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Brain, Behavior, and Human Well-Being

Senior Seminar in Neural and Behavioral Sciences
Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges
Spring 2008


"research on the brain, like nuclear physics and molecular genetics, creates both opportunities and risks for humanity sufficiently great so that special attention needs to be paid to them, both by researchers and by the public at large"


In this course, we will explore some of the opportunities and risks being opened up by past, ongoing, and anticipated research in the neural and behavioral sciences, in ways that make such explorations accessible to broader and continuing engagement by the public at large. Web materials providing access to relevant observations and perspectives will be prepared and posted on selected topics, and a public on-line forum will be used for continuing discussions of these topics.

Likely take off points for these discussions include

Some additions during the semester


In addition to active participation in class and on-line forum discussions, students will be expected to prepare web materials for and lead one of the class discussions. Web materials should provide appropriate background on a relevant topic, clearly develop a novel and useful synthesis in this area, and provide directions and resources for further exploration. These materials should reflect the perspectives, skills, and critical abilities acquired during one's studies but be presented in a way that is accessible to and engaging for a general audience.

For further information, contact Paul Grobstein and/or Andrea Morris.

Final paper due 2 May.



Discussion Topic and Resulting Papers Background Readings On-line forum discussion Organizers
29 Jan
Is there such a things as a "broken" brain?
An updated aproach to mental health
Week 2 Grobstein 5 Feb
Diversity and productivityWeek 3
Morris 12 Feb
Brain and EducationWeek 4
Grobstein 19 Feb

Science of Romance

Week 5 Tuttle, Fineman, Mutso 26 Feb
Psychotherapy and Brain
Week 6
Patterson, Goldstein, Marck 4 Mar

Illicit Drugs and Therapeutic Potential

Added post class: Week 7
Rabinowitz, Bitler, Hinchcliff

18 Mar

Animal Models

Week 8 Krueger, Tomasic, Starkey 25 Mar


Week 9
Alspector, Hutchison
1 Apr
Week 10 Logan, Hopkins
8 Apr
Social cognition and morality
Added post-class
  • The Roots of Morality, Science 320: 734-738, 2008
Week 11
Morton, Woodruff
15 Apr

Gender and sexuality differences in the brain: should we study them?

Week 12
Brown, Amen, Wissocki 22 Apr



Week 13
Fukui, Rosania 29 Apr Reflections
reflections all
22 Jan
Introductions   Week 1





Jenna's picture

The one thing that

The one thing that surprised me the most during class was the lack of regulation and knowledge about animal testing. I think it is problematic that society in general seems to have ethical issues with animal testing, but nobody actually cares enough to attempt regulating it. I think part of the scientific communities’ code of conduct should include something about treating lab animals with respect. I believe that animal testing is important to research and that there is currently not a good substitute for it. However, I think it is upsetting that not all labs (and probably not most labs) provide good living conditions for their animals. Also, since there is a moral issue with sacrificing an animal for the greater good I think researchers should make more of an effort to make sure their research is not repetitive so we could limit the amount of animal lives lost.


Another interesting issue which was brought up was the difference between research, testing, and educational animals. Although there are some arguments that could be made for the importance of using animals for education, such as dissection, etc, I think that not enough is gained to warrant the large amount of animals used. Dissecting a frog in middle school is not benefiting society or providing important treatments for humans or animals. Therefore I think it is much more feasible and probably moral to replace educational animals with computer models. However, I think that for testing and research animal models are still important because we need to see how the whole system reacts and that can’t be replicated on a computer model.

Lone Analyst's picture

Thank you for your input

Thank you for your input Jenna or, rather, Peter Singer.

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