FYS 455 Neuroscience Fiction
What possibilities come with 100 billion interconnected neurons? What happens if we extend, hybridize, or even discard the wet and messy reality of our brains for synthetic alternatives? In this course, students use science fiction to probe the links between brain and behavior, ponder new psychosocial potentials, and challenge current notions of subjectivity and representation. Students explore concepts such as linguistic relativity, collective consciousness, noogenesis, cybernetic threat, the exocortex, psi powers, and digital immortality through literature and media. They are introduced to discourses of transhumanism, Afrofuturism, feminist utopia, and cyberpunk and its derivatives, and engage in their own speculative writing, design, and construction.
FYS 478 The History of the Brain: Ideas and Delusions about Brain Function from Antiquity to the Digital Age
What sort of device is the brain? What principles does it follow, and what do these imply about our ultimate freedom, responsibility, limitations, and place in the natural order? In this course, students explore how we have grappled with these questions over history, and how these questions continue to animate modern art and culture.
NRSC 119 Drugs: The Damage Done and Designing Better Ones
This course explores impactful discoveries and pitfalls in the field of neuropharmacology. In addition, we consider what we can learn from these past outcomes as we seek new treatments for the field of psychiatry. Topics may include drug addiction therapy, cannabis and psychosis, psychedelics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, Alzheimer drug failures, animal models vs. computational approaches, tailoring drugs to the individual, the impact of past racial/gender biases in drug development, and sex and hormone interactions with drugs. Only open to juniors and seniors.
NRSC 130 The Neuroscience of Morality
Presidential politics brings discussions of morality to the forefront. Topics range from political morality and the liberal/conservative divide, to group morality and intergroup relations as well as the role of emotions versus conscious reasoning in moral judgment. Indeed, how do we decide whether a statement, conviction, or action is morally wrong? Are there different kinds of moral wrongness? What role does our neurobiology play in moral decision making? This course considers the neuroscientific origins of morality by exploring how judgments about fairness, harm, justice, honesty, and responsibility are impacted by our biological foundations.
NRSC 160 Introduction to Neuroscience
In this course, students learn how the structure and function of the central and peripheral nervous systems support mind and behavior. Topics include neuroanatomy, developmental neurobiology, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, and neuropsychiatry. The course is designed for prospective majors and nonmajors who are interested in exploring a field in which biology and psychology merge, and to which many other disciplines (e.g., chemistry, philosophy, anthropology, computer science) have contributed. Not open to students who have received credit for PSYC 215.
NRSC 205 Statistical Methods
This course provides a hands-on introduction to modern statistical methods for brain and behavioral data. Topics include descriptive statistics, introductory probability theory, and statistical inference using both frequentist (hypothesis tests and confidence intervals) and Bayesian approaches, regression, prediction, analyses of variance, and resampling techniques including bootstrapping. Particular emphasis is placed on design choices for reproducible research. Lectures are interactive, using the R programming language. No prior programming experience is required. Prerequisite(s): one 100-level course in biology, neuroscience, or psychology.
NRSC 208 Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society
As our ability to measure, predict, and manipulate brain function progresses, so too does our need to grapple with the societal consequences of neuroscientific discovery. This course invites critical examination of the ethics surrounding real-world neuroscience applications in private and public sectors. With topics that include psychopharmacology and cognitive liberty, neuroimaging for lie detection, weaponization of neurotechnology, and neuroprivacy in an era of data mining, students engage two overarching questions: How does the practice of neuroscience simultaneously mirror and mold social attitudes and policy-making agendas? What does it mean to be a responsible consumer and/or producer of neuroscientific knowledge? Prerequisite(s): one of the following: NRSC 130, NS/PY 160, or PSYC 215. Not open to students who have received credit for NRSC s20.
