This course is about how the brain creates our sense of spatial location from a variety of sensory and motor sources, and how this spatial sense in turn shapes our cognitive abilities. Knowing where things are is effortless. But “under the hood,” your brain must figure out even the simplest of details about the world around you and your position in it.
Recognizing your mother, finding your phone, going to the grocery store, playing the banjo – these require careful sleuthing and coordination across different sensory and motor domains. This course traces the brain’s detective work to create this sense of space and argues that the brain’s spatial focus permeates our cognitive abilities, affecting the way we think and remember.
The course material overlaps with classes on perception or systems neuroscience, and can be taken either before or after such classes.
Course Introduction and Vision (Part 1)
This module contains an introduction to the course as a whole (Video 1.1) and an exploration of how our eyes detect light and deduce the location light is coming from (Videos 1.2-1.6). You'll also learn about how scientists from Democritus to Alhazen to Kepler figured this out. The final video for the module involves an experiment to test what happens when special goggles turn the world upside down (Video 1.7). I'll show experiments frequently throughout this course -- they are how we know what we know. This module’s quiz is ungraded and available to both auditors and certificate students. Consider it a sample of the style of question in the quizzes for the remaining modules, and an opportunity to determine if you’d like to pursue a certificate for this course.
Vision (Part 2), the Body, and Neural Signals
In this unit, we cover the visual scene in 3D - the many clues to depth. We then turn to body senses (position and touch) and how our brains detect the configuration of our own bodies. Along the way, we cover the resting membrane potential, the action potential, and how they arise. Finally, we bring vision and the body together, and throw some beanbags at a visual target while wearing prisms! This material is covered in Making Space, chapters 2 and 3.
Graded: Module 2 Quiz
In this unit, we turn to the brain and how it uses the spatial position of neurons within the brain to organize information about the spatial position of stimuli in the world (Making Space chapter 4). You'll learn about how we identify where one object ends and another begins, what a receptive field is, and how some neurons are sensitive to edges and the boundaries of objects. Maps occur in both visual cortex and body (somatosensory) cortex, and these maps may be responsible for various "phantom" sensations (examples from normal vision, patients with body part amputations, and electrical stimulation experiments).
Graded: Module 3 Quiz
Sound and Brain Representations
In module 4, we turn to the fascinating puzzle of how we deduce sound location--a process that requires quite a bit of detective work. Our brains piece together multiple types of clues, including subtle differences in timing, loudness, frequency content, and how sounds appear to change as we turn our heads. Because our ears don't form images of sounds, our brains don't have to use maps to encode sound location. The second half of the videos this module concern alternative forms of brain representation, how the brain translates between different types of representation, and what we know about brain representations for sound location. The material is covered in chapter 5, "Sherlock Ears" and chapter 6, "Moving with Maps and Meters", in Making Space. Be forewarned, there are about 70 minutes of video this module, as compared to previous modules' 50-60 minutes. After watching the full set, you'll see why these videos are grouped together as a unit. To make things more manageable, we've broken the quiz into two parts; that way, you can get feedback on one part before moving on to the next, if you like.
Graded: Module 4 Quiz - Part I
Graded: Module 4 Quiz - Part II
Reference Frames and Navigation
This module we turn to how spatial locations are defined, and discuss the concept of a reference frame. Initially, reference frames are quite different for visual, auditory, and somatosensory information. Visual location is defined with respect to the eyes, whereas sound locations are detected with respect to the head and ears, and tactile locations are detected based on body surface position. As you'll see, the brain transforms these signals into new reference frames to facilitate interactions between these sensory systems. We then consider space on a larger scale, and ask how we know where we are and how we navigate from one place to another. Knowledge of self-motion relies in part on the vestibular system, our sense of balance. The vestibular system works in concert with vision and motor systems to update our sense of position and keep us from getting lost. This module's material is covered in chapters 7, "Your Sunglasses Are in the Milky Way", and 8, "Going Places" of Making Space.
Graded: Module 5 Quiz
Memory and Cognition
In this final module of the course, we build several important links between the sense of space and other kinds of cognition. Videos 6.1-6.5 concern the relationship between space and memory. Memory is reflected in multiple different kinds of neural mechanisms and involves multiple brain regions. The memory and spatial functions of these mechanisms and brain regions overlap. Video 6.5 in particular features work by John O'Keefe concerning response patterns known as "place fields" in the hippocampus, and work by May-Britt and Edvard Moser concerning grid cells. This seminal work was recognized by the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology. Videos 6.6-6.9 turn to thought more generally, and present a series of theories and experiments that suggest that the brain is actually using sensory and motor structures to think and reason. Thus, our brain systems for space may be engaged in a wide set of mental functions, which are shaped by the multiple purposes of this neural infrastructure. This module's material is covered in chapters 9, "Space and Memory", and 10, "Thinking about Thinking" of Making Space. I hope you enjoy this synthesis of all you have learned and what it means!
