Foundation Courses

A major challenge in a broad multidisciplinary area like Mind Brain Behavior is the development of a common core of basic knowledge. This common language can allow students and scholars from a wide range of fields and backgrounds to communicate fruitfully on topics beyond the areas of their immediate expertise. The MBB tracks seek to help you develop such a knowledge base by offering a set of "foundation" courses. In the first two years, two lecture courses -- Psychological Science and Neurobiology of Behavior – will give you a broad exposure to the physiological and behavioral bases of concerns addressed in the MBB disciplines. Supplementing these MBB courses are other introductory course requirements in the concentration for the specific areas covered in each track.


This courses provides MBB students with a general introduction to topics relevant to all the MBB tracks. It addresses foundational questions such as, “How can the mind be studied scientifically? Is the mind a computer? How did evolution shape the mind and brain? How should we think about nature and nurture? How can the brain generate thought and perception? What is consciousness?” It addresses specific faculties of the brain such as visual and auditory perception, memory, attention, reasoning, imagery, language, the social and nonsocial emotions, self-knowledge, love, sex, and violence. It presents the neural, computational, developmental, phylogenetic, and adaptive dimensions of our psychological faculties, and discusses research from psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, linguistics, anthropology, philosophy, and the arts. Psychological Science will be offered both semesters in 2017-2018. Note: If you took Science of Living Systems 20s (Psychological Science Seminar), you have also fulfilled this requirement.

Science of Living Systems 20, Psychological Science
4 units of course credit, course ID 126213, fall class number 13216, spring class number 16472
fall term: Professor Daniel Gilbert, Mondays/Wednesdays 1-2:30 p.m., Science Center C plus discussion section to be arranged
spring term, Professor Jason Mitchell, Tuesdays/Thursdays 2:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. plus discussion section to be arranged.
An introduction to the sciences of mind, including foundational concepts from neuroscience, evolution, genetics, philosophy, and experimental methods, and specific topics such as perception, memory, reasoning and decision-making, consciousness, child development, psychopathology, personality, language, emotion, sexuality, violence, morality, and social relations. Course Note: This course meets the Introductory Course requirement for Psychology.



This course covers the topic central to all students in MBB tracks: the fundamentals of brain structure and function. These fundamentals will provide a common background knowledge important for all tracks. For example, for students in History and Science, it is important to understand theories of neuron and brain function in order to trace the development of these views. For students in Philosophy, it is important to have a realistic conception of how the brain actually works when, for example, discussing the relationship between mind and body. For students in Computer Science, it is important to understand how real neurons work in order to develop more biologically realistic computational models. For students in Psychology, it is important to understand behavior in terms of cellular function and anatomical circuitry to provide new insights on psychological theories. For Neurobiology, this course provides an initial view of cellular processes and systems which will be further developed in higher level courses. Even if the final focus of the concentration designed by individual students does not include biological experimentation, it is important that all students keep in mind the constraints of biological knowledge. In 2017-2018, this requirement can be fulfilled with one of two courses, MCB 80 or MCB 81.

Molecular and Cellular Biology 80, Neurobiology of Behavior:

4 units of course credit, course ID 117711, class number 13499, divisional distribution Science and Engineering and Applied Sciences
fall term, Professors Jeff Lichtman and Venkatesh Murthy, Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays 11 a.m.- 12 noon, Science Center D, plus discussions and laboratories to be arranged
An introduction to the ways in which the brain controls mental activities. The course covers the cells and signals that process and transmit information, and the ways in which neurons form circuits that change with experience. Topics include the neurobiology of perception, learning, memory, language, emotion, and mental illness. This year we are changing the way in which this material is taught by emphasizing more student participation through active learning techniques and by providing real-world experiences and hands-on demonstrations each week. Course Notes:This course, when taken for a letter grade, meets the General Education requirement for Science of Living Systems. The course is open to students with little formal training in biology.Note: New This Year: MCB 80 has been significantly restructured this year. Each class will be interactive and activity-based. The course will include additional guest lectures (including patients with some of the disorders to be discussed in class), demonstrations, applications, and blended learning.

Molecular and Cellular Biology 81, Fundamentals of Neuroscience:
4 units of course credit, course ID 159708, class number 13602, division distribution Science and Engineering and Applied Sciences
fall term, Professor David Cox, Mondays/Wednesdays/Fridays 11 a.m.- 12 noon, Vanserg 210, plus discussions Mondays 1-2 p.m. and laboratory Mondays 6-8 p.m.An intensive introduction to topics in neuroscience, ranging from the inner workings of neurons, to the function of small neuronal networks, to the function of brain systems that give rise to perception, thought, emotion, cognition and action.  The course will emphasize student-directed learning and will follow an "inverted" structure: students will be expected to watch lecture videos and complete exercises outside of class, and classroom time will be primarily reserved for discussion and in-class exercises. Course Notes:This course serves as a more rigorous alternative to MCB 80 and is primarily intended for students who intend to concentrate in neurobiology or who intend to pursue neurobiology as a secondary field. MCB 81 may not be taken for credit by students who have taken MCB 80. Recommended Prep:A strong quantitative background is desirable but not strictly required.