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PSYCH 164: Brain decoding

Can we know what someone is thinking by examining their brain activity? Using knowledge of the human visual system and techniques from machine learning, recent work has shown impressive ability to decode what people are looking at from their brain activity as measured with functional imaging. The course will use a combination of lectures, primary literature readings, discussion and hands-on tutorials to understand this emerging technology from basic knowledge of the perceptual (primarily visual) and other cognitive systems (such as working memory) to tools and techniques used to decode brain activity.nPrerequisites: Either Psych 30 or Psych 50 or Consent of Instructor
Terms: Aut | Units: 3 | UG Reqs: WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter or Credit/No Credit

SOMGEN 120Q: Learning, Motivation & Addiction

How does the brain change when you remember information, pick up a skill or acquire a bad habit? How do pain, pleasure and traits like impulsivity and self-control sculpt who we are? We will example the principles of neuroplasticity and their significance for education, mood disorders, and legal and moral responsibility. Through relevant texts from the humanities, analysis of key neuroscientific experiments, and hands-on experimentation, students will build a multifaceted understanding of how the brain works.
Terms: Aut | Units: 3 | UG Reqs: WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 1: The Science of MythBusters

How do scientists actually go about answering practical questions? How does science function as a way of understanding our world, and importantly how does it differ from other approaches? As its point of departure, this course will examine and critique selected episodes of the television series, MythBusters (Discovery Channel), which tests the validity of many popular beliefs in a variety of imaginative ways, including myths, rumors, traditions, and stories. We will take the opportunity to delve more deeply into the applicability of the scientific method in understanding a vast range of real-world problems, and into the practical acquisition of fact-based knowledge, which together form the cornerstone of all science. The intellectual framework of this course will be based, first and foremost, on skeptical inquiry, combined with the other key ingredients of good science, which include: framing the question well, careful experimental design, meticulous observation and measurement, quanti more »
How do scientists actually go about answering practical questions? How does science function as a way of understanding our world, and importantly how does it differ from other approaches? As its point of departure, this course will examine and critique selected episodes of the television series, MythBusters (Discovery Channel), which tests the validity of many popular beliefs in a variety of imaginative ways, including myths, rumors, traditions, and stories. We will take the opportunity to delve more deeply into the applicability of the scientific method in understanding a vast range of real-world problems, and into the practical acquisition of fact-based knowledge, which together form the cornerstone of all science. The intellectual framework of this course will be based, first and foremost, on skeptical inquiry, combined with the other key ingredients of good science, which include: framing the question well, careful experimental design, meticulous observation and measurement, quantitative analysis and modeling, the evaluation of statistical significance, recovery from failure, disseminating findings, and the continuous cycle of hypothesis and testing. Note: This course is taught at an introductory level, but it pays serious attention to the quantitative treatment of experimental data and associated tests of statistical significance. All students taking the course will be expected to learn, and to work a series of problems in, basic probability and statistics. There is also a hands-on, "dorm lab" component that involves some fabrication and a significant amount of individual testing and measurement. The final course project will involve developing and writing a scientific grant proposal to test a myth. We hope to inculcate in our students "a taste for questioning, a sense of observation, intellectual rigor, practice with reasoning, modesty in the face of facts, the ability to distinguish between true and false, and an attachment to logical and precise language. " (Yves Quéré, 2010 Science 330:605).
Terms: not given this year | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-AQR, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 15: How Does Your Brain Work?

How do the biology and chemistry of the brain create the mind that lets us talk, walk, laugh, love, learn, remember, and forget? What can neuroscience say about what makes us human? How can we ask questions about the brain that are observable, testable, and answerable? The human brain is the most complex organ we know. To understand the biology of brain function, this course will use highly interactive lectures and discussions to examine the validity of common beliefs about the brain, discuss how the brain and the nervous system are organized, how individual elements of the brain function, and how together these units produce action. The brain, like all other biological structures, has evolved over time in response to natural selection by adapting to diverse behavioral and environmental constraints. We use evolutionary comparisons to illuminate important questions about brain function, including what the origins and consequences of brain damage are, how and where drugs act, and how you collect, interpret, and understand information about the world. You will learn both how the science of the brain has emerged through understanding important experiments and observations and how you can formulate and test your own experimental questions about the brain.
Terms: Win | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 23: The Cancer Problem: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

How has our approach to cancer been affected by clinical observations, scientific discoveries, social norms, politics, and economic interests? Approximately one in three Americans will develop invasive cancer during their lifetime; one in five Americans will die as a result of this disease. This course will expose you to multiple ways of approaching the cancer problem, including laboratory research, clinical trials, population studies, public health interventions, and health care economics. We will start with the 18th century discovery of the relationship between coal tar and cancer, and trace the role of scientific research in revealing the genetic basis of cancer. We will then discuss the development of new treatments for cancer as well as measures to screen for and prevent cancer, including the ongoing debate over tobacco control. Using cancer as a case study, you will learn important aspects of the scientific method including experimental design, data analysis, and the difference between correlation and causation. You will learn how science can be used and misused with regard to the public good. You will also learn about ways in which social, political, and economic forces shape our knowledge about and response to disease.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-AQR, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 33: The Water Course

