Cognitive Neuroscience studies

August 6, 2015


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A multidisciplinary investigation of behavior and the nervous system. Particular emphasis is placed on human processes of perception, cognition, learning, memory, and language. This course serves as the introductory course for the neuroscience studies major.

NEUR 240 - Principles of Learning and Behavior

This course provides an in-depth introduction to the principles and methods used in the study of how behavior changes as a function of experience. The emphasis will be on classical and operant conditioning principles and procedures, which have become the standard research technologies used in biomedical, psychopharmacological, and other animal laboratory research areas. The laboratory component is designed to give students experience with behavioral technology and data collection and analysis.

NEUR 244 - Cognitive Neuroscience

Cognitive neuroscience is a relatively recent discipline that combines cognitive science and cognitive psychology with biology and neuroscience to investigate how the brain enables the myriad of complex functions we know as the mind. This course will explore basic concepts and contemporary topics in the field, focusing in particular on the methods used in cognitive neuroscience research. Through lecture and lab sessions, students will learn to read and interpret primary source material, design and implement cognitive neuroscience studies, and present research in verbal and written forms. Overall, students will gain an appreciation for the amazing intricacy of the brain-mind relationship, as well as a sense of how this relationship may be understood eventually using cognitive neuroscience techniques. Group A course.

Frequency: Fall semester.

NEUR 246 - Exploring Sensation/Perception

An examination of the processes of sensation and perception. While the course features a strong emphasis on neurophysiology of sensation, classical approaches to the study of perception will also figure prominently. Particular emphasis will be placed on vision and somatosensation, including pain processes. Lecture and weekly 3.5 hour investigatory laboratory.

NEUR 248 - Behavioral Neuroscience

An examination of the role of the nervous system in the control of behavior. While the course features a systems approach to the investigation of sensory and perceptual mechanisms, molecular, cellular and cognitive components of the nervous system will also be discussed in the context of course topics. Particular emphasis is given to the nature of learning, memory, and motor processes, motivation, emotion, homeostasis, cognition, and human neuropsychology. The laboratory will be used for a variety of instructor-demonstrative and student participatory research and laboratory activities.

Frequency: Spring semester.

NEUR 300 - Directed Research

Students are involved and guided in conducting research within specific content areas approved by the supervising faculty. Research may be conducted individually or in small groups depending on the content area. Research groups meet regularly for presentation of background material, discussions of common readings, and reports on project status. Directed research is typically taken in the junior year and is open only to declared majors. Students will be assigned to sections by the supervising faculty.

Frequency: Every semester.

NEUR 313 - Philosophy of Mind

Materialism, rather than solving the problem of mind, consciousness and intentionality, has spawned numerous philosophical perplexities. This course will examine a variety of philosophical problems associated with contemporary models of the mind (mind/body dualism; mind/brain identity theories; behaviorism; functionalism and artificial intelligence; eliminative naturalism and folk psychology; biological naturalism). The course will also look at contemporary philosophical accounts of personhood and personal identity, particularly narrative accounts of the self. Readings will typically include David Chalmers, Daniel Dennett, Owen Flanagan, Derek Parfit, Marya Schechtman, John Searle, Galen Strawson, and Kathleen Wilkes.

NEUR 382 - Hormones and Behavior

This class will focus on the hormonal mechanisms of behavior in animals (including homo sapiens). Following introductory lectures, a series of topics will be explored, with a particular emphasis placed on those behaviors most directly mediated by hormonal activity (such as aggression, sexual and reproductive behaviors, stress responses, etc.).

Frequency: Offered occasionally

NEUR 385 - Mind Reading: Understanding Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a non-invasive technique used to provide indirect measures of neural activity in healthy (and unhealthy) humans. Although the technique has been readily available to researchers for only about 20 years, its popularity and use has grown tremendously in the last 10, and we now see it influencing aspects of culture and society not traditionally based in biomedical research (i.e., law, politics, economics). This course will cover the mechanics of fMRI, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, and explore recent applications that have received wide and sometimes controversial media coverage. By the end of the course, students will understand essential components of the fMRI technique and be informed consumers of primary and secondary source reports involving brain imaging.

NEUR 389 - Inside the Animal Mind

Ever wondered what your dog is thinking or why your cat behaves a certain way? In this course students will be introduced to the questions and concepts in the study of animal cognition and the neurobiological basis for cognition. We will take a peek into the animal mind and show that many topics in animal cognition can be studied in an objective and scientific manner. The format of the seminar will include student led discussion of recent topics in the study of animal cognition. Topics may include: animal sensory abilities, abstract representations (e.g., numbers and time) cause and effect detection, memory and emotion systems and their neurobiological basis, insight and reasoning, theory of mind, and communication. Book chapters and journal articles will be employed to illustrate these concepts.

NEUR 390 - Pain and Suffering

This seminar-format course will examine both basic research and clinical aspects of pain and suffering. Following introductory lectures on suffering, pain and pain relief, a series of topics will be explored, including but not limited to: pain measurement in humans and animals; the ethics and use of experimental models in pain research; chronic pain; pain relief produced by drugs, acupuncture, hypnosis, and placebos; and learning processes that influence pain sensitivity. Features a student-led component. (4 credits)

Frequency: Every other year

NEUR 484 - Intro Artificial Intelligence

An introduction to the basic principles and techniques of artificial intelligence. Topics will include specific AI techniques, a range of application areas, and connections between AI and other areas of study (i.e., philosophy, psychology). Techniques may include heuristic search, automated reasoning, machine learning, deliberative planning and behavior-based agent control. Application areas include robotics, games, knowledge representation, logic, perception, and natural language processing.

Source: www.macalester.edu

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