Topics Courses


Issues in Neuroscience

Courses with this number consider topics that bring to bear knowledge in the fields of psychology, neurology, and physiology. Topics are treated at an intermediate level and the focus will be on topics not covered in detail in Psychology 26 and 65. The selection of issues is at the discretion of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 35 students.  Dist: SCI.

In 14F at 2A, Sleep and Sleep Disorders

This course will explore the basic biological mechanisms of sleep and circadian rhythms, including neuroanatomical and neurophysiological aspects of sleep/wake, as well as the behavioral and social aspects of normal sleep. The course will then build upon this basic understanding of normal sleep and circadian rhythm to develop an overview of major sleep and circadian rhythm disorders. The importance of sleep to adequate daytime neuropsychological functioning and the social, public policy and economic issues pertinent to sleep and circadian rhythms will be addressed. Prerequisite: Psyc 1 or 6. Sateia

In 14F at 2A, Decision making: linking behavior to brain

In this course we examine decision making from both behavioral and neurobiological points of view. Specifically, we learn about different methods used in psychology and neuroscience (e.g. operant conditioning, signal detection theory, reinforcement learning) to study decision making at various levels, from cognitive processes to underpinning neural activity. We also learn about the notion of rationality and heuristics in decision making (e.g. why do we show risk aversion?). Overall, this course introduces students to specific topics in behavioral psychology, neurobiology, system and computational neuroscience, and economics.  Soltani


In 14F at 2A, Representation and Brain

Philosophy meets science in this course co-taught by the philosopher of mind, Adina Roskies, and the cognitive neuroscientist, James Haxby.  What is experience and knowledge?  How is information from perception and knowledge about the world encoded in the brain?  The last twenty years has seen a revolution in our understanding of how the brain encodes information and dramatic advances in new techniques to decode that information for brain reading and in application of these techniques for brain-computer interfaces.  This course will explore these advances, continuing controversies, and the future of the science of neural representation.  The course will ground this work in the philosophy of representation and knowledge and explore how scientific advances inform and advance philosophical understanding.  Roskies, Haxby


In 15W at 10, Motivation, Drugs, and Addiction

This course will explore how the brain controls our motivation to pursue goals and how drugs of abuse hijack those systems. We will learn about some historical perspectives of motivation as well as modern neuroscience work showing how areas of the brain might contribute to motivations. In the process, we will explore in detail how narcotic drugs (opioids, stimulants, alcohol, cannabis) act in the brain and the mechanisms underlying the transition from drug use to addiction. Prerequisite: Psyc 6 and one of: Psyc 26, Psyc 45, Psyc46, Bio 34. Smith


In 15W at 10A, Neurobiology of Learning and Memory

This course will discuss the neurobiology of learning and memory from cognitive, behavioral, and cellular neuroscience perspectives. The goal of the course is to better understand the neurobiological mechanisms and brain systems that underlie learning and memory processes.  A fundamental understanding of membrane and synaptic potentials is strongly recommended.  Prerequisite. Psych 6 OR permission of instructor.  Taube

In 15W at 12, Exotic Sensory Systems

Humans have 5 special senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell) and a variety of "internal senses" that provide information about the state of our body and internal organs.  However, some animals possess senses that are unlike anything that humans can experience.  Examples include echolocation, celestial and geomagnetic navigational systems, and bioelectricity.  This course explores the discovery and operation of these "exotic" senses, highlighting both the similarities and differences with our own more familiar sensory modalities.  Prerequisite: Psychology 1 or 6 and 21 or instructor's permission. Hughes


In 15S at 12, Neuroscience of Mental Illness

The goal of this course is to explore the neurological correlates of psychopathology.For each mental illness covered in the class, we will first review the characteristics and diagnostic criteria of the disorder and will then explore the neurological correlates in terms of etiology, manifestation, and treatment. We will examine evidence from a variety of sources, including neuroanatomical studies, neuroimaging experiments, and neurodevelopmental studies, with a focus on current research findings. Case histories and video footage will be used to illustrate the experience of psychopathology with the goal of elucidating the links between the brain and behavior.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 6 or 26 or Bio 34. Funnell.

