STS.010 | Spring 2010 | Undergraduate

Neuroscience and Society


I. Framing the brain
1 Introduction No readings.
2 Neuroscience in historical context I Rose, Steven. “What We Know, What We Might Know and What We Can’t Know.” Chapter 8 in The Future of the Brain: The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow’s Neuroscience. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780195154207. [Preview in Google Books]
3 Neuroscience in historical context II

Harrington, Anne. “The Brain and the Behavioral Sciences.” In The Cambridge History of Science: Vol. 6, The Modern Biological and Earth Sciences. Edited by Peter J. Bowler and John V. Pickstone. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009. ISBN: 9780521572019.

Gould, Stephen Jay. “Measuring Heads: Paul Broca and the Heyday of Craniology.” Chapter 3 in The Mismeasure of Man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1996. ISBN: 9780393314250.


Picturing the brain (neuroimaging)

Guest Lecture by Hans Breiter, MD, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital

Joyce, Kelly. “Appealing Images: Magnetic Resonance Imaging and the Production of Authoritative Knowledge.” Social Studies of Science 35, no. 3 (June 2005): 437-462.

Logothetis, Nikos. “What We Can and Cannot Do with fMRI.” Nature 453 (June 12, 2008): 869-878.

Lehrer, Jonah. “Picturing Our Thoughts.” Boston Globe. 17 August 2008.


Public circulation of brain images

Dumit, Joseph. “Travelling Images, Popularizing Brains.” Introduction and chapter 5, in Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780691113982.

Colorado State University. “Brain Images Make Cognitive Research More Believable.” ScienceDaily (October 8, 2007).

Racine, Eric, et al. “fMRI in the Public Eye.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 6, no. 2 (February 2005): 159-164.

II. Making brains mean
6 Computer as brain, brain as computer

Gigerenzer, Gerd, and Daniel G. Goldstein. “Mind as Computer: Birth of a Metaphor.” Creativity Research Journal 9, nos. 2&3 (1996): 131-144. (PDF – 1.4MB)

Montague, Read. Chapter 1 in Your Brain is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions. New York, NY: Plume/Penguin Group, 2007. ISBN: 9780452288843.

Blakeslee, Sandra. “How Brain May Weigh the World With Simple Dopamine System.” New York Times, March 19, 1996.

7 Rational brain, impulsive brain

Sanfey, Alan G., and Luke J. Chang. “Multiple Systems in Decision Making.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1128 (2008): 53-62.

McClure, Samuel M., et al. “Separate Neural Systems Value Immediate and Delayed Monetary Rewards.” Science 306 (October 15, 2004): 503-507.

Coy, Peter. “Why Logic Often Takes a Back Seat: The Study of Neuroeconomics May Topple the Notion of Rational Decision-making.” Business Week, March 28, 2005.

8 The moral brain

Saxe, Rebecca. “Do the Right Thing: Cognitive Science’s Search for a Common Morality.” Boston Review, September/October 2005.

Greene, Joshua, et al. “An fMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment.” Science 293 (September 14, 2001): 2105-2108. (PDF)

Keim, Brandon. “Brain Scanners Can See Your Decisions Before You Make Them.” Wired, April 13, 2008.


The empathic brain (social neuroscience)

Guest lecture by Susan Lanzoni, PhD

Rizzolatti, Giacomo, et al. “Mirror Neurons and Autism.” Scientific American, November 2006.

Hotz, Robert Lee. “How Your Brain Allows You to Walk In Another’s Shoes.” Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2007.

Carey, Bjorn. “Men Enjoy Physical Revenge, Brain Study Suggests.” LiveScience, January 18, 2006.

Iacoboni, Marco, et al. “This is Your Brain on Politics.” New York Times, November 11, 2007.

Iacoboni, Marco. “Neuropolitics.” Chapter 10 in Mirroring People: The New Science of How We Connect with Others. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 2008. ISBN: 9780374210175.

10 Finding God in the brain (neurotheology)

Ramachandran, V. S., and Sandra Blakeslee. “God and the Limbic System.” Chapter 9 in Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 1999. ISBN: 9780688172176.

Johnson, George. “God in the Dendrites: Can ‘Neurotheology’ Bridge the Gap Between Religion and Science?Slate, April 26, 2007.

