How much should I trust or believe my senses, my memories, my intuitions, and those of others? How can I understand the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that I have?

student smiling in a lab

Those might seem like deep questions to ponder while, say, examining worms or cockroach legs under a microscope, but professor Andre Fenton says his course “Life Science: Brain and Behavior” offers an opportunity to do just that, by teaching students to think about the mind and the human experience as a miracle of biology, rather than some otherwise unfathomable mystery. 

worm as viewed under a microscope

students looking into a microscope

“Neuroscience offers a systematic and mechanistic way to think about these questions, even when the discipline falls short of complete answers,” Fenton reflects.

In the Core Curriculum class—designed to teach scientific thinking and evidence-based reasoning to those not studying science—students learn the basic fundamentals of molecules and energy in order to explore how the cells of the brain are governed by these laws.

students looking in a microscope

students looking into a microscope

“Students enjoy the realization that totally complicated and mysterious things like perception, feeling, memory, or thought are explainable—like rain is explainable—by simple physical laws that produce complex systems,” Fenton says. “They light up when they ‘get’ how a neural circuit works, by simple physiological logic."

lab notebook

students looking into a microscope

three petri dishes

Cool Course Dispatches

From analyzing metaphorical monsters to studying robotics, our students are getting hands-on experience—in and outside the classroom.

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