Brain and Behavior

Academic year2019-2020                                                                 
Semester1 (this course is also offered in the 2nd semester)
Day(s)Monday and Tuesday
Number of meetings        6 lectures, 4 work groups and an exam meeting
Dates all meetings9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 September, 1, 7, 8, 14 and 15 October 2019
LocationVrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1105, 1081HV Amsterdam
RoomHG-06A32 (main building, A-wing, 6th floor, room 32)
  • Dr. Richard Godijn, (Coordinator and lecturer)
  • Prof. Dr. Chris Olivers (Perception)
  • Prof. Dr. Jan Theeuwes (Attention and Action)

Course Description

The course Brain and Behavior is concerned with human behavior and its underlying neural structure. The course is relevant to students majoring in biology, business, law, sociology, criminology, movement sciences, artificial intelligence, medicine, health sciences, and other disciplines in which human behavior is important. Brain and Behavior is a course that is specifically designed to permit integration of information derived experimentally from many disciplines to gain a better understanding of human behavior and how this behavior is linked to brain functioning. Through this course you will learn how we perceive the world, how we learn and think, how our emotions and motives influence our behavior, and how behavior can be linked to the functioning of our brain. The course consists of six lectures and four work groups. Below is outlined the content of the meetings:

• Introduction to Brain and Behavior (Godijn)
• Perception (Olivers): How do we see and how do we hear?
• Attention and Action (Theeuwes): What determines what we attend and how we act?
• Memory (Godijn): How does our memory work and why do we forget things?
• Higher Cognitive Functions (Godijn): How do we control our behaviour according to our goals and what role do social and emotional factors play?

Work groups
Work group 1: Perception and Lesions: what can we learn about perception from studying patients with lesions?
Work group 2: Limits in attention: How much of the world around us do we actually perceive?
Work group 3: Testing our memory: We will learn about different memory processes by performing a series of memory tasks.
Work group 4: General overview: We will put all our learning toghether, review and discuss the general themes of the course. Attention: This workgroup prepares for the exam, which is on the following day.

Course readings
We will use The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience (3rd edition) by J. Ward for a background into each topic. In addition, a number of research papers will be provided for group presentations and further discussion on the topics.

Working formats and activities
This course is an introduction to the science of experimental psychology - the investigation of how people perceive, attend, learn, remember, and think. Specific topics include: attention, perception, memory, and excecutive functions. Students are expected to actively participate in work groups. Students will learn how they can apply knowledge of brain and behavior to solve every-life problems. Applications will be discussed such as driver distraction and multitasking, decision-making in real life situations, eye-witness testimony, and psychological issues in judicial reasoning.

Assessment methods
Students are evaluated by means of an exam and a group essay.