The Neuroscience of Human Nature
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
13 May 2019
Requisites for this module
BSC C806 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience (Including Year Abroad),
BSC C808 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience,
BSC C809 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience (Including Placement Year),
BSC C813 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience (Including Foundation Year)
This module will cover the neural basis of some of the fundamental aspects of human nature. These include how we understand faces and bodies of others and the role of mirror neurons in action understanding. We will also investigate the neural processes that allow us to control our voluntary actions. Finally, we will consider the functions of consciousness and the generation of the sense of agency and the sense of self. We will consider these phenomena both when functioning normally, as well as how their dysfunction can contribute to various symptoms in disorders such as autism and schizophrenia. An important aspect of the course will be to help develop critical insight into how modern neuroscientific techniques can be used to inform questions about the nature of human mind and behaviour.
An important aspect of the course will be to help develop critical insight into how modern neuroscientific techniques can be used to inform questions about the nature of human mind and behaviour.
1. Describe the brain mechanisms underpinning the major aspects of human nature such as emotion recognition, empathy, volition, agency, consciousness and self.
2. Be able to relate these mechanisms to their dysfunction, and the symptoms observed in various psychopathologies.
3. To be aware of the controversies in the field, and critique the evidence pertaining to these controversies.
Following a brief introduction to neuroscientific methods, the module is broken down into 9 topics. The first 4 investigate the neural basis of understanding others: mirror neurons, perception of faces and bodies, empathy, theory of mind. The next 4 investigate the neural basis of understanding oneself: volition, agency, bodily self-awareness, and consciousness. The final lecture will discuss the role of insula cortex in social cognition.
The module will be taught over a series of 10 x 2-hour lectures.
- Sperduti, M.; Delaveau, P.; Fossati, P.; Nadel, J. (2011) 'Different brain structures related to self- and external-agency attribution: a brief review and meta-analysis.', in Brain structure and function. vol. 216 (2) , pp.151-157
- Brass, M.; Haggard, P. (2008) 'The what, when, whether model of intentional action', in Neuroscientist. vol. 14 (4) , pp.319-325
- Craig, A. D. (2009) 'How do you feel--now? The anterior insula and human awareness', in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. vol. 10 (1) , pp.59-70
- Decety, J.; Skelly, L. (2014) 'The neural underpinnings of the experience of empathy: Lessons for psychopathy', in The Oxford handbook of cognitive neuroscience : Volume 2, Oxford: Oxford University Press. vol. Oxford library of psychology, pp.228-243
- Saxe, R.; Young, L. L. (2014) 'Theory of Mind: How Brains Think about Thoughts', in The Oxford handbook of cognitive neuroscience : Volume 2, Oxford: Oxford University Press. vol. Oxford library of psychology, pp.213-224
- Rizzolatti, G.; Sinigaglia, C. (2010) 'The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations', in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. vol. 11 (4) , pp.264-274
- de Gelder, B. (2006) 'Towards the neurobiology of emotional body language', in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. vol. 7 (3) , pp.242-249
- Moore, J. W.; Obhi, S. S. (2012) 'Intentional binding and the sense of agency: a review', in Consciousness and Cognition. vol. 21 (1) , pp.546-561
- Haggard, Patrick. (2017-4) 'Sense of agency in the human brain', in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. vol. 18 (4) , pp.196-207
- Blanke, O. (2012) 'Multisensory brain mechanisms of bodily self-consciousness', in Nature reviews. Neuroscience. vol. 13 (8) , pp.556-571
- Rizzolatti, G.; Craighero, L. (2004) 'The mirror-neuron system', in Annual Review of Neuroscience. vol. 27, pp.169-192
- Koch, Christof; Massimini, Marcello; Boly, Melanie; Tononi, Giulio. (2016-5) 'Neural correlates of consciousness: progress and problems', in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. vol. 17 (5) , pp.307-321
- Ward, Jamie. (2017) 'Chapter 6: Understanding others', in The student's guide to social neuroscience, Abingdon: Routledge.
- Haggard, P.; Lau, H. (2013) 'What is volition?', in Experimental brain research. vol. 229 (3) , pp.285-287
- Calder, A. J.; Young, A. W. (2005) 'Understanding the recognition of facial identity and facial expression', in Nature Reviews Neuroscience. vol. 6 (8) , pp.641-651
- Ward, Jamie. (2017) 'Chapter 5: Reading faces and bodies', in The student's guide to social neuroscience, Abingdon: Routledge.
- Southgate, V.; Hamilton, A. F. (2008) 'Unbroken mirrors: challenging a theory of Autism', in Trends in cognitive sciences. vol. 12 (6) , pp.225-229-
- Haggard, Patrick. (2019-01-04) 'The Neurocognitive Bases of Human Volition', in Annual Review of Psychology. vol. 70 (1)
- Quadt, Lisa; Critchley, Hugo D.; Garfinkel, Sarah N. (2018-09) 'The neurobiology of interoception in health and disease', in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. vol. 1428 (1) , pp.112-128
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||2880 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main)
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Gethin Hughes, email: email@example.com.
Dr Gethin Hughes
Prof Geoffrey Haddock
Available via Moodle
Of 80 hours, 20 (25%) hours available to students:
60 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).
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