In 15S at 10A, The Rhythmic Brain

This course explores the physiological basis and functional relevance of oscillations, which are ubiquitous in the brain. Rhythmic pattern generators in specific neurons and circuits are essential for generating repeating movements such as breathing and walking; yet, oscillations are equally prominent in neural systems for sensation, cognition, and memory. Could it be that these rhythms are a fundamental building block of information processing in neural circuits? This course provides an introduction to the detection, analysis and interpretation of oscillations in the brain. Using these tools, we will survey the origin and functional role of oscillations in a variety of neural systems across animal and human species, and ask what general principles emerge. Prerequisites:  Psyc 6 and (Psyc 21, Psyc 26, Psyc 27 or Psyc 28).   van der Meer


Issues in Information Processing

Courses with this number consider topics from the areas of perception, memory, cognition, and quantitative models from the point of view of information processing. Material is treated at an intermediate level on a set of issues not covered in Psychology 21 and 28. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the instructor, but specific emphasis is given to methodology. Enrollment limited to 35 students.  Dist: SOC.

In 14F at 10, Mind and Brain

It is believed that the mind is a manifestation of the brain. Think of computers. The brain is hardware, the mind is software. Is it possible to understand algorithms of the software by investigating physical activity of the hardware? This course will take the mind and brain problem as a theme to guide discussions about neural underpinnings of various mental phenomena. Cutting-edge research across Psychology, Neuroscience, Artificial Intelligence and Philosophy of Mind will be covered.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 1 or 6 Meng.


In 14F at 11, History of Psychology

Harvard Philosopher George Santayana said "those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"  (Life of Reason, 1905).  Is that happening right now in Psychology?  The goal of this course is to enrich our understanding of current psychological theory by understanding its intellectual origins.  We will trace the origins of the current influential schools of thought in psychology to determine what is really new, and what was anticipated by earlier generations.  We will see that early psychologists, without the aid of modern technologies, came up with some incredibly clever ways to solve experimental problems, many supplying answers that have held up to this day.  Prerequisite: Psyc 1 or 6.  Dist:  SOC.  Hughes.

In 14F at 11, Face Perception

This course will focus on person perception and the mental processes we use to make sense of other people, including their thoughts, attitudes, personal traits, social connections, and personal history. The course will examine the role that person perception plays in face and voice recognition and social interactions. Particular relevance will be put on the neural systems for representation of faces and person knowledge. At the end of the course, the students will have a written exam and they will be required to write a paper.  Prerequisites:  Psyc1 or 6.  Gobbini.

In 15S at 2A, The Neuroscience of the mind-body problem:  neural bases of consciousness, free will and mental causation

Neuroscience has learned a great deal about how neurons function, and Psychologists have learned a lot about the contents and processes of the mind. But we lack a deep understanding of the bridge that must link these two sides of the "mind-body" problem. We do not yet fully understand (1) how information is processed, transformed and communicated by neurons, (2) how consciousness can be realized in physical neuronal activity, or (3) how mental events realized in physical brain events can be causal of subsequent mental and physical events. This course will focus on what is known about the neural code and the neural bases of consciousness, mental causation and free will and what is not yet understood. We will focus on reading original research articles and chapters from books that attempt to get at these deep and challenging conceptual and empirical issues.  A particular focus will be the relationship of attentional processing to consciousness, and its neural bases. Students will be expected to write up critiques of readings, and present on topics of common interest.  Prerequisites: Psych 6 or one of the following: 21, 26, 27 or 28.  Tse.


In 15S at 2,  Attention

In our everyday environment, a massive amount of information pours into our sensory organs, but only a small subset of it is processed in more detail. What enables us to select some information for more focused and intensive processing while ignoring the rest? How do we selectively focus on a certain task without being distracted? Or conversely, how do we simultaneously monitor multiple streams of information or tasks? This course will explore the cognitive and neural mechanisms of attentional processes underlying these functions. We will also consider the interactions between attention and other mental processes, such as memory, emotion, and social cognition. We will examine evidence from a variety of sources, including behavioral studies, neuroimaging studies, neurophysiological research, and neuropsychological studies. Prerequisites:  Psychology 1 or 6.  Shim




Issues in Learning and Development

Courses with this number consider several important sub-fields of learning and psychological development. Material is treated at an intermediate level on a set of issues not covered in Psychology 22 and 25. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the instructor, but they will be selected with emphasis upon the psychological principles emerging from the study of humans and animals in the context of learning, early experience, and maturations. Enrollment limited to 35 students. Dist: Soc.

