What happens inside our brain when we think and act? This intriguing question has occupied many generations of scientists.
The purpose of this minor is to acquaint the student with different disciplines within the field of Neuroscience. The student will become familiar with the workings and functions of different types of brain cells and brain areas. The student will learn how this knowledge can be used to understand characteristics of the healthy brain (e.g., perception, attention, learning and memory), of the developing brain (pre- and postnatal), and of the diseased brain (e.g., depression, addiction, eating disorders).
In addition, the students will be familiarized with recent findings from the fields of human genetics and will actively participate in nature-versus-nurture debates. Finally, this minor provides an introduction into recent technological advances in brain-machine interfaces, deep brain stimulation, and robotics in the context of Neuroscience. The integration of disciplines such as biology, psychology, sociology, and genetics, is central to this minor. Students learn to think critically about how knowledge of the brain and the human genome can be applied to tackle societal issues.
The minor Brain & Mind is developed in particular for students with a great interest in the brain, but limited or no background in neuroscience. The minor traditionally hosts students from many different study backgrounds, and students from different universities, both from the Netherlands and abroad.
In the first course, students learn how the brain “perceives” the outside world and how this leads to cognitive behavior. This course is a general, basic introduction into brain composition (e.g., cell types), brain structure, brain function, and neuronal communication, after which the biological basis of cognitive processes such as perception, consciousness, language, learning and memory are discussed.
Nature versus nurture:
In this course, the influences of genes and environment on human behavior will be dissected using empirical evidence obtained in twin- and family studies on the one hand, and genomic studies on the other. Students are introduced to the world of DNA and genetic information through hands-on experience with DNA collection, isolation, and genotyping, and through discussions about the ethical aspects of DNA research.
Brain in trouble:
The focus of this course is on the etiology of mental disorders, such as addiction, ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and mood disorders, with special attention to the nature-versus-nurture discussion. Various treatment options for these conditions - including the use of pharmacological agents, behavioral therapy and deep brain stimulation - are elucidated and discussed. Students will be challenged to critically reflect on the boundaries between normality and abnormality and the societal implications.
The developing brain:
In this course, pre- and postnatal brain development is central. Early brain development is discussed in relation to diseases such as autism and schizophrenia, as well as issues concerning brain development in puberty and adolescence, such as the effects of early use of alcohol and nicotine. Finally, specific aspects of the aging brain are addressed, including e.g. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Mind and Machine:
In the final course, the current state of affairs regarding the creation of artificial brains and artificial intelligence is discussed. Students learn the theory behind integrating brains and computers, and experience hands-on how brain activity can control computers to write or play computer games. The application of neural strategies and artificial intelligence to solve societal problems is explained and demonstrated during visits to commercial partners. Students work in groups to investigate and experience how science meets science fiction.
For specific information about each course, please visit our study guide.
PLEASE NOTE: Disqualifier: Students of Health and Life Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, as well as students who plan to pursue a career in Neuroscience, cannot follow this minor and are advised to sign up for the more specialised minor Biomolecular/Neurosciences.
Please see the application procedure for more information.
If you did not pass the exam, we offer 1 resit opportunity. Experience has taught us that the resits are often scheduled on dates that are inconvenient for international students. (For example, resits are planned the week after Christmas break, but some international students only stay until Christmas. Or resits are planned on the 2 day of the month, while the lease of your apartment expires on the last of the month). All the dates for exams and resits are known at the start of the minor, so please check the schedule carefully, so that you are aware of the exams or resits that may be problematic for you. If a resit is scheduled for a date that is inconvenient for you, please take that into account while studying for the exam! If you do fail the exam, and you are no longer in the Netherlands on the date that the resit takes place, then it is in principle impossible to take the resit. Please be aware of this possible problem and address it early by contacting the course coordinators!
Anne de Vries, 3rd year BSc in Public Administration and Organizational Science, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2018
It was an amazing experience to be in such a different field of science. I have learned different perspectives and methodologies that helped my scientific development in general, and the minor has broadened my view upon sociological, psychological and societal issues. Besides that, the diversity within this minor makes it so much fun, I met amazing students from all over the world! I would recommend this minor to anyone who wants to deepen their knowledge of human nature.
Ninke Nieuwenhuis, 3rd year Chemistry student, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 2018
This minor will give you a great introduction to the workings of the brain and the mind. The beta and gamma sides of neuroscience really come together in this minor. As a beta student, I could assist students with an alpha background with biological and chemical brain subjects , and they helped me with the more gamma-related topics. This way I made some really good friends from all around the world; Germany, America, Bulgaria and off course the Netherlands.
1 semester (30 EC)
Gezondheid en Beweging