9.S915 | Spring 2012 | Graduate

Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience


Students will be required to give in-class presentations, write responses to weekly papers, and to write a final paper.

Response Papers

Starting after the first session each week, all participants will submit a 1–page response paper, based on the assigned reading.

Make an argument for one specific claim, based on that week’s reading, that evidence concerning neural underpinnings has provided supporting evidence for; gone beyond; or is not yet available to speak to conclusions from developmental behavioral data. Show how (for option 3, how it could in future).

The idea is to take a claim from developmental psychology (e.g. “geometric representations are innate”, “geometric representations are encapsulated from feature representations”, “reorientation is accomplished by purely geometric representations”, “birds, rats and humans have homologous geometrical representations”) and then argue that the neuroscientific evidence in the readings support or contradict, or go beyond this claim; or if neuroscientific evidence doesn’t yet contribute, then suggest how it could in the future.

For the final class, we will read descriptions of the real pinnacles of human learning, such as conceptual change, from psychology and development. Each student’s response paper will be a proposal for how neuroscience could contribute to our understanding of these kinds of learning.

Response Paper Examples Courtesy of Anonymous Student Authors:

2 Geometry and navigation—a candidate innate representation (PDF)
9 Learning as exploration (PDF)
10 Executive function (PDF)


For each specific subtopic, one participant will prepare a 5–minute verbal introduction to the topic & question (no slides), including a brief introduction of the data from the optional reading, to begin the discussion. There will be no preassigned presenters for the final class, but we will call on people to present/discuss the proposal outlined in their response paper, so everyone should be ready to talk about their idea.

Final Paper

Participants taking the course for credit will submit a final 5–7 page paper, on any topic covered in the course.