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

Jump rope.

The project’s overarching goal is to examine brain structure to evaluate whether menopause accelerates cognitive decline and neuropathogenesis in Alzheimer’s disease. Read more about Exercise Therapy and Brain Networks: Implications for Alzheimer's Disease (2020-2021) »


This project team will assess how head impact exposure may contribute to observable deficits in oculomotor response that can be tracked and used for diagnostic purposes. Read more about Eye Tracking: Objective Assessment for Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in Youth Athletes (2020-2021) »

Mouse Model.

This project team will advance the research and development of new gene therapy technologies designed to treating age-related brain diseases. Read more about Gene Therapy for Alzheimer's Disease and Ethical Aspects of Genome Editing (2020-2021) »

Node graph.

This project team will attempt to build morality into artificial intelligence using crowd-sourced moral judgments and machine learning. Read more about How to Build Ethics into Artificial Intelligence (2020-2021) »

Drawing of person.

This project team will use neuroimaging and behavioral data to examine the interactions and interrelations of neurological regions that are critical for linguistic and musical processing. Read more about Language, Music and Dementia (2020-2021) »

Durham County Justice Center.

The project team will integrate data provided by the Durham County Detention Facility with health data to provide objective outcomes analysis for the Durham Crisis Intervention Team, the Durham County Detention Facility and the Criminal Justice Resource Center. Read more about Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County (2020-2021) »

Mobile EEG.

This project team will explore the privacy implications of the use of brain data, along with consumer attitudes, behavior and judgments about brain data and brain analytics. Read more about Mobile EEG Devices: Group Interactions, Privacy and the Brain (2020-2021) »

Peer Coaches logo.

This project team will develop and pilot an innovative way to improve the mental health of students using peer health coaches, students trained to deliver support via text messaging using virtual avatars. Read more about Peer Coaches: Improving Mental Health Treatment for College Students (2020-2021) »


This project team will develop sustainable infection control, medication management and patient caretaker education models to improve neurosurgical patient outcomes in Uganda. Read more about Sustainably Improving Neurosurgical Patient Outcomes in Uganda (2020-2021) »

Archaeological site.

This project team will explore spatial embodiment in ancient cities through virtual simulations as well as in real experiences during archaeological excavations. Read more about Virtual Reality and Neuroarchaeology (2020-2021) »

Brain & Society Courses

Gateway Courses

NEUROSCI 101: Biological Bases of Behavior

Fall 2020; Spring 2021
Instructor: Christina Williams

This course provides an introduction to the methods, models and reasoning that have led to discoveries about brain-behavior relations, and a critical evaluation of the current theories that guide our thinking about the neurobiology, the development and evolution of sensory and cognitive processes,... Read more about Biological Bases of Behavior »

NEUROSCI 153FS: Drugs and the Law

Fall 2020
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 »

NEUROSCI 191FS-01: Intersections of the Sexual Brain

Fall 2020
Instructor: Minna Ng

Our understanding of how the human brain and environment interconnect has evolved dramatically with recent advances in neuroscience research methods. In this course, students will analyze such interconnections and the impact on societal theories of human sexuality. Read more about Intersections of the Sexual Brain »

WRITING 101-01, 101-02, 101-03: Collaborations in Neuroscience

Spring 2021
Instructor: Emily Parks

The genetic blueprint of a person can be sequenced in a single day thanks to the collaboration of thousands of scientists working on the Human Genome Project. Inspired by this success, the White House launched the BRAIN Initiative – another large collaboration tasked with uncovering the inner... Read more about Collaborations in Neuroscience »

Other Undergraduate Courses

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

Fall 2020
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 »

PSY 340S-01: Educational Neuroscience

Spring 2021
Instructor: Minna Ng

This course offers an introduction to the emerging field of educational neuroscience. Read more about Educational Neuroscience »

Undergraduate/Graduate Courses

NEUROSCI 595: Language, Music and Dementia: Neuroscience Approaches

Spring 2021
Instructor: Edna Andrews

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