Brain and Cognition (PSYC 402)

Fall Semester 2015

MoWe 3:30PM - 4:45PM R P Harvill Bldg, Rm 134

08/24/2015 - 12/09/2015

Final Exam: 12/16/2015 (Wed) 3:30 pm - 4:45 pm

Instructor: Stephen Cowen, Ph.D.


Cowen Office Hours: Wed 1:00-2:00 at my main-campus office in Psychology, Room 326 (the administration area, in the back corner). For other appointments, please email me to schedule a time.


Phone: (520) 626-2615


Course overview:

Research over the last two decades has radically improved our ability to understand the mechanisms of thought. This course will introduce students to major advances in our capacity to link brain activity to perception, memory, emotion, language, and executive function. The course will be a combination of lectures and discussion of recent brain-related science news and readings from instructors/students.


Given that this is a 400-level class, readings and discussion will come from professional-level sources and research articles. Buckle up.

Learning Objectives

·         Demonstrate an understanding core methodologies in cognitive neuroscience and how they are applied (e.g., fMRI, electrophysiology, EEG, PET, optogenetics, etc…).

·         Understand the functions of major areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex, parietal cortex, and temporal lobes.

·         Know the meaning of core terms/concepts such as: place field, dopamine, long-term memory, synchrony, plasticity, receptors, synapses, episodic and semantic memory.

Required Texts:

1)     Most articles will come from Principles of Neural Science 5th ed. (Kandel et al.). It’s expensive (sorry), but the resale value is very high given that this a professional reference source. Here’s what you get: An amazing 1600 pages and 67 chapters of neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience articles written by world experts in the field. If you plan to pursue neuroscience or cognitive neuroscience, you will find this book useful for many years to come. There is a Kindle version as well.


2)      Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings, 2nd Edition

by Gary L. Wenk

Other readings will be sent to the class or be in the Readings section of D2L

For those interested check out



No classes on: September 7, 2015, November 11, 2015

Wk) Date             Topics                                                                                   Read this                            

1) Aug 24 (M)    Introductions and what I do.                                       Definitions Themes, Approaches              

1) Aug 26 (W)    Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience: Brains and Behavior

                                                Kandel Ch 1 Brain and Behvior.pdf (On D2L)


2) Aug 31 (M)    Intro continued, brains, and how neurons work

Kandel Ch 2 Nerve Cells, Neural Circuitry, and Behavior.pdf  (On D2L) *short *short                                


2) Sep 2 (W)       How neurons work continued.

Action Potentials: Yes, this is from “neuroscience for kids” but it’s actually quite nice…

Action Potentials: This is short but a little more detailed…

3) Sep 7 (M)       NO CLASS – LABOR DAY (you might want to start on the 2 articles for the 9th as they will be tough)

3) Sep 9 (W)       Lab tour!

Reading these won’t be easy, but it’s good for you.

4) Sep 14 (M)     Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience

jaaskelainen Chapter 2 Methods of Cognitive Neuroscience.pdf

More Methods:

EEG: Read the article below but stop at the section called Method

Video - Lasers and brains

Topics like LFPs, extracellular recordings will be discussed in class.

4) Sep 16 (W)     15 min Presentations 1, 2, 3:  

5) Sep 21 (M)     A core idea of cognitive neuroscience: Internal representations of the outside world                                                                         Kandel Ch 17 (this is a ‘big picture’ chapter.)

5) Sep 23 (W)     15 min Presentations 4, 5, 6:

6) Sep 28 (M)     From sensation to cognitive control part 1                                             Kandel Ch 18

6) Sep 30 (W)     From sensation to cognitive control part 2                                             Kandel Ch 18

7) Oct 5 (M)*     Learning and Memory 1                                                                Kandel Ch 65 Learning and memory

7) Oct 7 (W)        15 min Presentations 7, 8, 9:      

8) Oct 12 (M)     Learning and Memory 2                                                                Reread Kandel Ch. 65.

