Topics Courses, 2017-2018


Issues in Neuroscience

See below for topics. Enrollment limited to 35 students.
Dist: SCI (unless otherwise listed in course description)

PSYC 50.01. Neuroscience of Mental Illness

In 17F at 12, Margaret Funnell
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.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 6.

PSYC 50.04. Sleep & Sleep Disorders

In 17X at 10A, Michael Sateia
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.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6

PSYC 50.09. Motivation, Drugs and Addiction

In 18W at 2A, Kyle Smith
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.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 6 and one of the following: PSYC 45 or PSYC 46


Issues in Information Processing

See below for topics. Enrollment limited to 35 students.
Dist: SOC (unless otherwise listed in course description)

PSYC 51.02. Face Perception

In 17F at 2A, Maria Gobbini
Faces are one of the richest sources of information for non-verbal communication. Through faces we recognize identity and infer the emotional and mental states of others, as well as where they are directing their attention. This course will focus on the neural mechanisms for face perception and how these mechanisms facilitate rapid extraction of cues that facilitate social interaction. Particular relevance will be put also on the neural systems for representation of person knowledge.  In addition to weekly readings, students will have a written exam at the end of the course.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6

PSYC 51.05. The History of Psychology and Neuroscience

In 18S at 10, Howard Hughes
“Those that cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (Philosopher George Santayana, Life of Reason, 1905).  Is that happening in the Psychological Sciences today?  The goal of this course is to enrich our understanding of modern Psychological and Brain Science by developing an understanding (and respect for) its intellectual origins.  We will trace the origins of many contemporary topics in Psychology and Neuroscience to illustrate how much of our current understanding was anticipated by earlier generations. We will see that early psychologists, physiologists, anatomists and physicians, without the aid of the modern technologies we rely on today, came up with some incredibly clever ways to solve experimental problems and provide insights that form the foundations for our modern understanding of the mechanisms of mind and brain.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6

PSYC 51.09. Human Memory

In 18W at 10A, Jeremy Manning
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, how much should we trust eyewitness testimony?  Or, should you cram for tomorrow's exam or get a good night's sleep instead?  We will examine a range of classic and cutting-edge experimental results and theories that form the foundation of our current understanding of how we learn and remember.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
​Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6

PSYC 51.11. Thinking About Thinking

In 18W at 11, Holly Taylor
How do you solve a complicated problem, whether the problem is social, engineering, conceptual or scheduling?  This course explores how we store and use information, in other words how we use our knowledge to think.  Successfully using our knowledge is key to teaching and learning.  We will explore questions underlying thinking and learning and their applications (e.g. to education), including methodology, processes, variability, individual differences, and flexibility.  We will examine these questions taking a broad perspective from education and related disciplines.

Cross-listed as EDUC 59.


Issues in Learning and Development

See below for topics. Enrollment limited to 35 students.
Dist: SOC (unless otherwise stated in the course description)

PSYC 52.01. Developmental Psychopathology

In 17F at 9L, Janine Scheiner
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 and one of the following: PSYC 24, PSYC 25, or PSYC 59.01

PSYC 52.04. Adolescent Risk Behaviors: Corporate and Envrionmental Influences

In 18S at 10A, James Sargent
Chronic health conditions (like cancer and heart disease) kill the majority of people worldwide. Those diseases result, in part, from use of products—e.g., tobacco, alcohol, & convenience food—that are produced and marketed worldwide by multinational corporations.  This course centers around how corporations influence unhealthy product consumption during childhood and adolescence. This course describes the theoretical basis for these influences, the science used to establish corporate products as a cause of youth behavior, and how governments try to limit the influence through regulation. The study will cover tobacco, alcohol, drug use, homicide/suicide, food/obesity, and risky sex. (Note: this course was previously offered as PSYC 53.03.)

Prerequisite: PSYC 1


Issues in Social Psychology and Social Neuroscience

See below for topics.  Enrollment limited to 35 students.
Dist: SOC (unless otherwise listed in course description)

PSYC 53.10. Social Affective Decision

In 18W at 11, Luke Chang
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).

Prerequisite: PSYC 23, PSYC 27, or PSYC 28.

