CCN Home
About CCN
News & Events
CCN Colloquium series
Postdoctoral Fellows &
Grad Students
Research Assistants &
Administrative Staff
Focus On
Experiment Participants
Search CCN


Undergraduate Programs

The Science of Mind and Brain
Among the most exciting new developments in science is our growing understanding of the human mind and brain. Thanks to powerful new methods for observing and manipulating neural processes, and recently developed theories of human information processing, scientists are now unraveling the physical mechanisms underlying perception, memory, language and emotion.

Cognitive Neuroscience at Penn
With its first-rate programs in basic and clinical neuroscience, radiology, computation, cognitive science, linguistics and psychology, Penn cognitive neuroscientists draw upon resources and expertise in all of the foundational disciplines needed to understand the mind and brain. The Center for Cognitive Neuroscience is a focal point for research and educational opportunities spanning at least a dozen departments.

Undergraduate Study
Students can incorporate cognitive neuroscience into their educations through coursework, research experience, and degree programs.

Research Experience
Research participation adds a dimension to the understanding of cognitive neuroscience that is not available through course work alone. Each year scores of undergraduates join a lab and play a role creating and reporting new scientific knowledge.

Degree Programs
Given the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive neuroscience, and the flexibility afforded by many undergraduate majors at Penn, there are a number of paths to a bachelor's degree emphasizing the study of mind and brain. The four programs noted here offer majors as well as minors.

Biology (BIOL) offers an undergraduate concentration in neuroscience, which enables students to focus in depth on the molecular and cellular bases of neural activity. One required elective may be in systems or cognitive neuroscience; further study of cognition would be undertaken outside of the major requirements.

Psychology (PSYC) offers a strong foundation in cognition, with breadth in the behavioral sciences more generally as well as basic neuropsychology and neuroscience. Up to 6 courses can pertain to the neural bases of psychological functions and an additional elective can be chosen from selected life sciences courses in other departments.

Biological Bases of Behavior (BBB) is an interdisciplinary major emphasizing the neuroscience underlying a wide range of animal and human behavior, including higher cognitive functions. Up to 9 courses can pertain to cognition or behavioral neuroscience.

Cognitive Science (COGS) offers a Cognitive Neuroscience track, in which students focus on the neural bases of higher cognitive functions, including perception, language and memory, studied using physiological, computational and behavioral methods. Up to 10 courses can pertain to the neural bases of cognition.


The following undergraduate courses are focused on cognitive neuroscience:

Department Course Number Course Description
Pilot Curriculum COLL 002 Perspectives on Cognitive Neuroscience: Mind, Brain & Society
Psychology 149 Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience
  349 Research Experience in Cognitive Neuroscience
  455 Lab Cognitive Neuroscience

In addition, several departments offer courses of direct relevance to cognitive neuroscience. A nonexhaustive list of these courses includes:

Department Course Number Course Description
Biological Basis of Behavior 109 Introduction to Brain & Behavior
  380 Biological Basis of Psychiatric Disorders
Linguistics 105 Introduction to Cognitive Science
Neuroscience 594 Computational Neuroscience
  595 Behavioral Neuroscience
  598 Advanced Systems Neuroscience
Psychology 121 Learning
  125 Drugs, Brain & Mind
  249 Speical Topics in Cognitive Neuroscience (rotates per semester)
  327 Research Experience in Behavioral Neuroscience
  399 Independent Study
Philosophy 244 Introduction to Philosophy of Mind


BBB 109. Introduction to Brain & Behavior. Introduction to the structure and function of the vertebrate nervous system, the physiological bases of motor control, sensory activity, perception, drive, and higher mental processes.  This course is intended for students interested in the neurobiology of behavior.  Familiarity with elementary physics and chemistry may be helpful. Gen Req V:  May be counted towards the General Requirement in Living World. Prerequisite(s): PSYC 001 and BIOL 101 or Permission of Instructor.

