Joint reflections on neurodesign and student projects


This is a preliminary overview and minor changes might still occur.