NRSC 209 Neural Codes: The Language of Thought
Although a central tenet of neuroscience is that information about the world is encoded in the patterns of neural firing, it is increasingly acknowledged that our assumptions about these patterns make qualitatively different predictions about neural function. This course examines major hypotheses related to information coding by individual neurons and populations of neurons. Specific themes include rate coding versus time-based codes, sparse versus dense codes, and the relationship between brain responses and the statistics of their inputs. Students examine biological data and artificial models to assess how various encoding schemes might produce skillful behavioral responses. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160.
NRSC 240 Neural Networks
Biological intelligence is characterized by selecting, processing, and storing information while flexibly adapting to changing conditions. How might biology inspire “smart” algorithms? This course explores the fundamental principles of artificial neural networks (ANNs). Students begin with modeling learning in a single computational unit (McCulloch-Pitts neuron), and then examine how many simple units can collectively give rise to complex behaviors. They examine both supervised networks that learn a predetermined input-output relationship, and unsupervised networks that learn “suspicious coincidences” from the input data. They implement neural networks with Python (previous experience is helpful but not necessary). Prerequisite(s), which may be taken concurrently: NS/PY 160. Recommended background: Experience with Python programming (such as from DCS 109) would be helpful, but is not strictly required.
NRSC 250 Biopsychology of Motivation and Emotion
The course examines the mechanisms involved in activating and directing behavior and in forming, expressing, and perceiving emotions. Analysis includes evaluation of the role of physiological, environmental, and cognitive variables in mediating the behavioral processes such as thirst, hunger, sex, arousal, reward, stress, choice, consistency, and achievement. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160 or PSYC 101.
NRSC 252 Philosophy of Cognitive Science
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind, including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, computer science, and philosophy as its core. This course examines the conceptual foundations of cognitive science, and different approaches to integrating findings and perspectives from across disciplines into a coherent understanding of the mind. Students also consider issues in the philosophy of science, the nature of mind, self, agency, and implicit bias. Prerequisite(s): one course in philosophy, psychology, or neuroscience.
NRSC 305 Gene Editing in Biology and Neuroscience
The development of genome editing techniques by molecular biologists has raised great hopes that a treatment for genetic disorders such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington’s disease might finally be available. In this course, students analyze how genome editing techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9 have evolved, how they can be applied to study the role of individual genes or to alter mutant genes, and what approaches exist for the delivery of DNA-modifying enzymes into an organism. In addition, students use scientific publications and popular literature to discuss ethical implications of usage of genome editing techniques for society. Prerequisite(s): BIO 242, or BIO 195 and 202.
NRSC 308 Neurobiology
An introduction to the molecular and cellular principles of neurobiology and the organization of neurons into networks. Also investigated are developmental and synaptic plasticity, analysis of signaling pathways in cells of the nervous system, and the development of neurobiological research, from studies on invertebrate systems to usage of stem cell-derived brain organoids and gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR/Cas9. Laboratories include analysis of nerve cell activity, computer simulation and modeling, and the use of molecular techniques in neurobiology. Prerequisite(s): BIO 242, or BIO 195 and 202. The course may be offered with a lab in some semesters; this is indicated in the Schedule of Courses.
NRSC 320 Mechanisms of Memory
This course engages students in ideas from the fields of neuroscience, chemistry, biology, and psychology to understand on a chemical level how memory is stored and recalled in the human brain. Using seminal experiments as a foundation, students differentiate between “learning” and “memory” and connect model systems from the molecule all the way to behavior. Multimodal assignments explore the broad scope of experimental design and the cutting-edge subtleties of what it means to store and access information in the brain. Prerequisite(s): BIO 242, or BIO 202 and 204; and CHEM 217.
NRSC 324 Neuroscience of Vision
We encounter hundreds of thousands of visual stimuli every day. How is this information organized meaningfully in the brain? By what biological and perceptual mechanisms does our brain translate simple light signals into the complex visual scenes of our daily lives? This course will explore the neuroscience and methodologies of vision science, covering topics such as visual attention, color perception, object recognition, spatial perception, visual memory, and many others. The course will be structured with a mix of lecture and discussion of relevant research articles. Students will develop the skills to recognize the current questions, issues, and methods in vision research, read and critique peer-reviewed scientific articles, and think critically about the applications of vision science in daily life. Prerequisite(s): NRSC 160/PSYC 160. Recommended background: PSYC 215.
