Brain & Society

Interdisciplinary Themes

Bass Connections projects, courses and summer programs are aligned with the following themes:

Led by the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

Many of the core problems of our time – climate change, financial crises, addiction, social inequality – arise from individuals and their choices. Brain research on cognition, emotions, expression and decision-making will be translated in this theme to address collective challenges and increase understanding of what makes us human. This is just one of several domains of research relating the exciting field of neuroscience to the contemporary challenges we face in the communities we inhabit and in the societies and culture we create.

Bass Connections in Brain & Society engages undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty from different programs and majors in an immersive curriculum that combines research and coursework into a common program of scholarship in multidisciplinary project teams.

Curricular and project elements build connections between basic research in neuroscience (and related biological sciences) and socially challenging questions in medicine, the humanities, public policy, economics, ethics and law, to understand issues such as physical and social responses to transformative events; the workings of the brain in rhetoric and the arts; memory in legal testimony; and the role of decision processes in shaping our institutions and public policies. Each Brain & Society team tackles a current issue relating to the brain and its link to society as a whole.

Brain & Society Project Teams

Bottles of alcohol on a shelf in a bar.

This project builds on the work of previous teams that created the Alcohol Use Behavioral Phenotyping Test (AUBPT), a virtual tool that uses games and tasks to assess the user’s risk of Alcohol Use Disorder. Read more about Alcohol Use Behavioral Phenotyping Test for Global Populations (2023-2024) »


Map of USA showing each state as a colored hexagon.

The goal of this project is to research and outline key ethical issues that are central to advancing mental health research, practice and policy. Read more about Bioethics and the Use of Real-World Mental Health Data (2023-2024) »


Graphic of stylized flags of Nigeria and Uganda inside the outlines of their respective countries.

Duke students on this team will collaborate with stakeholders and policy-makers to develop culturally appropriate research plans and interventions to fill gaps identified in neurosurgical systems in Nigeria and Uganda. Read more about Building Sustainable Neurosurgical Systems in Developing Countries (2023-2024) »


Heron standing by a pond with a red Japanese footbridge in background.

Members of this team will gather and analyze quantitative and qualitative data regarding the impact of the Koru Mindfulness program on its participants, while themselves engaging in contemplative practices together. Read more about Creating a Contemplative Community: The Impact of Mindfulness on Student Well-Being (2023-2024) »


Young boys play football while wearing helmets and protective uniforms

This project team will assess youth athletes with an eye-tracking assessment routine and compare these results to in-season documentation of head impact exposure using data from a team-developed earpiece worn by athletes during practices and games.  Read more about Eye Tracking: Objective Assessment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth Athletes (2023-2024) »


Woman with gray hair wearing headphones and sitting in wheelchair outdoors.

This project represents an ongoing research partnership among Duke’s neuroscience, neurosurgery, linguistics and music experts to better understand the correlation between multilingualism, musicianship and reduced prevalence of dementia. Read more about Language, Music and Dementia (2023-2024) »


Exterior view of Durham County Detention Facility with bare tree in winter in front.

This multiyear project has been working to inform stakeholders in the criminal justice system of the extent, usage patterns, medical needs and insurance status of individuals with needs that lie at the intersection of mental health with criminal justice. Read more about Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County (2023-2024) »


Woman wearing virtual reality headset next to a computer showing a view of an archeological site.

This project aims to explore the mental reconstructions and embodied aesthetic experiences engendered by real and virtual interactions with archeological ruins and virtual representations of places, spaces and cultural artifacts associated with an ancient city.  Read more about Neurocities and Ruinscapes: Reconstructing Ancient Cities and Ruins Using Virtual Reality (2023-2024) »


Exterior view of Durham VA Medical Center.

This project aims to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of a multimodal smoking cessation treatment that includes neuronavigated rTMS, cognitive behavioral therapy and nicotine replacement therapy. Read more about Noninvasive Neuromodulation for Addiction (2023-2024) »


Exterior view of entrance to Mbale Regional Referral Hospital.

The long-term goal of this ongoing project is to develop a culturally appropriate protocol for rehabilitation practices in hospital TBI patient discharge processes in Uganda. Read more about Role of Physiotherapy in Ugandan Neurosurgical Transitional Care (2023-2024) »


Judge's hammer.

This team will seek to understand whether judges’ employment of trauma-informed methods improves outcomes for youth who are court-involved. Read more about Trauma-Informed Courts: A Public Health Approach to Juvenile Justice (2023-2024) »


Brain & Society Courses

Gateway Courses

NEUROSCI 102: Biological Bases of Behavior (Team-based Learning)

Fall 2022
Instructor: Minna Ng, Nicole Schramm-Sapyta

This course provides an introduction to the methods, models and reasoning that have led to discoveries about brain-behavior relations. Read more about Biological Bases of Behavior (Team-based Learning) »


NEUROSCI 102: Biological Bases of Behavior (Team-based Learning)

Spring 2023
Instructor: Minna Ng

This course provides an introduction to the methods, models and reasoning that have led to discoveries about brain-behavior relations. Read more about Biological Bases of Behavior (Team-based Learning) »


NEUROSCI 153FS: Drugs and the Law

Fall 2022
Instructor: Nicole Schramm-Sapyta

This course will explore the relationship between addictive drugs and the law and examine mechanisms by which drugs of abuse affect the brain and decision-making on the individual level. The course will also investigate the consequences of those effects at the societal level and examine how society... Read more about Drugs and the Law »


WRITING 101-07, 101-11: Neuroscience and Society

Spring 2023
Instructor: Emily Parks

This course will introduce students to the goals and practices of academic writing as we evaluate how neuroscience can inform ethical, legal and economic questions of our time. Read more about Neuroscience and Society »


WRITING 101-11, 101-23, 101-25: Neuroscience and Society

Fall 2022
Instructor: Emily Parks

This course will introduce students to the goals and practices of academic writing as we evaluate how neuroscience can inform ethical, legal and economic questions of our time. Read more about Neuroscience and Society »


Other Undergraduate Courses

NEUROSCI 267: Neuroethics

Spring 2023
Instructor: Scott Huettel, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

This course will focus on emerging ethical controversies concurrent with advances in neuroscience. Read more about Neuroethics »


NEUROSCI 278: Sex/Gender - Nature/Nurture: Intersections of Biology and Society

Fall 2022
Instructor: Ara Wilson, Christina Williams

This course will explore how debates about sexuality, sex and gender hinge on radically different ideas about the relative effects of biological forces vs. social forces, or nature vs. nurture. Read more about Sex/Gender - Nature/Nurture: Intersections of Biology and Society »


NEUROSCI 444S: Neuroscience Service Learning: Brain Connections

Spring 2023
Instructor: Minna Ng

In this class, students will explore the discoveries that have shaped contemporary society and work in teams to create neuroscience demonstrations for engaging local communities. Read more about Neuroscience Service Learning: Brain Connections »


Undergraduate/Graduate Courses

NEUROSCI 595: Language, Music and Dementia: Neuroscience Approaches

Spring 2023
Instructor: Edna Andrews

This course will explore the neuroscience data on cognitive processing of languages and music in healthy subjects and pathology. Read more about Language, Music and Dementia: Neuroscience Approaches »