BBB 380. Biological Basis of Psychiatric Disorders. The contributions of basic sciences ( neuroanatomy , neurophysiology, neurochemistry, and neuropharmacology ) to an understanding of behavior and behavioral disorders.  Important psychiatric disorders are discussed primarily from the viewpoint of their biological aspects.  Newer approaches to treatment with pharmacological agents are considered.  Emphasis is placed on critical evaluation of research strategies and hypotheses.

INSC 594. Computational Neuroscience Theoretical studies of neural function from the molecular to the cognitive level.  Emphasis on organization and function of neural maps, synaptic plasticity, vision, and recent neural network models of higher brain functions and on neurobiological problems that are well suited to computational study.

INSC 595. Behavioral Neuroscience Current research on the neural basis of behavior is organized in six subsections: animal communication, sex behavior, circadian rhythms, energy and water balance, synaptic plasticity and learning, and addiction.  Topics are selected based on excitement surrounding recent research developments.  Each topic is analyzed initially at the behavioral level, followed by the systems and the cell and molecular levels.  Throughout the course, attention is paid to the analysis interesting stereotyped behaviors, e.g., bird song, lordosis , licking, whose description and neurology has provided insights into the neural systems that contribute to overall neural control of behavior.  Attention is also paid to the development of understanding of the neuroanatomy of selected neural systems.

INSC 598. Systems Neuroscience This course will evaluate neural function from a systems perspective, using 4 different brain systems as examples: noradrenergic, olfactory, sleep and vestibular. ( i) G.  Aston-Jones will describe the neuroanatomy , neurophysiology, neuropharmacology and behavioral properties of the locus coeruleus and A1/A2 noradrenergic brain systems.  He will use these basic circuit properties to examine hypothesis for roles of these systems in addiction and cognitive function. (ii) M.  Ma will focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying olfactory information coding and processing. This section will deal with one basic question, i.e., what enables us to detect and discriminate thousands of odors. (iii) M.  Frank will review the behavioral and electrophysiological features of REM and nonREM sleep, as well as the underlying anatomical structures and neurotransmitter/ neurohumeral systems that generate and modulate each state.  Several theories of sleep function, including the possible role of sleep in neuronal metabolism, brain development and learning and memory will be reviewed. (iv) D.  Solomon will detailthe neural circuitry and physiological mechanisms involved in balance and other vestibular functions.

LING 105. Introduction to Cognitive Science. Cognitive Science is founded on the realization that many problems in the analysis of human and artificial intelligence require an interdisciplinary approach.  The course is intended to introduce undergraduates from many areas to the problems and characteristic concepts of Cognitive Science, drawing on formal and empirical approaches from the parent disciplines of computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, philosophy and psychology.  The topics covered include Perception, Action, Learning, Language, Knowledge Representation, and Inference, and the relations and interactions between such modules.  The course shows how the different views from the parent disciplines interact, and identifies some common themes among the theories that have been proposed.  The course pays particular attention to the distinctive role of computation in such theories, and provides an introduction to some of the main directions of current research in the field. Gen Req IV:  May be counted towards the General Requirement in Formal Reasoning & Analysis.

PSY 121. Learning. Changes in behavior resulting from past experience. The acquisition, maintenance, and elimination of behavior, and the effects of previous experience on responses to new situations.

PSY 125. Drugs, Mind & Brain. The course will begin with a review of basic concepts in pharmacology including: routes of drug administration, drug metabolism, the dose response curve, tolerance and sensitization.  Following a brief overview of cellular foundations of neuropharmacology (cell biology, snynaptic and receptor function) and CNS organization, the course will focus on three general topics. First, we will consider the use of pharmacological and neurobiological research techniques to identify and characterize neurochemical systems in the brain, including localization of the chemicals in brain, typing of receptors and contribution to normal and abnormal behavior.  Second, we will consider various classes of drugs used to treat neuropsychiatric disorders including, among others, depression, schizophrenia and anxiety.  Third, we will consider mechanism mediating the mind-altering, addictive and neurotoxic effects of abused drugs.