Monastersky, Richard. “Religion on the Brain: The Hard Science of Neurobiology is Taking a Closer Look at the Ethereal World of the Spirit.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 26, 2006.

11 The brain on love

Savulescu, Julian, and Anders Sandberg. “Neuroenhancement of Love and Marriage: The Chemicals Between Us.” Neuroethics 1 (2008): 31-44.

Kettlewell, Julianna. “‘Fidelity Gene’ Found in Voles.” BBC News, June 16, 2004.

Brizendine, Louann. “Love and Trust.” Chapter 3 in The Female Brain. New York, NY: Broadway Books/Random House, 2007. ISBN: 9780767920100.

12 Male and female brains

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Sexing the Brain: How Biologists Make A Difference.” Chapter 5 in Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000. ISBN: 9780465077144.

Testosterone.” This American Life. Episode #220, February 22, 2008. Chicago Public Radio.

Barres, Ben A. “Does Gender Matter?Nature 442 (July 13, 2006): 133-136.

Brizendine, Louann. “What Makes Us Women,” and “The Birth of the Female Brain.” Introduction and Chapter 1 in The Female Brain. New York, NY: Broadway Books/Random House, 2007. ISBN: 9780767920100.

13 Homosexual brains

Carey, Benedict. “Straight, Gay or Lying?: Bisexuality Revisited.” New York Times, July 5, 2005.

Swaab, Dick. “Sexual Orientation and its Basis in Brain Structure and Function.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 105, no. 30 (July 29, 2008): 10273-10274.

Wolpe, Paul R. “Ethics and Social Policy in Research on the Neuroscience of Human Sexuality.” Nature Neuroscience 7, no. 10 (October 2004): 1031-1033.

Cloud, John. “Yep, They’re Gay.” Time Magazine, January 26, 2007.

III. Social problems: problematic brains
14 The addicted brain

Lemonick, Michael D., and Alice Park. “How We Get Addicted.” Time Magazine, July 5, 2007.

Satel, Sally, and Scott Lilienfeld. “Medical Misnomer: Addiction Isn’t a Brain Disease, Congress.” Slate, July 25, 2007.

Brody, Jane E. “Addiction: A Brain Ailment, Not a Moral Lapse.” New York Times, September 30, 2003.

Weiss, Friedbert, and Linda J. Porrino. “Behavioral Neurobiology of Alcohol Addiction.” Neuroscience 22, no. 9 (May 1, 2002): 3332-3337.

15 The stressed brain

Restak, Richard M. D. “Attention Deficit: The Brain Syndrome of Our Era.” Chapter 3 in The New Brain. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Books, 2004. ISBN: 9781594860546.

Harrington, Anne. “Broken by Modern Life.” Chapter 4 in The Cure Within: A History of Mind-Body Medicine. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2009. ISBN: 9780393333978.

Lehrer, Jonah. “The Reinvention of the Self.” Seed Magazine, February 23, 2006.


Prejudice in the brain?

_Guest lecture by Emile Bruneau, PhD

Burton, Robert. “We’re Prejudiced, Now What?, October 31, 2007.

Phelps, Elizabeth A., and Laura A. Thomas. “Race, Behavior, and the Brain: The Role of Neuroimaging in Understanding Complex Social Behaviors.” Political Psychology 4, no. 4 (2003): 747-758. (PDF)

Begley, Sharon. “How Your Brain Looks at Race.” Newsweek, February 23, 2008.

Kristof, Nicholas D. “What? Me Biased?New York Times, October 30, 2008.

17 Violence in the brain?

Gould, Stephen Jay. “Measuring Bodies: Two Case Studies on the Apishness of Undesirables.” Chapter 4 in The Mismeasure of Man. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1996. ISBN: 9780393314250.

Miczek, Klaus A., et al. “Neurobiology of Escalated Aggression and Violence.” The Journal of Neuroscience 27, no. 44 (October 31, 2007): 11803-11806.

Lombroso, Cesare. Criminal Man. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006, pp. 1-26, 63-69, and 198-205. ISBN: 9780822337232. [Preview in Google Books]

IV. Interventions

Brains on the stand

Guest lecture by Ruth Greenberg, Esq.

Eastman, N., and C. Campbell. “Neuroscience and Legal Determination of Criminal Responsibility.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 7, no. 4 (2006): 311-318.

Dumit, Joseph. “Ways of Seeing Brains as Expert Images.” Chapter 4 in Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780691113982.


