Brain and Mind

What happens inside our head to make us think and act?

Integration of disciplines

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.

Please check the Brain and Mind website for more details.

Cognitive Neuroscience: 

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.

Admission and registration

Admission
This minor is open to third year BSc students with a background in alpha and gamma sciences (e.g., Sociology, Psychology, Economics, Law, Artificial Intelligence) and students from Lifesciences (e.g., Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Movement Science) with a broad interest. Students from Biomedical Sciences, and Health and Life Sciences (major Biomedical), as well as students that plan to pursue a career in Neuroscience, cannot follow this minor but are referred to the more specialized university minor Biomolecular and Neurosciences.

Registration
Please see the application procedure for more information.

Questions about the programme

For specific questions regarding content, please contact Dr. Sophie van der Sluis: s.vander.sluis@vu.nl / 31.(0)20.598 6833.

Student testimonials

Anton Wrisberg, 3rd year BSc in Business Administration and Project Management
"This minor gave me the option to pursue my existing interest in the brain, by offering a great array of courses. This minor presents a collection of bright like-minded students and I found many good friends in these classes. Any student – Dutch or international – with just the slightest interested in the brain owes it to themself to take part in this minor!"

Giacomo Bignardo, 3rd year BA, Arts and Music study
"What an experience! I met guys and girls from around the world and from every kind of discipline.The volume of information about the state of knowledge and research in neuroscience was really massive. Now I’m able to look more critically at scientific developments in this field."

Samenvatting Brain and Mind

Taal

Engels

Duur

1 semester (30 EC)

StartDatum

1 September

Interessegebied

Gezondheid en Beweging

Faculteit

Bètawetenschappen