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The Brain and Plasticity (PSYC 071)

This course will introduce students to the recent research and debate regarding “neural plasticity” and the ability of the healthy adult brain to change. Exciting new research suggests that the ability of the adult brain to change goes well beyond simply acquiring new knowledge and memories. Incredible accounts of brain damaged patients recovering cognitive, perceptual, and motor functions has opened new areas of research into the ability of the adult brain to change, and a host of new businesses have arisen purporting to be able to trigger, and maintain, desired changes in the brain. Goals of this course include: (1) Gaining knowledge of a new area of research in the psychological and neural sciences; (2) Developing skills in going beyond general-audience books and popular press media coverage to evaluate original research sources (scientific journal articles); and (3) Practicing and enhancing your ability to present your own ideas and opinions in oral and written formats.

Introduction to Cognitive Psychology (PSYC 230)

In this course, students are introduced to the field of cognitive psychology, as we investigate the mechanisms of human thinking. We cover basic mental processes such as how our brains let us “see” the world, how our perceptions depend on our current state of attention, and how memories can change over time. As we seek to better understand the human mind, we’ll discuss language abilities and the mental representation of concepts and schemas. We’ll look at mistakes that people make, from simple visual illusions to errors in higher-level decision-making, and we’ll discuss how these “failures” provide unique insights into the mechanisms of human thinking.

Introduction to Cognitive Psychology: Honors (PSYC 230H)

This is an advanced version of the Psyc 230 course described above. In addition those goals, in this Honors version of the course, we will delve more deeply into the recent scientific literature, and the smaller class size will allow us to dedicate more time to discussions of the readings and group projects. Another key objective is to develop communication skills, such as honing the ability to write concisely and with impact, and presenting oral proposals for new research directions.

Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience (PSYC 434)

In this course, students are introduced to the methods & topics of cognitive neuroscience: The science of understanding human thinking and the relationship between mind & brain. We will explore the methods that are allowing the complexities of human behavior to be tied to the functions of the brain. We will cover core aspects of cognition (e.g., attention, perception, language, memory) as well as “higher-level” thinking (e.g., decision making, executive control, and social cognition). Student presentations will allow us to also cover more highly specialized topics, related to the individual interests of the class members. Students will gain a foundational knowledge of the methods and techniques of Cognitive Neuroscience and an understanding of what makes for a quality experimental design.

Cognitive Neuroscience, Graduate Seminar (PSYC 739)

In this graduate student seminar, we will examine the multi-disciplinary field of cognitive neuroscience. The emphasis will be on exploring how the multiple methods of cognitive neuroscience are converging to enhance our understanding of the neural foundations of human thinking and the relation between “mind” and brain. Each week we will critically examine a new method (e.g., neuroimaging; electrophysiology; transcranial alternating current stimulation; magnetoencephalography) through discussion of recent empirical articles. Students will be expected to further explore each week’s method through finding and reporting on recent work using that method in a research area related to their own interests. At the end of the term, students will write a mini-review term paper, in which they will use the knowledge accumulated during the course to synthesize research across at least 3 different cognitive neuroscience methods, in a topical area of their choice.

Attention, Graduate Seminar (PSYC 739)

From airport security screening to distracted driving to accounting for it in the design of experiments, attention is vitally important throughout daily life and in the laboratory. In this course, we will explore theories and mechanisms of attention, and each week will focus on a different current issue in attention research. Most class periods will be discussion-based, and each class will focus on a specific “big question” in attention research. We will explore these issues through discussion of classic articles and cutting-edge research. Students will use knowledge gained throughout the semester to write a mini-literature review on a specific attention issue of their choosing.

fMRI Methods, Team-Taught Graduate Course (PSYC 795)

This graduate course provides a comprehensive and rigorous introduction to the technique of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). One or more Department of Psychology and Neuroscience faculty members will lead each class session. Students will learn the basic physics underlying MRI; the biological principles of fMRI, the principles of experimental design, the processing steps for data analysis, the use of available software packages, and special considerations for patient research. Students will also identify a topic of interest in the fMRI literature and develop an independent research project that builds on knowledge gained in the class.