MBB Junior Symposium 2016-2017


Saturday, February 11, 2017, 9:30am to 2:30pm


Fong Auditorium, Boylston Hall



Please note: This event is not open to the public.

The MBB junior symposium features talks by and discussions with a variety of scholars on an interdisciplinary theme in mind/brain/behavior. The symposium will include speaker presentations and a lunch/discussion with speakers and MBB faculty. The talks are open to all MBB undergraduates and faculty, and the full symposium activities are open to MBB juniors and to those MBB seniors who did not attend the symposium last year. Participation is required of students pursuing the Certificate in MBB (students in honors MBB tracks) and is also open and recommended to students pursuing or considering a secondary field in MBB.


Understanding cognition, discovering how the brain works, and capitalizing on what we’ve learned are all complex challenges that are best met from multiple approaches. Our speakers, all former MBB students at Harvard, do just that.  David Cox will describe the massive, multi-lab research project he is leading to "reverse engineer" the brain to help create better learning machines.  Brian Hare (the world’s leading authority on how smart your dog is) will compare the intelligence of dogs, chimps and humans, and we’ll see who wins!  Finally, Katherine McAuliffe will describe how concepts of fairness and cooperation differ in humans and other primates, where, again, it’s arguable which species is doing better. All three speakers use a combination of human and animal models to explore how cognition works. Between them, they will compare humans and other primates, dogs, rodents and computers. And all three will describe how their time as students, here in Harvard’s MBB programs, helped them get to where they are now! 


Juniors and seniors who are completing the symposium requirement - and thus who will be attending the entire symposium - should pre-register by emailing Shawn Harriman at shawn_harriman@harvard.edu. Please include your name, year, MBB affiliation (track or secondary field), and concentration. Please pre-register by noon on Wednesday, February 8th.


9:30 a.m. – Registration (Boylston Hall lobby)

9:45 a.m. – Welcome and Introduction, Robert Stickgold

10 a.m. - David Cox, Reverse Engineering the Brain

10:40 a.m. - Katherine McAuliffe, The Origins of Our Sense of Fairness

11:20 a.m. - Brian Hare, How Harvard Domesticated Me

12 noon – Lunch /Discussion (Ticknor Lounge)

1 p.m. – Closing Panel on Talks and Careers, Symposium Speakers and Organizers, moderated by Carole Hooven


David Cox, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and of Computer Science (Harvard University), http://www.coxlab.org/- Reverse Engineering the Brain: The brain is remarkably complex and powerful computational system, transforming a torrent of incoming sensory information into thought and action.  In my talk, I’ll describe the ARIADNE project, a multidisciplinary, multi-university effort to reverse-engineer a significant portion of the visual system of a rodent, spanning from neurophysiology to neuroanatomy, with the goal of informing new classes of machine learning algorithms.

Katherine McAuliffe, Assistant Professor of Psychology (Boston College), http://katherinemcauliffe.com/ - The Origins of Our Sense of Fairness: In my talk I will argue that the signatures of human fairness can be traced into childhood. Children make sacrifices for fairness (1) when they have less than others, (2) when others have been unfair and (3) when they have more than others. Additionally I will argue that what looks like a human-like response to unfairness in other species is most likely supported by a very different underlying psychology. To these ends, I will review several studies of fairness in children and in other species, including capuchin monkeys and cleaner fish.

Brian Hare, Associate Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology (Duke University), http://brianhare.net/ - How Harvard Domesticated Me: I will discuss research I did in graduate school at Harvard that helped unlock the genius of dogs and suggested that natural selection can also produce the domestication syndrome. I will also discuss our new citizen science approach to studying dog cognition that was inspired by some of the first online psychology studies initiated right out of William James Hall.


Fiery Cushman, Assistant Professor of the Psychology (Psychology/FAS)

Carole Hooven, Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies (Human Evolutionary Biology/FAS)

Robert Stickgold, Associate Professor of Psychiatry (Harvard Medical School)