In 15S at 9L, Developmental Psychopsychology

This course will provide an Introduction to childhood Psychopathology using a developmental perspective. Written materials and lectures will focus on the diagnosis, etiology and treatment of a variety of childhood problems, including autism, anxiety disorders, learning disabilities, depression, attachment disorders, conduct disorders, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Prerequisite: Psyc 1 or 6 and 24, 25, or 59. Scheiner.  SOC


Issues in Social Psychology

Courses with this number consider several important sub-fields of social psychology. Material is treated at an intermediate level on a set of issues that are not covered in Psychology 23. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the instructor, but specific emphasis is given to individual and group attitudes, modes of interpersonal communication, and behavior control in humans and animals. Dist: SOC.


In 14F at 2, Psychology of Language

Imagine having the ability to transmit your thoughts from your own brain to your friend's brain by sending them through the air as encoded signals.  It sounds like science fiction if you put that way, but this is precisely what language allows us to do everyday all day long. In this course we will study the science of language – including topics ranging from the philosophical foundations of symbolic thought and meaning, to how children learn language, to language comprehension and production, to what we know about how the brain creates language. Assignments and evaluation will include short persuasive essays pertaining to selected readings from each topic area and a final exam.  Connolly.


In 15W at 2A, Cross-Cultural Psychology of Gender

There are numerous theories about the formation of gender as the social expression of biological sex. Add in cultural differences in standards of masculinity and femininity, and we have multiple, intersectional factors that create gendered behavior in society. In this course, we will examine the psychologies of gender, what is the role of biology, how gender is socially constructed, what constitutes male and female perspectives in cross-cultural contexts, and what accounts for inter and intra gender variation and similarities. We will also clarify the role of social, political, religious, and economic forces on gender discourses. The goal is to critique studies on gender and closely examine the merits and limitations methods of psychological inquiry into matters of gendered experience. We will study landmark psychological studies on gender in multiple cultural contexts.Prerequisite:  Psychology 1.  Ayubi.



Issues in Applied Psychology

Courses in this number consider several important sub-fields of applied psychology, such as environmental psychology and consumer behavior. Material is treated at an intermediate level. Selection of issues is left to the discretion of the insrtuctor, but they will be selected with emphasis upon the extension of established psychological principles to problems of contemporary society. Enrollment to 35 students. Dist: SOC.

In 14X at 10A, Forms of Therapy

Each year, millions of people vow to make a change.  Some may wish to end their habit of procrastination, others to improve a significant relationship, or still others may commit to combat a mental illness.  Whatever their goal, people often discover how challenging personal change can be.  At its core, clinical psychology facilitates such change through the scientific application of psychological principles.  The purpose of this course is to introduce you to various scientifically-validated modalities of individual psychotherapy, with an emphasis on how psychotherapies utilize psychological principles to produce change.  Over the course of the semester we also will explore special topics in the field of clinical psychology such as: human connection, empathy, emotion, ethics, psychological assessment, pharmacological treatments, and treatment evaluation.  Prereqs:  Psyc 24.  Hudenko.

In 15W at 3B, Health Psychology

How do psychological states impact immune system functioning?  Why does the same illness affect different children, adults and their families in such different ways?  Why are there gender differences in the treatment outcomes for heart disease?  Why do people engage in unhealthy behaviors such as smoking?  What are the most effective ways to promote healthy behaviors such as exercise and healthy eating?  What are the psychological implications of medical advances such as organ transplantation  These are among the questions considered in the sub-specialty area of Health Psychology.  This course will take an empirical research approach as we explore the role of psychology in addressing the key area of:  1) health promotion, and 2) living with chronic physical illness.  Prerequisite:  Psyc 1 or 6.  Detzer