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9.46 Neuroscience of Morality

Prereq: 9.00, 9.01; 9.10, 9.20, or 9.85
U (Fall)
12 Units. HASS-S

Advanced seminar that covers both classic and cutting-edge primary literature from psychology and the neuroscience of morality. Addresses questions about how the human brain decides which actions are morally right or wrong (including neural mechanisms of empathy and self-control), how such brain systems develop over childhood and differ across individuals and cultures, and how they are affected by brain diseases (such as psychopathy, autism, tumors, or addiction). Instruction and practice in written and oral communication provided.Limited to 24.

R. Saxe

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McGovern Institute for Brain Research MIT is Course 9, leading to Gayle Lutchen, Room 46-3160, 617-324...

Brain and Cognitive Sciences (Course 9)

No regular classes are offered by the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences during the summer term.

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences

The study of mind, brain, and behavior has grown in recent years with unprecedented speed. New avenues of approach, opened by developments in the biological and computer sciences, raise the hope that human beings, having achieved considerable mastery over the world around them, may also come closer to an understanding of themselves. The goal of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences is to answer fundamental questions concerning intelligent processes and brain organization. To this end, the department focuses on four themes: molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, cognitive science, and computation. Several members of the department's faculty are affiliated with two major research centers: the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. Research in cellular neuroscience deals with the biology of neurons, emphasizing the special properties of these cells as encoders, transmitters, and processors of information. Departmental researchers apply techniques of contemporary molecular and cellular biology to problems of neuronal development, structure, and function, resulting in a new understanding of the underlying basic components of the nervous system and their interactions. These studies have profound clinical implications, in part by generating a framework for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Primary areas of interest include the development and plasticity of neuronal morphology and connectivity, the cellular and molecular bases of behavior in simple neuronal circuits, neurochemistry, and cellular physiology. In the area of systems neuroscience, departmental investigators use a number of new approaches ranging from computation through electrophysiology to biophysics. Of major interest are the visual and motor systems where the scientific goals are to understand transduction and encoding of sensory stimuli into nerve messages, organization and development of sensorimotor systems, processing of sensorimotor information, and the sensorimotor performance of organisms. Also of major interest is neuromodulatory regulation, where the scientific goal is to understand the effects of rewarding or stressful environments on brain circuits. In computation and cognitive science, particularly strong interactions exist between the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Center for Biological and Computational Learning, providing new intellectual approaches in areas including vision and motor control, and biological and computer learning. Computational theories are developed and tested within the framework of neurophysiological, psychological, and other experimental approaches. In the study of vision and motor control, complementary experimental work includes single-cell and multiple-cell neurophysiological recording as well as functional brain imaging. In the area of learning, which is seen as central to intelligent behavior, departmental researchers are working to develop theories of vision, motor control, neural circuitry, and language within an experimental framework. In cognitive science, human experimentation is combined with formal and computational analyses to understand complex intelligent processes such as language, reasoning, memory, and visual information processing. There are applications in the fields of education, artificial intelligence, human-machine interaction, and in the treatment of language, cognitive, and other disorders. Subfields in cognitive science include psycholinguistics, comprising sentence and word processing, language acquisition, and aphasia; visual cognition, including reading, imagery, attention, and perception of complex patterns such as faces, objects, and scenes; spatial cognition; memory; and the nature and development of concepts. Another key field is the study of perception—developmental and processing approaches focus on human and machine vision, and how visual images are encoded, stored, and retrieved, with current topics that include motion analysis, stereopsis, perceptual organization, and perceptual similarity. Other research includes functional brain imaging in normal subjects as well as studies of neurologically impaired patients in an attempt to understand brain mechanisms underlying normal human sensation, perception, cognition, action, and affect.