Mind and Brain

Course Number: 
NSCI 3100
Semesters Offered: 

This course is intended as a survey of the current thinking in the relationship between mind and brain. Over the last several decades, a new view of cognition and neural processing has been developed based on the concepts of al¬gorithm, representation, computation, and information processing. Within this theoretical frame¬work, psychological constructs are computational processes occur¬ring across physical neural systems. We will take a neuroscience and psychological perspective in which the physical neuroscience instantiates but does not diminish the psychological constructs. Although our conceptual framework will be computational, this course will not require or expect any mathematical or computer background.


At the completion of this class, you will understand the implications of the physical nature of the brain – how mentation is explicable from physical processes, and how decision-making arises from those same physical processes. Importantly, you will also understand the limitations of current knowledge and the methodologies being used to push those limitations. This class is not intended as a final step in this understanding, but as a first step into these issues. At the conclusion of the class, you should have sufficient understanding to continue more in-depth reading and study in these issues.


The format of each class will be 10 minutes of review of the homework from the previous week, a one hour (interactive) lecture followed by a 20-minute break out session in which the students will address a discussion question in groups of 4-5, and a 5-minute reintegration whole-class discussion. The lectures will be Socratic, and students should expect to be ready to answer questions during the lecture.