This page is from the Winter 2000 term. For the current term see Psych 121: Winter 2002


Psychology 121

The Human Mind and Brain

Winter Term, 2000

MW 10:10-11:30am, B006 East Hall

3 Credits



Thad Polk
4428E East Hall 647-6982
Office Hours: Tue 9-11, and by appointment

Introduction to Course:
How are mental processes like vision, memory, and attention implemented in the brain? What is the neural basis of insanity? Of fear? Of sleep? Of depression? What, if anything, can the brain tell us about consciousness? Within the last few decades, science has made significant progress on these and related questions by studying the effects of brain damage and by recording brain activity in intact individuals. In this seminar, we will survey this exciting field. We will first familiarize ourselves with the structure of the human brain and then learn what is being discovered about how the brain implements a variety of mental processes.

Readings for the course are now available at Excel Test Prep, 1117 1/2 South University (above Ulrich's Electronics). Note that the coursepack is self-serve: You will have to make your own copies. Excel does it this way to save you money and to deal with copyright laws. In addition to the coursepack, you should also make a copy of the 8 brain-coloring assignments (also available at Excel). Note that you should not get the coloring assignments stapled or bound because you will turn them in separately at different points during the semester. Finally, you will also be responsible for reading, "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White for the Feb 7 class meeting. It costs around $7 and you should be able to find it at almost any bookstore. (It turns out that the version on the world-wide web is quite different from the recent editions of the printed book; you should read the printed version, not the web version.)

Course format:
The class will meet Monday and Wednesday, 10:10-11:30, in B006 East Hall. This is not a standard lecture-test format course. Instead, class meetings will be largely devoted to discussion of assigned readings with occasional films and other activities thrown in.

I always welcome feedback about the course. If you have suggestions or concerns about the course, feel free to talk to me about it, to send me Email, or to submit your comments anonymously (e.g., slide them under my office door).

Course Requirements:
1. Quizzes (30%). At the beginning of each class for which a reading is assigned (every class except those on 1/5, 1/10, and 4/12), we will have a short quiz on the reading. I will make every attempt to make these quizzes very easy assuming you've done the reading (but very difficult if you have not!). One of the questions on every quiz will ask you to write down a discussion question based on the reading that would be appropriate for discussion by the class, so you should prepare this question beforehand. This question should not be a simple factual question, but should be open-ended and general enough to warrant discussion by the class. The three lowest grades for quizzes will be dropped (this includes quizzes that are missed because of tardiness or absence so do not waste your drops by being late to class!).

2. Brain-coloring assignments (20%). Eight brain-coloring assignments are available to be copied at Excel Test Prep (1117 1/2 S. University, above Ulrich's Electronics). These are (hopefully) very straightforward assignments that will help you to learn the brain's anatomy as we go through the course. These assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day they are due. Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day (5% if handed in late on the due date, 10% the next day, 15% the next day...).

3. Two short papers (50%). Students will be asked to write two 4-6 page research papers during the term (typed, double-spaced) on a topic related to the human mind and brain. Specifics of these assignments (including potential topics) will be handed out in class. The first paper will count 20% of the final grade and the second paper will count 30%. Late assignments will be penalized 5% per day (5% if handed in late on the due date, 10% the next day, 15% the next day...).

Course Schedule:

Date Topic Readings Coloring Assignments
1/5/00 Introduction    
1/10/00 Anatomy: Sheep Brain Dissection (in B212 East Hall)   Coloring #1
1/12/00 Hearing Coursepack #1: pp. 23-29 (Discover Jun 93) Coloring #2
1/17/00 NO CLASS: Martin Luther King Day    
1/19/00 Taste & smell pp. 30-36 (Discover Jun 93)  
1/24/00 Vision pp. 37-44 (Scientific American Sep 92) Coloring #3
1/26/00 Neglect pp. 45-56 (Out of mind, out of sight)  
1/31/00 Agnosia pp. 57-70 (To see but not to see)  
2/2/00 Dyslexia pp. 71-79 (Scientific American Nov 96; Aug 95)  
2/7/00 Writing style Strunk & White, "The Elements of Style" (4th Ed.)  
2/9/00 Number processing/math pp. 80-87 (Discover Jul 97)  
2/14/00 Amnesia pp. 88-100 (Memories of HM) Coloring #4
2/16/00 Fear/stress pp. 101-107 (Scientific American May 93) Coloring #5
2/21/00 Depression/prozac pp. 108-119 (Scientific American Jun 98; Time Jul 6 92; Time Oct 10 94)  
2/23/00 Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) pp. 120-127 (Scientific American Mar 89) Coloring #6
2/25/00 Paper #1 due by 3pm    
2/28/00 Spring Break    
3/1/00 Spring Break    
3/6/00 Tourette's syndrome Coursepack #2: pp. 131-143 (Science News Jul 21 90; New Yorker Mar 16 92)  
3/8/00 Insanity/Schizophrenia pp. 144-150 (Discover Sep 92)  
3/13/00 William's syndrome pp. 151-156 (Scientific American Dec 97)  
3/15/00 Autism pp. 157-162 (Scientific American Jun 93)  
3/20/00 Wild Child pp. 163-187 (New Yorker Apr 13 92)  
3/22/00 Sex differences pp. 188-193 (Newsweek Mar 27 95)  
3/27/00 Consciousness: Philosophical issues pp. 194-217 (Where am I?; The consciousness of consciousness)  
3/29/00 Phantom limbs pp. 218-224 (Discover Jun 93) Coloring #7
4/3/00 Split brains pp. 225-244 (Split Brain Research)  
4/5/00 Sleep and dreaming pp. 245-251 (Scientific American Nov 90) Coloring #8
4/10/00 The science of consciousness pp. 252-266 (Scientific American Jul 94; Sep 92)  
4/12/00 Wrap up    
4/14/00 Paper #2 due by 3pm