NRSC 330 Cognitive Neuroscience/Lab
This course explores how the neurological organization of the brain influences the way people think and act. Particular emphasis is given to the brain systems that support object recognition, spatial processing, attention, language, memory, and executive functions. Students also investigate clinical syndromes and unusual cognitive phenomena. A wide range of research techniques is introduced, including positron emission topography, functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, neuropsychological assessment, event-related potentials, magnetoencephalography, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: NS/PY 160 or 363 or PSYC 215, 222, or 230.
NRSC 331 Cognitive Neuroscience
This course explores how the neurological organization of the brain influences the way people think and act. Particular emphasis is given to the brain systems that support object recognition, spatial processing, attention, language, memory, and executive functions. Students also investigate clinical syndromes and unusual cognitive phenomena. A wide range of research techniques is introduced, including positron emission topography, functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, neuropsychological assessment, event-related potentials, magnetoencephalography, and transcranial magnetic stimulation. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160 or 200 or 363 or PSYC 215, 222, or 230.
NRSC 357 Computational Neuroscience
In this course, students examine formal models of brain function to determine how neurons give rise to thought. Examining real datasets, students explore how the brain encodes and represents information at cellular, network, and systems scales, and they discuss ideas about why the brain is organized as it is. Specific topics include spike statistics, reverse correlation and linear models of encoding, dimensionality reduction, cortical oscillations, neural networks, and algorithms for learning and memory. All assignments and most class work emphasizes computer programming in Python, though no programming background is assumed or expected. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160.
NRSC 360 Independent Study
NRSC 362 Psychopharmacology
This course examines the effects that drugs have on human behavior, including the ability to cause addiction as well as treat a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions. By exploring how drugsalter neurotransmitters, students better understand how the brain mediates cognition, emotion, and sensorimotor functioning. Strategies, techniques, and challenges of psychopharmacological research are addressed, and new approaches to drug discovery are covered in depth. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: NS/PY 160, 319, 330, or 331; or PSYC 215, 302, or 305.
NRSC 363 Physiological Psychology/Lab
The course is an introduction to the concepts and methods used in the study of physiological mechanisms underlying behavior. Topics include an introduction to neurophysiology and neuroanatomy; an examination of sensory and motor mechanisms; and the physiological bases of ingestion, sexual behavior, reinforcement, learning, memory, and abnormal behavior. Laboratory work includes examination of neuroanatomy, development of neurosurgical and histological skills, and behavioral testing of rodents. Prerequisite(s): NRSC 160/PSYC 160 or BIO 308/NRSC 308.
NRSC 366 Physiological Psychology
The course is an introduction to the concepts and methods used in the study of physiological mechanisms underlying behavior. Topics include an introduction to neurophysiology and neuroanatomy; an examination of sensory and motor mechanisms; and the physiological bases of ingestion, sexual behavior, reinforcement, learning, memory, and abnormal behavior. Prerequisite(s): BI/NS 308, NS/PY 160, or PSYC 215.
NRSC 399 Junior-Senior Seminar in Biological Psychology
A course designed to give junior and senior majors an opportunity to explore a significant new area in biological psychology. Topics change from year to year and with the expertise of the faculty member. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160. Only open to juniors and seniors.
NRSC 457 Capstone Thesis in Neuroscience
Open to senior majors with permission of the program faculty. A neuroscience thesis involves independent laboratory research on a topic broadly related to neuroscience. This may take the form of a one- or two-semester project conducted under the supervision of a Bates faculty member, or participation in a summer neuroscience-related research internship off-campus that culminates in data analysis and writing during the fall semester. With the latter option, students take responsibility for finding and securing a summer research position in neuroscience that involves some form of data collection, and students must also secure permission from the summer research mentor to bring data back to Bates for analysis and write-up. Students register for NRSC 457 in the fall semester and/or for NRSC 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both NRSC 457 and 458.