Crime and punishment

Guest lecture by Monty Brower, M.D.

Brower, M. C., and B. H. Price. “Neuropsychiatry of Frontal Lobe Dysfunction in Violent and Criminal Behaviour: A Critical Review.” Journal of Neurol, Neurosurg, and Psychiatry 71 (2001): 720-726.

University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Brain Study Sheds Light on Impulsive Violence.”, August 15, 2000.

Rose, Nikolas. “The Biology of Culpability: Pathological Identity and Crime Control in a Biological Culture.” Theoretical Criminology 4, no. 1 (2000): 5.

20 Disciplining the brain

Valenstein, Elliot S. Great and Desperate Cures. Chapters 9 and 13. New York, NY: Basic Books, 1986. ISBN: 9780465027101.

Listen to “‘My Lobotomy’: Howard Dully’s Journey.” All Things Considered, National Public Radio, November 16, 2005. [Howard Dully describes his lobotomy experience.]

21 Treating the brain

Dumit, Joseph. “Drugs for Life.” Molecular Interventions 2, no. 3 (June 2002): 124-127.

Kramer, Peter D. Listening to Prozac. Introduction and chapter 1. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1997. ISBN: 9780140266719.

Friedman M. D., Richard A. “Who Are We?: Coming of Age on Anti-Depressants.” New York Times, April 15, 2008.


Enhancing the brain

Guest lecture by Emily Wanderer, graduate student in MIT Science, Techology and Society

Elliott, Carl. Better than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2004, pp. XV-XXI, 51-53, and 119-128. ISBN: 9780393325652. [Preview in Google Books]

Carey, Benedict. “Brain Enhancement is Wrong, Right?The New York Times, March 9, 2008.

Farah, Martha J., et al. “Neurocognitive Enhancement.” Nature Reviews 5 (May 2004): 421-425.

Baard, Erik. “The Guilt-Free Soldier: New Science Raises the Specter of a World Without Regret.” The Village Voice, January 21, 2003.

23 The consumer brain

Knutson, B., et al. “Neural Predictors of Purchases.” Neuron 53 (2007): 147-156.

Rangel, Antonio, et al. “Marketing Actions Can Modulate Neural Representations of Experienced Pleasantness.” Proc Natl Acad Sci 105, no. 3 (2008): 1050-4.

Reinberg, Steven. (HealthDay News.) “Study Spotlights Marketing’s Impact on the Brain.” ABC News, January 14, 2008.


Branding the brain (neuromarketing)

Guest speaker: Nate Greenslit, PhD

McClure, Samuel, et al. “Neural Correlates for Cultural Preference of Culturally Familiar Drinks.” Neuron 44 (2004): 379-387.

Montague, Read. “How Neurons Generate Preference.” Chapter 7 in Your Brain is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions. New York, NY: A Plume Book/Penguin Group, 2007. ISBN: 9780452288843.

Thompson, Clive. “There’s a Sucker Born in Every Medial Prefrontal Cortex.” New York Times, October 26, 2003: 54.

Elliott, Stuart. “Is the Ad a Success? The Brain Waves Tell All.” New York Times, March 31, 2008.

Editorial. “Brain Scam?” Nature Neuroscience 7, no. 7 (2004): 683.

Brammer, Michael. Letter to the Editors: “Brain Scam?” Nature Neuroscience 7, no. 10 (2004): 1015.

Wahlberg, David. “Advertisers Probe Brains, Raise Fears.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, February 1, 2004.

Rushkoff, Douglas. “Reading the Consumer Mind.” New York Press, February 2004.

V. Conclusions: brave new neurosociety?
25 Neuroethics

Rose, Steven. “The Promise and the Threat,” and “Ethics in a Neurocentric World.” Chapters 1 and 12 in The Future of the Brain: The Promise and Perils of Tomorrow’s Neuroscience. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780195154207. [Preview in Google Books]

Farah, Martha. “Emerging Ethical Issues in Neuroscience.” Nature Neuroscience 5, no. 11 (2002): 1123-1129. ( PDF)

“Open Your Mind: The Ethics of Brain Science.” The Economist. May 23, 2002.

Kennedy, D. “Neuroscience and Neuroethics.” Science 306, no. 5695 (2004): 373.

26 Final reflections  

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2010
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments