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 15F  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 16W at 10A, 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 16W at 2A, 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 16 W at 2, Human Memory

Knowing how our brains organize and spontaneously retrieve memories is at the heart of understanding the basis of the ongoing internal dialog of our conscious thoughts.  Put simply, our memories make us who we are.  The field of human memory also has a practical side.  For example, should you cram for your exam, or is it better to get a good night's sleep instead?  Or, what's the fastest way to memorize a large amount of new information or learn to play a new song on the piano?  In this course, we will systematically explore the field of modern human memory by examining the classic and cutting-edge experimental paradigms and formal (mathematical) models that form the foundation of our current understanding of human memory.  The mathematical concepts required for this course will be covered in class. Manning



In 16W at 10A, Spatial Cognition and Navigation – A Neurobiological Perspective

This course will explore both the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying spatial orientation and navigation.  The course will examine how animals/humans develop and maintain a sense of where they are and the direction they are facing.  This process is fundamental to understanding mechanisms underlying navigation.  We will examine processes of spatial orientation and navigation in a number of different species including insects, birds, fish, rodents, higher order mammals, and humans, but an emphasis will be placed on understanding the neural mechanisms underlying these processes in mammals.  Prerequisites: Psych 6 or permission of the instructor.  Taube

In 16S 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 16S 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 15F 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 15F at 12, Understanding the Frontal Lobes

This course will explore the role of the frontal lobes in high-level cognitive abilities such as self regulation, emotion regulation, executive function, decision making, the representation of self, and memory. Using the tools of cognitive neuroscience, we will examine how differences in the organization and function of the frontal lobes give rise to individual differences in personality and behavior and how frontal lobe damage or disease can give rise to mental health disorders.  Kelley.

In 15F 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 16S 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 16S 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 15F 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 16W at 11, Social and Affective Motivations in Decision-Making

Why do we tip restaurant servers, cab drivers, and coffee baristas?  Why does our grocery shopping behavior change when we are hungry?  This course will explore the social and affective motivations that influence how we make everyday decisions from the diverse perspectives of psychology, economics, and neurobiology.  This course will provide an introduction to how social psychological constructs and feelings can be modeled using tools from decision theory (e.g., value & uncertainty) and how these processes might be instantiated in the brain.  Topics to be covered include other-regarding preferences (e.g., trust, reciprocity, fairness, and altruism), affective motivations (e.g., risk, dread, regret, and guilt), and social considerations (e.g., reputation, conformity, and social-comparison). Prereqs PSYC: 1, 6, 23, 27 or 28.  Chang.


In 16S, Adolescent Risk Behaviors

Heart disease, cancers, diabetes and chronic lung disease are chronic health conditions that kill the vast majority of people in developed countries today. Those diseases are a result of behaviors—smoking, unhealthy eating, alcohol consumption and unsafe sexual practices—adopted during childhood and adolescence. This course begins with an overview of these behaviors and their relationship with disease. Then we examine individual, family, and community risk factors (e.g, marketing), as well as psychological and cognitive mediators of these exposures.  Sargent.


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 16W 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


In 16S 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.