NRSC 458 Capstone Thesis in Neuroscience
Open to senior majors with permission of the program faculty. A neuroscience thesis involves independent laboratory research on a topic broadly related to neuroscience. This may take the form of a one- or two-semester project conducted under the supervision of a Bates faculty member. Students register for NRSC 457 in the fall semester and/or for NRSC 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both NRSC 457 and 458.
NRSC 459 Community-Engaged Learning Capstone
Open to senior majors with permission of the program faculty, this capstone involves creative collaboration with a campus or community partner to produce a body of neuroscience-related work that benefits that partner. Students complete fifty to sixty hours of work in a campus/community placement and engage in structured writing exercises specific to the placement. Students may wish to consult with the Harward Center for Community Partnerships as they develop their project; the project is subject to approval by the neuroscience faculty.
NRSC 463 Capstone Seminar on Human Cognitive Neuroscience
Open to seniors with permission of the program faculty, this seminar focuses on the end-to-end process of scientific discovery using the tools of human cognitive neuroscience. Students work in groups to uncover an open empirical question in the areas of perception, attention, or memory, then design and execute an experiment aimed at answering this question using electroencephalography or eye tracking in human subjects. Students gain experience in modern data analysis techniques including multivariate pattern analysis, time-frequency analysis, image processing, and representational similarity analysis. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160 and either BIO 244, NRSC 205, or PSYC 218.
NRSC 464 Capstone Seminar in Systems Neuroscience
Open to seniors with permission of the program faculty, in this seminar investigates the mouse olfactory bulb, with the goal of testing student-designed hypotheses on this structure’s molecular and functional organization. Students use a wide interdisciplinary set of approaches to interrogate olfactory circuits at cellular scale, including electrical recordings, imaging, histology, modeling, and informatics. Additional features of the course include training in research design, data analysis using MATLAB, instruction in proposal writing and science writing and professional development. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160 and one of the following: BI/NS 308, NS/PY 330, 357, or 363.
NRSC 465 Capstone Seminar on Experimental Neuropsychology
Experimental neuropsychology uses empirical methods to study processes of the human nervous system in relation to cognition and affect across contexts of mental health and illness. This seminar focuses on clinical neuropsychological assessment as a means to understand neuropsychiatric conditions at an endophenotypic level, with particular emphasis on characterizing intermediate cognitive and affective mechanisms that give rise to psychopathology. Students work in groups to test novel hypotheses using human subjects and, through the research process, learn methods of neuropsychological evaluation. Additional features of the course include research ethics training and certification, multivariate data analysis, scientific writing in APA style, and professional development. Prerequisite(s): NS/PY 160 or PSYC 215; and BIO 244, NRSC 205, or PSYC 218. Only open to seniors.
NRSC S21 Writing about the Brain: Neuroscience and Storytelling
In this course, students “think about our thinking about the brain.” They consider how scientific findings are used to create stories about human meaning and purpose, and how science itself is shaped by the impulse to find and create meaning. They study four areas of neuroscience that are routinely in popular media: studies of “free will,” animal intelligence, mental illness and brain injury, and “split brains.” Students critique and analyze popular neuroscience media, and craft their own popular-science narratives in the form of essays, blog posts, podcasts, and interviews. Recommended background: Familiarity with fundamental neuroscience concepts (neurons, synapses, the localization of function to particular brain areas) is helpful, but not required.
NRSC S34 The Genome
We are all born with one. We all share one. We have a three-billion character book stuffed into each of our one quadrillion cells, so we should probably read it. In this course students spend two weeks on Mount Desert Island studying how the human genome was first sequenced, how individual genomes are now sequenced all the time, how we do it, how we map the reads, compare mutations, quantify how our genes are read, how seminal events in our lives trigger them to turn on, and how others are stored away when they are not. Prerequisite(s): CHEM 217 and BIO 204 or 242.
NRSC S50 Independent Study
Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair is required. Students may register for no more than one independent study during a Short Term.