PSYCH 290P: The Developing Human Brain (2 units) Fall 2012


PSYCH 290P: The Developing Human Brain

(2 units)

When & where:

Fridays, 1:30-3:30pm, 2129 Tolman Hall

Website & readings:


Instructor: Prof. Silvia Bunge

Contact: [email protected] Office Hours: By appointment Fall 2012


What are the changes in brain structure and brain function that underlie improvements in cognitive abilities over childhood and adolescence? What insights can we gain regarding the neural basis of cognition by examining how brain function and performance change with age? And how are such findings relevant for medicine, education, and the law? The cutting-edge new field of developmental cognitive neuroscience is beginning to address these questions. This course will constitute an overview of current research and methods in this field. Throughout the course we will discuss both typical and atypically developing populations. Learning Objectives: Being able to present a cogent, well-informed response to each of the questions outlined in the course schedule.


Based on participation. Can be taken for a grade or S/U.


Aug 31 Oct 5 Sept 7 Sept 14


Sept 21 Sept 28 Oct 12 Oct 19

PART III Foundations

Prenatal and postnatal brain development How do genes & the environment influence early brain development? Larry Summers notwithstanding, is there a ‘male brain’ and a ‘female brain’? What’s going on in the adolescent’s brain?

[Class will meet without Silvia]

What is experience-expectant or -dependent brain plasticity? What is a critical or sensitive period of development?

Emerging brain functions.

How do we develop the ability to…

Recognize faces and interact socially? Use language to communicate?

No class

Attend to relevant information? Keep relevant information in mind? Count and do basic math? Retrieve detailed memories? Regulate our impulses and emotions? Reason our way through a difficult problem?

From science to society

Oct 26 Nov 2 Nov 9 Nov 16 Nov 23 Nov 30 What is ‘intelligence’, and is it really fixed and highly heritable? How does socioeconomic status affect brain development? Are videogames bad? Or good? How strong is the evidence that mental or physical exercise boosts cognition? What does the science of sleep tell us about school start times? Where is educational neuroscience headed?

How has evidence about brain development influenced national law? Should it matter if the defendant is brain-damaged? A psychopath? Drug-addicted?

Thanksgiving break

Group outing at 6pm 1