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Neurotechnology, Where Brain Meets Machine

This course is no longer being offered.

Course Description

This course will introduce students to the rapidly advancing interface between the human nervous system and technology, and its potential to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases. A brief introduction to brain basics, and an overview of past, current and future neurotechnology will inspire students to consider how medical technology is envisioned, tested and created in a manner that appreciates its benefits and risks. Students interested in a great number of fields like biology, neuroscience, medicine, engineering, innovation, and even scientific ethics will each have something to take away from this course.

The brain is arguably the most complex structure in the universe. Centuries have passed and we are still scratching at the surface. When this structure malfunctions, at the level of neurons, or circuits or whole brain regions, something we call disease, we often turn to technology to restore some level of function. The focus of this course is to introduce students to that process, from identifying a problem to reasoning a solution.

This course will provide an overview on neuroscience and neurotechnology and help students develop reasoning skills that can augment their foundation for further study in any field that is founded on the scientific method. Topics that will be covered include neuroimaging, cranial surface measurement, non-invasive brain stimulation, brain implants and virus- and cell-based therapies. Each topic will be introduced as a disease case presentation, and classroom discussions will follow to generate ideas on potential solutions. These ideas will then be compared to current research in the respective fields.

Finally, to further advance discussion, we will always consider current and potential neurotechnology through the lens of ethics. Students will debate the difference between restoring human function and enhancing human ability beyond the norm. By the end of the course, students will have developed their own way of thinking about science and technology.

Having completed the course, students will be familiar with the field of neuroscience and neurotechnology. As importantly, they will know how to think about applying technology to medicine, beginning with identifying a problem like poor outcomes of an existing treatment for neurological or psychiatric disease. They will also be able to propose inquiries and tests that could cultivate a better approach, keeping practicality, risk and ethics in mind. Finally, students will know how to publicly discuss their goals and concerns.

Introductory Biology is required. Chemistry and Physics are recommended, but not necessary.