Frontiers of Science (Lectures on Mind and Brain)

Frontiers of Science is a one-semester course that integrates modern science into the Core Curriculum to challenge students to think about the world around them and the different ways in which science can help us answer questions about nature and ourselves. The course's focus is the commonalities of the scientific approach to inquiry, as expressed in four active areas of research and discovery, including a unit on the mind and brain. 

Cognitive Neuroscience and the Media

There has been a recent surge of interest in cognitive neuroscience research in the popular press. Media coverage of neuroscientific findings often emphasizes how the brain contributes to complex human behaviors such as memory, decision-making, and emotional and social interactions, with implications for many aspects of society, including health care, politics, art, and law. This coverage by the popular press is, in turn, having a growing impact on the research itself. 
This seminar discusses recent topics in cognitive neuroscience and how research in this field is impacting public opinion. We engage in a critical review of how the media represents research on the brain, with a focus on current issues and controversies related to the use of neuroimaging in the study of brain and behavior in humans. 

Learning and the Brain

Learning is central to behavior. It allows actions and decisions to be guided by past experience, enabling us to improve our ability to obtain goals. In this seminar, we review current theories in the cognitive neuroscience of learning, with a particular eye towards understanding how learning and decision making - typically studied separately from each other - interact. We review these fields with a focus on two heavily influential methods in the study of brain and behavior in humans: functional imaging and patient studies. We debate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach, and discuss how methodological trends and limitations have shaped our view of cognitive function.