PSY 133. Brain, Behavior & Evolution. This course will provide an introduction to the experimental analysis of natural animal behavior, and its neurobiological basis.  Behavior is examined in an evolutionary and cological context, questions are focused on the neural processes that allow animals to carry out critical tasks such as locating prey and finding mates.  The course is comparative and an effort is made to identify common principles in sensory processing and brain function. Prerequisite(s): PSYC 001 or BIBB 109 or BIOL 102 or permission of instructor.

PSY 149. Introduction to Cognitive Neuroscience. The study of the neural systems that underlie human perception, memory and language; and of the pathological syndromes that result from damage to these systems. Click here to visit current course web page. Prerequisite(s): PSYC 001 and one semester of Biology.

PSY 151. Cognitive Psychology. Analysis of mental processes in adult humans: Attention, Pattern recognition, Imagery, Memory, Action.  Mental architecture.

PSY 270. Ethical Issues in the Behavioral and Neural Sciences. The more we understand about how the mind and brain work, the more we are able to monitor and control them. This, in turn, raises profound ethical questions about whether and when we SHOULD monitor or control them. Our class has two goals: To educate you about some of the more ethically loaded scientific developments (you will learn about behavior genetics, brain imaging, and psychopharmacology) and to help you formulate a view of whether and when such work should proceed (through reading and discussion of relevant literature in bioethics and history/sociology of science).

PSY 327. Research Experience in Behavioral Neuroscience. Students conduct supervised experiments on the physiological basis of motivation.  Topics will be chosen from the intersection of issues in taste and nutrition, such as the ability of animals to take in specific food substances needed to maintain themselves.  Class meets for lecture, discussion, and conduct of an experiment. Prerequisite(s): PSYC 109, PSYC 127 or permission of instructor.

PSY 349. Research Experience in Cognitive Neuroscience. Brain imaging, particularly functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), is a promising state-of-the-art tool used to study specialized human brain regions that are involved in cognitive functions. In the first half of the course, we will review the basics of the fMRI technique, current experimental design and analysis strategies, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of neuroimaging as a tool for cognitive neuroscientists. In the second half of the course, students will form into groups and propose a new experiment. As a team, you will program the experiment, acquire the fMRI data, and analyze your data. Each student will submit a paper describing the project and each group will give a presentation of their research. Prerequisite: Psychology 149 or permission of the instructor.

PSY 399. Individual Empirical Research. Individual research involving data collection.  Students do independent empirical work under the supervision of a faculty member, leading to a written paper.  Normally taken in the junior or senior year.
Undergraduate research opportunities in the area of cognitive neuroscience are available at Penn and nearby institutions. You can volunteer for a research position and/or earn course credit (e.g., PSYC 399). Click here for more information.

PSY 455. Laboratory in Cognitive Neuroscience. Increasingly noninvasive measures of human brain activity are being used in cognitive science to supplement traditional dependent measures in testing hypotheses about cognitive mechanisms and processes.  This course will consist of 4-5 predetermined experiments in which event-related cortical Potential (ERPs) are used in well-established paradigms in Visual/Auditory Perception, Memory, Language and Action.  Background material on the nature and measurement of ERPs, and in the specific content area of each experiment will be given as needed.

PHIL 244. Introduction to Philosophy of Mind. This course deals with several problems that lie at the interface among philosophy, logic, linguistics, psychology, and computer science. Distribution II: May be counted as a Distributional course in History & Tradition.


Education Menu

Education Intro Page
Undergraduate Programs
Graduate Study


Center for Cognitiver Neuroscience
University of Pennsylvania

Last Modified: 31 January, 2012


University of Pennsylvania University of Pennsylvania Center for Cognitive Neuroscience