8) Oct 14 (W)     15 min Presentations 10, 11, 12:

9) Oct 19 (M) *  Guest Lecture:                                                                                                  tbd                        

9) Oct 21 (W) *  Guest Lecture:                                                                                                  tbd

10) Oct 26 (M)   Learning and Memory 3: PFC and HC

Kandel Ch 67 Prefrontal cortex hippocampus and bio of episodic mem

10) Oct 28 (W)   15 min Presentations 13, 14, 15:

>11) Nov 2 (M) Exam Review.                                   topic discussion 1-page summary of paper topic is due.

11) Nov 4 (W)    15 min Presentations 16, 17, 18:               

>12) Nov 9 (M) Exam 1

12) Nov 11 (W)  Veteran’s Day.  NO CLASS.                                                           

13) Nov 16 (M)  Exam 1

13) Nov 18 (W)  Cognitive maps of space                                Ann Rev Place Cells Grid cells Moser 08.pdf…

14) Nov 23 (M)  Sam Talks, Erika Roth

14) Nov 25 (W) Review session.

15) Nov 30 (M)  Drugs and the brain: Memories Magic and Major Addiction Chapters 3 of Wenk

15) Dec 2 (W)     Fabio: Paper topic discussions                   

16) Dec 7 (M)     Blanca: and more paper discussions

16) Dec 9 (W)     Exam Review.

> Dec 14 Paper due. Submit to D2L (to the Dropbox)

> Dec 16 (Fri)     Exam 2: FINAL EXAM (cumulative)                          3:30 pm - 5:30 pm  



·         10%: Class Attendance and Participation. For example, participating in the discussions about brain news, and asking questions during presentations (including my own).

·         15%: One 15-minute presentation (topic of choice, with approval). Submit PowerPoints to D2L 2 days before presentation.

·         10%: Submissions of Brain News to D2L (see below). This is a freebee unless you forget.

·         10%: Pop Quizzes on the reading: When you least expect it, expect it. The lowest score will be dropped.

·         30%: 2 Exams (15% each). The final exam is cumulative.

·         25%: 1 Class Paper. A traditional paper or a paper modeled on an R21 grant. 6-8 page (double spaced) not including references to peer-reviewed literature or figures. The topic must relate directly to a topic of one of the chapters of the course. This paper must be your original work.  Citations should be in APA style. Also, please don’t be a victim of accidental plagiarism:


Extra credit:

·         See Extra Credit below.


Missed Tests and Late Assignments: If you miss an exam, you must contact Dr. Cowen within 48 hours to arrange for a make-up exam. Make up exams may have a different format than the in-class exams at the instructor’s discretion (e.g., a make-up exam may be an essay exam). Note that if you don’t arrange for a make-up exam within 48 hours of a missed test, your score on that test will be 0. If you submit the paper or review assignment after the due date, the assignment grade will be reduced by one letter grade, unless the late submission is pre-approved by the instructor.

Weekly Brain News:

Neuroscience and cognitive science is advancing quickly, and it’s exciting to keep track of the most recent discoveries. To stimulate class discussion and to get us all connected with recent developments, students will explore sites such as those listed below to find articles that interest them. Each week, by Sunday night, submit a 1 paragraph summary of the article the most interested you. In that summary, provide 1) the title and hyperlink to the article 2) a very brief discussion of the main discovery, and 3) why this is interesting you. The main requirement the submission is that it must discuss the brain/biology.

Here are some excellent sources for brain news:

15-Minute Presentations

                The 15-minute PowerPoint (or Prezi) presentations (15 minutes of talking and 5 minutes of questions) are structured around a topic chosen from or AND the accompanying peer-reviewed scientific article. One good test to see if it’s an acceptable peer-reviewed article is if it can be found on this website: There needs to a both a cognitive (e.g., learning, memory, decision making, perception, navigation, emotion, language) and brain component to the talk. The peer-reviewed target article should have both a brain and cognitive component. The presentation should discuss the experiment, methods and results (with a data slide or two – very important) and perhaps some implications. Please see me or email me before you start preparing the talk so that we can determine if the target article is appropriate. Be prepared to answer questions regarding methods and the figures.