53.11 Comparative Neurobiology of Social Interaction

In 18S at 2, Laurel Symes
Because animals evolved from a common ancestor, they share not only features of their external morphology, but also aspects of their neurobiology. This course focuses specifically on the neurobiology of social interactions. It takes a comparative approach to assess when neural systems are conserved and when neural systems have converged in function in response to similar selective pressures. The course will be organized into modules that address five topic areas: mate choice, parental care, territoriality/aggression, communication/language, and group living. Examples will be drawn from case studies including song learning in birds, communication in bees, and perception of emotion in humans.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: BIOL 14, BIOL 16, PSYC 1, or PSYC 6; or instructor permission
Cross-listed as BIOL 33
Dist: SCI

53.12. The Behavior of Groups

In 18W at 12, Melissa Herman
Much of your life is spent in groups: families, classes, teams, cliques, Greek organizations, work teams.  Have you ever wondered what’s going on under the surface or how you can make your groups function better?  Although these groups may be dissimilar in size, format, and function, the psychological processes involved are surprisingly consistent.  This course will analyze psychological theories of group interaction including conformity, competition, conflict, leadership, negotiation, communication, power dynamics, status orders, initiation rites, ostracism, expectation states, and stereotypes.  Readings will include classics such as Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment, Tajfel’s minimalist groups paradigm, Sherif’s Robber’s Cave experiment, Whyte’s Street Corner Society, and Pennington’s Social Psychology of Behavior in Small Groups. Assignments will involve several reading analyses, a final exam, and—of course—a group project.

Prerequisite: PSYC 1


Issues in Applied Psychology

See below for topics. Enrollment limited to 35 students.
Dist: SOC (unless otherwise listed in course description)

54.02. Health Psychology

In 18W at 3B, Mark Detzer
This course will explore the role of psychology and health. We will review both empirical/research and clinical psychology contributions to: 1) chronic physical illness; and 2) health promotion. This course utilizes a multi-modal learning approach and will include lectures, readings, large and small group class discussions, videos, guest speakers, and outside of the classroom/DHMC learning opportunities Through in-depth study of medical conditions such as diabetes, cystic fibrosis, cancer and chronic physical pain, we will explore the impact of illnesses on the individual/family, the role of development/cognitive factors in illness, adherence/self-management issues, and "medical treatment" issues including doctor/patient communication and medical system aspects of care. We will also review health promotion/behavior change strategies.

Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6

54.03. Forms of Therapy

In 18S at 10A, William Hudenko
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.

Prerequisite: PSYC 24

54.05. Consumer Neuroscience

In 17F at 11, Kimberly Rose Clark
How do measures of the brain and body map onto a brand marketer’s return on a research investment? This course focuses on the history and topics related to the nascent, yet burgeoning, cross-disciplinary field of consumer neuroscience and new technological advances in marketing related to neuromarketing. The course will provide a unique vantage on the multiple academic and applied histories of the field, its ethical ramifications, along with general perspectives focusing on current practices and potential future directions, including the implications of predicting mass consumer behavior from small test samples. Students will have the opportunity to engage with some of the most notable academic and practitioners in the field and will participate in a capstone project of original research applying theory and utilizing psycho physiological tools applied in real-world neuromarketing research.

Approved elective for the Neuroscience major/minor.
Prerequisite: PSYC 1 and one of PSYC 21, PSYC 27, or PSYC 28; or PSYC 6.

54.06. Living with Dementia

In 18S at 2A, Robert Santulli
The purpose of the course is to learn about Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, with a focus on the subjective experience of the disease.  This learning will occur both didactically (through readings, presentations, films, discussions, reflection exercises and the like) and experientially.  Experiential learning will consist of working throughout the term with someone who suffers from dementia and his or her care partner.  You will collect and write up the life story of the person with dementia, focusing not only on the disease, but also on his or her early life, personality, interests, achievements, preserved capabilities, family, and other characteristics. Through this combination of learning techniques, you will come to understand dementia not just as a devastating disease, but also as a lived experience, in the context of the person’s character, past and present experiences, and relationships to family and society.

Enrollment limited to 16 students.
Prerequisite: PSYC 1 or PSYC 6.

54.07. Clinical Science Practicum

In 17F at 2A, William Hudenko
This course is designed to provide students with an experiential learning opportunity by applying knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to actual work settings while under both site and academic supervision.  Students who have an interest in clinical psychology will learn about the different facets of working in a social service, mental health, or other community setting while assessing their own skills and suitability for this kind of graduate work or employment experience.   Students will spend up to 10 hours/wk at their practicum site and will be mentored onsite.  Additional supervision will be provided by a clinical science faculty member during regularly scheduled class times and didactic instruction will be offered to complement and enhance work that is completed at practicum sites.

Enrollment limited to 15 students.
Prerequisite: PSYC 24 and instructor permission.

59. Introduction to Psychological Assessment

In 18S at 9L, Janine Scheiner
This course is an overview of current approaches to the psychological assessment of individual differences in development, intelligence, personality and special abilities.  It will consider the strengths, weaknesses, and issues associated with each approach and will cover the basic principles of test construction, evaluation, and interpretation.  The course will also include a history of psychological testing, and a consideration of the important theoretical, ethical, and social issues which psychological assessment has raised.

Prerequisite: PSYC 1 and PSYC 10
Dist: SOC