The courses in the Neuroscience: Perception, Action and the Brain Specialization explore the deeply puzzling questions of how the human brain and the rest of the nervous system gather sense information that allows us to perceive the world and act successfully in it.
第 1 门课程
课程学习时间 4-5 hours/week
This course is a shorter version of my medical school-caliber course, Medical Neuroscience. Like its parent course, this shorter course covers the organization and physiology of the human central nervous system. The focus of Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action is on the basic components of the brain and spinal cord, the means by which nerve cells generate electrical signals and communicate, the neural mechanisms of synaptic and circuit plasticity, and the organization of the sensory and motor systems that integrate experience and motivate behavior. Unlike its parent course, this shorter course is not so clinically focused. Rather, it aims to explore foundational mechanisms in neuroscience without emphasizing the competency of localizing lesions in the human central nervous system (a major focus of Medical Neuroscience).
The overall goal of this course is to equip learners to be successful in our specialization, Perception, Action and the Brain. To help you get the most out of our specialization, this course will teach you the basic neural mechanisms that makes it possible for the human brain to contend with an onslaught of sensory signals and generate successful behavior for survival and flourishing in a complex world. Thus, the other two courses in Perception, Action and the Brain will introduce you to the phenomenology of what we see and the means by which the brain generates visual representations (Visual Perception and the Brain), and challenge you to understand how the brain creates our sense of spatial location from a variety of sensory and motor sources, and how this spatial sense in turn shapes our cognitive abilities (The Brain and Space). The role, then, of Foundational Neuroscience for Perception and Action is to give you a “look under the hood” so that you can understand the neural mechanisms that operate at the level of synapses, circuits, and sensorimotor systems. You will then use this intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the human central nervous system as you take on the final project in our specialization.
This course is for advanced baccalaureate and prospective or current graduate students who are pursuing degrees in the brain sciences. It is also for students or professionals in technical fields concerned with human factors in computing, virtual reality, or gaming who are interested in understanding how the brain generates perceptions and actions. Teachers who are interested in understanding how the brain works as a means to enhance their curriculum in science education, or just to enhance student learning more generally will benefit. As will anyone who is simply curious about how the brain contends with sensory information and produces action.
第 2 门课程
课程学习时间 4-5 hours/week
Knowing where things are is effortless. But “under the hood,” your brain must figure out even the simplest of details about the world around you and your position in it. Recognizing your mother, finding your phone, going to the grocery store, playing the banjo – these require careful sleuthing and coordination across different sensory and motor domains. This course traces the brain’s detective work to create this sense of space and argues that the brain’s spatial focus permeates our cognitive abilities, affecting the way we think and remember.
The material in this course is based on a book I’ve written for a general audience. The book is called “Making Space: How the Brain Knows Where Things Are”, and is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or directly from Harvard University Press.
The course material overlaps with classes on perception or systems neuroscience, and can be taken either before or after such classes.
第 3 门课程
课程学习时间 3-4 小时/周
The purpose of the course is to consider how what we see is generated by the visual system.
In the 1960s and for the following few decades, it seemed all but certain that the rapidly growing body of information about the electrophysiological and anatomical properties of neurons in the primary visual pathway of experimental animals would reveal how the brain uses retinal stimuli to generate perceptions and appropriate visually guided behaviors. But despite the passage of more than fifty years, this expectation has not been met. In retrospect, the missing piece is understanding how stimuli that cannot specify the properties of physical sources can nevertheless give rise to perceptions and behaviors that are routinely successful.
Most concepts of vision propose, explicitly or implicitly, that successful visual behavior depends on recovering the sources of stimulus features either directly or by a process of statistical inference. However, given the inability of the visual system to access the physical properties of the world, these conceptual frameworks cannot account for the behavioral success of biological vision. The alternative is that the visual system automatically links simple, recurrent stimulus patterns with reproductive success, without ever recovering real world properties.
This strategy provides a different way of studying the relationship between the objective world and subjective experience, and offers a way of understanding the operating principles of visual circuitry without invoking feature detection, image representation in the brain, and/or probabilistic inference.
Thus the objectives of the course are:
– To introduce you to some fascinating perceptual phenomenology
– To make you think about how this phenomenology can be explained
– To make you consider what possible explanations imply about brain function
课程学习时间 4-6 hours/week
After completing the three required courses in this Specialization, learners will have a good background in the overall organization and function of the human brain and how it supports visual perception, spatial processing and successful interaction with a complex world. We know participants in this Specialization come from a variety of backgrounds and are interested in applying the knowledge gained in neuroscience and perception in different ways; therefore, this final capstone project will offer three options from which to choose:
(1) write a research proposal (for experimental research on perception and action) OR
(2) write a popular press article (in non-technical language) that summarizes
current knowledge about a topic pertinent to perception and action OR
(3) create a video demonstration or multimedia application (a virtual or real-world demonstration of how sensory signals give rise to perceptions and/or actions)
We hope one of these project options will be intrinsically interesting to you, as well as guiding you to create a practical product for your future needs, such as enhancing skills in your current career area, or preparing for future career opportunities.