In this course you will learn how evolution works. You will develop an understanding of evolutionary processes and their formative power. You will see how evolution has shaped biodiversity, and continuously influences our daily life. Evolution impacts human endeavors as varied as medicine, agriculture, psychology, economy, and culture. It is the major unifying principle for biology and a fundamental natural law.
How did life emerge on Earth? How have life and Earth co-evolved through geological time? Is life elsewhere in the universe? Take a look through the 4-billion-year history of life on Earth through the lens of the modern Tree of Life.
Learn about novel sensing tools that make use of nanotechnology to screen, detect and monitor various events in personal or professional life. Together, we will lay the groundwork for infinite innovative applications, starting from diagnosis and treatments of diseases, continuing with quality control of goods and environmental aspects, and ending with monitoring security issues.
This course will introduce the student to contemporary Systems Biology focused on mammalian cells, their constituents and their functions. Biology is moving from molecular to modular. As our knowledge of our genome and gene expression deepens and we develop lists of molecules (proteins, lipids, ions) involved in cellular processes, we need to understand how these molecules interact with each other to form modules that act as discrete functional systems. These systems underlie core subcellular processes such as signal transduction, transcription, motility and electrical excitability. In turn these processes come together to exhibit cellular behaviors such as secretion, proliferation and action potentials.
This course explores the brain bases of bilingualism by discussing literature relevant to differences in age of initial learning, proficiency, and control in the nonverbal, single language and dual-language literature. Participants will learn about the latest research related to how humans learn one or two languages and other cognitive skills.
Nanotechnology and nanosensors are broad, interdisciplinary areas that encompass (bio)chemistry, physics, biology, materials science, electrical engineering and more. The present course will provide a survey on some of the fundamental principles behind nanotechnology and nanomaterials and their vital role in novel sensing properties and applications. The course will discuss interesting interdisciplinary scientific and engineering knowledge at the nanoscale to understand fundamental physical differences at the nanosensors.
Hello everyone! Welcome to advanced neurobiology! Neuroscience is a wonderful branch of science on how our brain perceives the external world, how our brain thinks, how our brain responds to the outside of the world, and how during disease or aging the neuronal connections deteriorate. We’re trying to understand the molecular, cellular nature and the circuitry arrangement of how nervous system works.
This course gives you easy access to the invaluable learning techniques used by experts in art, music, literature, math, science, sports, and many other disciplines. We’ll learn about the how the brain uses two very different learning modes and how it encapsulates (“chunks”) information. We’ll also cover illusions of learning, memory techniques, dealing with procrastination, and best practices shown by research to be most effective in helping you master tough subjects.
This course will introduce you to some of the main areas of research in contemporary philosophy. Each module a different philosopher will talk you through some of the most important questions and issues in their area of expertise. We’ll begin by trying to understand what philosophy is – what are its characteristic aims and methods, and how does it differ from other subjects? Then we’ll spend the rest of the course gaining an introductory overview of several different areas of philosophy.
An introduction to dynamical modeling techniques used in contemporary Systems Biology research. We take a case-based approach to teach contemporary mathematical modeling techniques. The course is appropriate for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students. Lectures provide biological background and describe the development of both classical mathematical models and more recent representations of biological processes. The course will be useful for students who plan to use experimental techniques as their approach in the laboratory and employ computational modeling as a tool to draw deeper understanding of experiments.
In this course, featuring many researchers at the University of Zurich, you will learn about the amazing diversity of biological organisms in the world around us. You will discover the field of "biodiversity science", experience the countless forms that biodiversity takes, look at the values and importance of this diversity, understand the processes that create and maintain diversity, and hear about how biodiversity is distributed across the Earth. You will also experience how biodiversity is threatened, and what conservation, management, and individual actions can do for its protection. Having been equipped with such knowledge through the course, we encourage you to take action, however small, to positively influence the future of biodiversity, and thereby become a Biodiversity Ambassador.
MOOCs – Massive Open Online Courses – enable students around the world to take university courses online. This guide, by the instructors of edX’s most successful MOOC in 2013-2014, Principles of Written English (based on both enrollments and rate of completion), advises current and future students how to get the most out of their online study, covering areas such as what types of courses are offered and who offers them, what resources students need, how to register, how to work effectively with other students, how to interact with professors and staff, and how to handle assignments. This second edition offers a new chapter on how to stay motivated. This book is suitable for both native and non-native speakers of English, and is applicable to MOOC classes on any subject (and indeed, for just about any type of online study).