How can we balance all the competing, and growing, demands for freshwater? When you turn on your tap, where does the water come from?nnnWater is essential for life. But, around the world, governments and citizens are challenged to balance the human demands on our freshwater resources, while protecting the integrity of natural ecosystems. At the core of the challenge is our limited understanding, in many parts of the world, of the watershed-scale hydrologic cycle ¿ the course that the water follows from rainfall, to river, to groundwater, to ocean, to atmosphere, and back again. The Water Course takes students along that course, exploring the role that natural systems and human systems play in impacting both the quantity and quality of our freshwater. We will consider questions surrounding decisions about water allocation, and discuss new scientific methods that provide support for science-based decision making in the management of freshwater resources. You will connect global-scale iss more »
How can we balance all the competing, and growing, demands for freshwater? When you turn on your tap, where does the water come from?nnnWater is essential for life. But, around the world, governments and citizens are challenged to balance the human demands on our freshwater resources, while protecting the integrity of natural ecosystems. At the core of the challenge is our limited understanding, in many parts of the world, of the watershed-scale hydrologic cycle ¿ the course that the water follows from rainfall, to river, to groundwater, to ocean, to atmosphere, and back again. The Water Course takes students along that course, exploring the role that natural systems and human systems play in impacting both the quantity and quality of our freshwater. We will consider questions surrounding decisions about water allocation, and discuss new scientific methods that provide support for science-based decision making in the management of freshwater resources. You will connect global-scale issues to your personal experiences with water through a quarter-long project investigating both water quantity and water quality for a city or watershed in the western U.S. You will produce a numerical model, and make approximations, to describe a complex natural system. Using online resources you will explore the pathway that water takes from rainfall to your tap.
Terms: not given this year | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-AQR, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 40: Sustainability Challenges and Transitions

What are the most critical sustainability challenges facing us in this century? How can natural and social sciences, humanities, and technology fields interact to contribute to their solution? How do we balance the needs and desires of current generations with the needs of future generations? The term sustainability seems to be everywhere. Businesses, cities, non-governmental organizations, individuals, and universities such as Stanford use the term to characterize decisions that make sense for the well-being of people as well as the environment. Beyond the popular use of the term is an emerging field of study that focuses on the goals of sustainable development - improving human well-being while preserving Earth's life support systems (air, water, climate, ecosystems) over the long run - and explores how science and technology can contribute to the solution of some of the most critical problems of the 21st Century. The goal of this course is to engage you in critical thinking and anal more »
What are the most critical sustainability challenges facing us in this century? How can natural and social sciences, humanities, and technology fields interact to contribute to their solution? How do we balance the needs and desires of current generations with the needs of future generations? The term sustainability seems to be everywhere. Businesses, cities, non-governmental organizations, individuals, and universities such as Stanford use the term to characterize decisions that make sense for the well-being of people as well as the environment. Beyond the popular use of the term is an emerging field of study that focuses on the goals of sustainable development - improving human well-being while preserving Earth's life support systems (air, water, climate, ecosystems) over the long run - and explores how science and technology can contribute to the solution of some of the most critical problems of the 21st Century. The goal of this course is to engage you in critical thinking and analysis about complex sustainability challenges and to encourage you to consider the need for integrative solutions that draw on different disciplines. We will examine some of the major problems of sustainable development (including issues related to food, water, and energy resources, climate change, and protection of ecosystem services), grapple with the complexities of problem solving in complex human-environment systems, and participate in the design of effective strategies and policies for meeting sustainability goals. You will learn to develop policy briefs addressing sustainability issues in the university, local communities, state and the nation as well as work on team projects with decision makers that address real-life challenges in your local area.
Terms: Aut | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 41: The Conscious Mind: The Philosophy and Biology of Consciousness, Memory, and Personal Identity

How do our common-sense conceptions of the mind and of ourselves hold up against the growing body of psychological and neurobiological knowledge of the brain? How is your mental life anchored to your physical self?nYou wake up from a dreamless sleep and suddenly everything's buzzing with color and sound. Somehow your brain sustains this rich landscape of experience, integrating it with a repertoire of memories to constitute yourself. This course probes the neurobiological bases of these familiar yet miraculous facets of the mind. You'll learn to analyze primary philosophical and scientific texts, using basic knowledge of the brain to assess and even innovate experiments that could shed light on the nature of consciousness and personal identity.
Terms: not given this year | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 45: Thinking About the Universe: What do we know? How do we know it?

What is the origin and ultimate fate of the universe? Can we know what came before the universe? Are there ultimate limits to human knowledge about the universe and are we reaching them? Cosmology (the study of the universe) raises profound questions about us, our place in the universe, and about the limits of our knowledge. It was only in the 20th century that cosmology developed from metaphysical and theological speculation to become an observational science and a recognized part of physics. In this course, students will explore questions about the Universe, its beginnings, its structure, its extent, its fate, from several perspectives - philosophical, experimental, and theoretical. We will discuss current research and the ongoing debates about the laws of nature on subatomic scales and the perplexing questions they raise regarding the universe and the limits of scientific inquiry.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 61: Living with Viruses

By examining this interplay of viruses and culture, this course challenges students to think beyond conventional disciplinary distinctions through questions about the impact of biology on human behavior as well as the potential of humans to shape biology through genetic engineering. The specific goals of this course are to engage students to examine the microbial world and how they interact with it. We will examine three overreaching questions: How do viruses effect our lives? How have they shaped our culture? How will they shape our future? Topics covered will include the question of whether a virus is alive, the importance of immunity, and the role of viruses in not only human culture but what makes us distinctly human.
Terms: Aut | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
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