The Neuroscience of Human Nature
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
16 November 2023
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),
MSCIC999 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience,
MSCICA98 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience (Including Placement Year),
MSCICA99 Psychology with Cognitive Neuroscience (Including Year Abroad),
BENGH169 Neural Engineering with Psychology,
BENGH170 Neural Engineering with Psychology (including Placement Year),
BENGH171 Neural Engineering with Psychology (including Year Abroad),
BENGH172 Neural Engineering with Psychology (Including Foundation Year),
BSC H167 Neural Technology with Psychology,
BSC H168 Neural Technology with Psychology (including Year Abroad),
BSC H176 Neural Technology with Psychology (including Placement 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.
The aim of this module is:
- To help develop critical insight into how modern neuroscientific techniques can be used to inform questions about the nature of human mind and behaviour.
By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:
- Describe the brain mechanisms underpinning the major aspects of human nature such as emotion recognition, empathy, volition, agency, consciousness and self.
- Be able to relate these mechanisms to their dysfunction, and the symptoms observed in various psychopathologies.
- To be aware of the controversies in the field, and critique the evidence pertaining to these controversies.
Lectures start on the hour. Please arrive promptly to avoid disrupting the class.
There will be a short break halfway through the class. Please ask questions during class if there is anything that is unclear.
Questions can also be posted on moodle. You will be expected to participate in classroom activities designed to support your learning.
This module will be delivered via:
- One 2-hour lecture per week.
Students will be encouraged to participate by asking questions in session. Electronic voting and other digital interactive platforms will also be used during class. The will be used to aid and track understanding, and also to show how research findings inform theoretical debate.
Rizzolatti, G. and Sinigaglia, C. (2010) ‘The functional role of the parieto-frontal mirror circuit: interpretations and misinterpretations’, Nature Reviews Neuroscience
, 11(4). Available at: https://air.unimi.it/bitstream/2434/147582/2/Rizzolatti%26Sinigaglia2010.pdf
Hamilton, A.F. de C. (2013) ‘Reflecting on the mirror neuron system in autism: A systematic review of current theories’, Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
, 3, pp. 91–105. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dcn.2012.09.008
Heyes, C. and Catmur, C. (2022) ‘What Happened to Mirror Neurons?’, Perspectives on Psychological Science
, 17(1), pp. 153–168. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691621990638
De Gelder, B. (2006) ‘Towards the neurobiology of emotional body language’, Nature Reviews Neuroscience
, 7(3). Available at: https://pure.uvt.nl/ws/portalfiles/portal/739380/towards.pdf
Ward, J. (2017a) ‘Chapter 5: Reading faces and bodies’, in The student’s guide to social neuroscience
. Second edition. Abingdon: Routledge. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=1435672
Wood, A. et al.
(2016) ‘Fashioning the Face: Sensorimotor Simulation Contributes to Facial Expression Recognition’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences
, 20(3), pp. 227–240. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2015.12.010
De Vignemont, F. and Singer, T. (2006) ‘The empathic brain: how, when and why?’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences
, 10(10), pp. 435–441. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2006.08.008
Decety, J. and Moriguchi, Y. (2007) ‘The empathic brain and its dysfunction in psychiatric populations: implications for intervention across different clinical conditions’, BioPsychoSocial Medicine
, 1(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1186/1751-0759-1-22
Gonzalez-Liencres, C., Shamay-Tsoory, S.G. and Brüne, M. (2013) ‘Towards a neuroscience of empathy: Ontogeny, phylogeny, brain mechanisms, context and psychopathology’, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews
, 37(8), pp. 1537–1548. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.05.001
Lamm, C., Decety, J. and Singer, T. (2011) ‘Meta-analytic evidence for common and distinct neural networks associated with directly experienced pain and empathy for pain’, NeuroImage
, 54(3), pp. 2492–2502. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuroimage.2010.10.014
Iannetti, G.D. et al.
(2013) ‘Beyond metaphor: contrasting mechanisms of social and physical pain’, Trends in Cognitive Sciences
, 17(8), pp. 371–378. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2013.06.002
Singer, T. (2004) ‘Empathy for Pain Involves the Affective but not Sensory Components of Pain’, Science
, 303(5661), pp. 1157–1162. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1093535
Brass, M. and Haggard, P. (2008) ‘The what, when, whether model of intentional action’, Neuroscientist
, 14(4). Available at: https://nro.sagepub.com/content/14/4/319.full.pdf
Haggard, P. (2019) ‘The Neurocognitive Bases of Human Volition’, Annual Review of Psychology
, 70(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-103348
Haggard, P. (2017) ‘Sense of agency in the human brain’, Nature Reviews Neuroscience
, 18(4), pp. 196–207. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/nrn.2017.14
Palmer, C.E. and Tsakiris, M. (2018) ‘Going at the heart of social cognition: is there a role for interoception in self-other distinction?’, Current Opinion in Psychology
, 24, pp. 21–26. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.04.008
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
||Assessment worth 40%
||Assessment worth 60%
Exam format definitions
- Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
- In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary,
for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.
Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Gethin Hughes, email: email@example.com.
Dr Gethin Hughes
Dr Paula Miles
University of St Andrews
Director of Teaching, Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 21 hours, 20 (95.2%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
1 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.
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