University Relations

Spring 2011 Course Announcements

CGSC 8041 Cognitive Neuroscience
photo of Matt Chafee1:30 - 3:30 pm, Wednesdays & Fridays, January 18 - May 6 (4 credits)
Brain Sciences Center Library
Veterans Affairs Medical Center
One Veterans Drive, Minneapolis
Matt Chafee

The course will explore the relations between brain activity and cognitive function in mammals. Aspects of cognition investigated will include (but will not be restricted to) working memory, attention, decision processing, executive function, categorization, planning, and sequence processing. Each subtopic will be approached from behavioral and physiological perspectives, linking characteristics of psychophysical performance at a behavioral level to neurophysiological events at cellular and systems levels. Disruption of cognitive function following brain damage will be addressed. The course will draw on both current texts and current research literature investigating the cellular bases of cognitive operations and provide a critical examination of techniques presently in use, including extracellular recording of single neuron activity in nonhuman primates, as well as functional neuroimaging and magnetoencephalography in humans. Students will be required to engage in critical discussions of recent studies and will gain an appreciation for the state and direction of the field from an experimental perspective.


PSY 8056: Seminar in the Psychology of Language
photo of Randy Fletcher09:45 A.M. - 11:00 A.M Tu,Th (01/18/2011 - 05/06/2011),
EltH S204 TCEASTBANK,3 credits
Charles R Fletcher

This spring I will be offering “PSY 8056: Seminar in the Psychology of Language.” It will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:45 to 11:00 in S204 Elliott Hall. The topic for this seminar will be “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Language Comprehension.” The course will be divided into four sections. The first will provide an overview of the history, philosophy and methods (lesion studies, EEG, fMRI, etc.) of cognitive neuroscience along with an introduction to the major theoretical controversies in psycholinguistics. The second part of the course will focus on the comprehension of spoken and written words. The third section will be about sentence understanding, and the final section will focus on understanding texts and conversations. Grades will be based on participation, formal in-class presentations, and a short research proposal.

This class is designed as a follow-up to “PSY 5054: The Psychology of Language” but is open to any graduate or honors student with a background in cognitive psychology, cognitive neuroscience, linguistics, or speech-language-hearing sciences. For questions, or to request a registration permission number, contact Randy Fletcher at


Kin 4136, Embodied Cognition (a new course being taught for the first time Spring 2011)
photo of Tom Stoffregen09:45 A.M. - 11:00 A.M. Tu,Th (01/18/2011 - 05/06/2011)
RapsonH 15 TCEASTBANK, 3 credits
Thomas Stoffregen

Kinesiology 4136 (Embodied Cognition) is an introduction to the study of relations between physical behavior and mental activity, including cognitive, emotional, and social aspects of behavior. We will provide students with the background necessary to understand both empirical and theoretical research relating human movement to psychological function in healthy and clinical populations. We will compare and contrast different concepts of embodied cognition, and their relation to more traditional concepts of relations between mind and body. Topics will cover the lifespan. The course will focus on empirical research and, accordingly, will not focus on philosophy of mind, spirituality, or religious approaches to mind-body relations. By the end of the course, students will have a broad awareness of the ways in which mental function and mental activity can be influenced by a person's perceptual-motor interactions with their environment. The class will operate at a fast pace and will require reading, research, and writing.

**Please note: the online listing for the course gives Kin 4133 as a prerequisite but that is being WAIVED for spring 2011.


LING 5900: Topics in Linguistics
photo of Michael KacTu, Th 2:30-3:45
Michael Kac

In this course we'll work through as much as we can of Andiruddh Patel's recent book Music, Language and the Brain (Oxford University Press, 2008). Among the questions we'll take up are the following: What characteristics do music and language have in common? What can be learned about each by comparing it to the other? How can the analysis of music and language assist in an understanding of neural functioning?

For a preview of the book, go to "Music, Language & the Brain"

PHIL 8510: Seminar: Aesthetics Studies
W 3:35-5:30

This seminar will be devoted to portions of Peter Kivy's Music, Language and Cognition (Oxford University Press, 2007), with special attention to two central questions: can music be said to have meaning, and what sense can be made of the idea of profundity in music (especially absolute music)?

For a preview of the book, go to "Language and Cognition"


Anth 5015W Biology, Evolution, and Cultural Development of Language
photo of William BeemanSpring 2011
William Beeman

Language is the most human form of behavior, and the investigation of the ways language and culture interact is one of the most important aspects of the study of human beings. The most fascinating problem in this study is how language itself may have evolved as the result of the interaction between biological and cultural development of the human species. In this course we will consider the development of the brain, the relationship between Early Humans, Neanderthals and Modern Humans, and such questions as the role of gossip and music in the development of language. There will be two written exercises and a final examination. The exercises will ask for responses to one of a range of questions posed by the instructor. The first will cover the biological bases for language. The second will cover evolution and the questions raised by comparing animal and human communicative behavior. The final 14-21 page research paper will cover a topic of specific interest relating to the subject of language evolution and the controversies surrounding it, worked out in consultation with the course instructor.


EngL 5090 Interdisciplinary Studies in Reading Comprehension
photo of Andrew Elfenbein M 4:40-7:10, AkerH 215
Andrew Elfenbein

This class will provide students with an interdisciplinary background to the study of reading comprehension. We will pay particular attention to psychological and cognitive theories and debates about reading comprehension, including construction and integration, constructionist versus minimalist theories of reading, and the roles of inference, background knowledge, metacognition, working memory capacity, and reading strategies in comprehension. We will also examine the relevance of recent work in neuroscience for understanding the comprehension process, as well as current debates in educational psychology about literacy instruction. Students who wish for more information about the course are welcome to contact the instructor at


NSc 8217 Systems and Computational Neuroscience (2 cr.)
photo of Andrew Elfenbein 1:00-2:30 in Jackson 6-137 every Tuesday
Geoff Ghose

"Systems and Computational Neuroscience" will be continuing this spring semester. The course will be in journal club format, in which participants present and discuss recent original research papers. The topic this semester will be "Neural Representations of Probability."

While the computational virtues of incorporating reliability measures in perception and decision making are clear, it is far from clear how even relatively simple formulations such as Bayes rule might be implemented by neurons. In particular, it is not clear how unbiased probability statistics necessary for accurate priors can be accumulated and stored given very dynamic physiological phenomena such as adaptation, synaptic plasticity, and attentional modulation. This class will focus on recent theoretical and experimental studies on the physiological implementation of probability measures in the brain. Each meeting will focus on a single paper chosen by the presenter.

All interested students, faculty members, and postdocs are encouraged to attend. The course typically attracts participants from a variety of departments and perspectives. Students enrolled in the course will be expected to lead the discussion of 2 papers each session. The course meets from 1:00-2:30 in Jackson 6-137 every Tuesday.

An initial organizational meeting will held on Tuesday, January 25. Those of you who attended the course previously do not need to attend this meeting. If you are interested in the course, but are unable to attend this meeting, please contact me.

The tentative reading list can be seen at: This reading list should be considered at starting point. For example, it includes several literature reviews which are not appropriate for a detailed discussion.

The course calendar is at: and can be subscribed to (iCal/Google Calendar) webcal://

Previous topics for the course (and the associated reading lists) can be seen at:


Updated February 19, 2015