During the talk, focus on the main point of the article and include the link to the article and other material in the PowerPoint. Again, please include at least one core figure from the peer-reviewed article in your presentation. The first 5 minutes should give the students background to understand the main finding of the research. During the next 10 min, give the class the details in the peer-reviewed article and conclusions. Because these talks work best if the audience (including me) comes with some preparation, please post your presentations by Tuesday evening if you are presenting on Thursday. Also, please provide links to the articles that will be discussed.

Have fun with the talk! Feel free to engage the class with questions or exercises.

Extra Credit

                My brother teaches a 6th grade science class and the kids just love to hear about brains. One way to get some extra credit is to make a 2-minute neuroscience podcast based on the model of 60-second mind (produced by Scientific American). 60 minutes is a bit short to get a point across so the duration should be at least 2 minutes long. For each podcast that you make (up to 4), you will get +0.5% added to your final grade. If your final course grade was 88% and you did all 4 podcasts, your final grade in the class would be 90%. The wording of the podcast must be your own and modified for 6th graders (they are pretty smart so not much modification needed). It cannot be read verbatim from, for example, a blog post.

Here is the link:

                Post your podcast to the podcast folder on D2L along with a written transcript. Be sure to cite the original authors and journal of the science described in the podcast. Common audio formats will work such as .wav or .mp3.

Presentation and Paper Topic Ideas (you are welcome to provide your own ideas)

All presentations must be based on a peer-reviewed article and discuss neural mechanisms and the effects on learning/cognition. Inspiration can be found on or as these sites typically link back to the original article.

·         Hemispatial neglect:

·         Memory consolidation during sleep

·         Language in the brain: What regions are involved, how might it develop

·         Brain games: do they improve intelligence? How might they work (or not work) in the brain.

·         Exercise and mental health: Mechanisms and evidence for/against.

·         Reward systems in the brain: the role of dopamine

·         The love chemical: Oxytocin – what does it do to behavior, how might it work in the brain?

·         Neural mechanisms and cognitive consequences of neurological diseases (pick one: Alzheimer’s, Schizophrenia, Autism, PTSD, concussion, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, fronto-temporal dementia, Cotard delusion, ADHD)

·         Neurofeedback, neural prosthetics, brain stimulation.

·         The neural basis of imagination.

·         Synesthesia

A 1-page summary of your chosen presentation topic will be due in the late half of the course: This should describe your topic in summary form and provide some citations of peer-reviewed articles from which you will base your article. If you choose the grant option – this should include the specific aims (goals) of your proposed study.

Course Policies

Incomplete Grade Policy: Incomplete grades will be given only in special circumstances as outlined in University Policy as stated in “The University of Arizona Record General Academic Manual” at 


Academic Integrity: Cheating and other aspects of academic misconduct are covered under the UA academic code as described in the General Academic Manual. Students are highly encouraged to read the UA code of academic integrity as it appears at: Plagiarism, including self-plagiarism (the significant ‘cutting and pasting’ from reports turned in for other classes) is also not tolerated. All papers go through a TurnitIn® scan for plagiarism. Significant paraphrasing is also discouraged. See

Plagiarism of any form could result in a zero being received for the assignment and/or a failing grade for the course.


Accessibility and Accommodations:


It is the University’s goal that learning experiences be as accessible as possible.  If you anticipate or experience physical or academic barriers based on disability or pregnancy, please let me know immediately so that we can discuss options.  You are also welcome to contact Disability Resources (520-621-3268) to establish reasonable accommodations.


Please be aware that the accessible table and chairs in this room should remain available for students who find that standard classroom seating is not usable.