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


This project team will examine brain structure and function in transgenic mice that develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, evaluate whether menopause accelerates cognitive decline and neuropathogenesis and assess whether chronic exercise can mitigate this risk. Read more about Alzheimer's Disease: Exercise Therapy and Brain Networks (2022-2023) »

Nigerian city.

This project team will assess the existing neurosurgical systems in Uganda and Nigeria, in relation to global standards.   Read more about Building Sustainable Neurosurgical Systems in Developing Countries (2022-2023) »

Youth football.

This project team will assess how head impact exposure in children and adolescents 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 (2022-2023) »

Bar in Brazil.

This project team will investigate the differences among drinking behaviors based on constructs like reward valuation, relative reward efficacy and proportionate reinforcement due to alcohol. Read more about Gamifying Risk Identification for Alcohol Use Behaviors Across Countries and Cultures (2022-2023) »

Sculpture of brain.

Using a combination of neuroimaging and behavioral data, this multiyear project team aims to establish the language and music mappings in professional musicians who are either monolingual or multilingual and examine the effect of musical training and multilingualism on dementia and cognitive... Read more about Language, Music and Dementia (2022-2023) »

Health worker and patient.

This project team will partner with expert stakeholders, including adults post-stroke, caregivers, clinicians and researchers to identify the critical sensory health needs of adults post-stroke and explore the impact of the identified sensory health needs on recovery and the participation in... Read more about Life After Stroke: A Sensory Health Initiative (2022-2023) »


This project team will examine the trajectories and patterns of usage of medical and criminal justice services for those involved in the Durham County Criminal Justice System; explore the effects of local and state policies on recidivism and the use of mental health resources; and provide... Read more about Mental Health and the Justice System in Durham County (2022-2023) »

Traffic in Kampala.

This project team aims to examine current and emerging post-hospital rehabilitation resources for traumatic brain injury (TBI) or new spinal cord injury (SCI) patients from stakeholder groups, and identify patient/caregiver barriers and facilitators to accessing these resources. Read more about Role of Physiotherapy in Ugandan Neurosurgical Transitional Care (2022-2023) »

Judge and gavel.

This project team will seek to build a strong foundation of scientific research on the impact of trauma-informed judicial practices. Read more about Trauma-Informed Courts: A Public Health Approach to Juvenile Justice (2022-2023) »

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 2022
Instructor: Minna Ng

This course is an introduction to neuroscience that explores 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 101-11, 101-23, 101-25: Collaborations in Neuroscience

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 Collaborations in Neuroscience »

Other Undergraduate Courses

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 289: Music and the Brain

Spring 2022
Instructor: Jan Tobias Overath, Scott Lindroth

This course explores the musical perception and performance from artistic, subjective and neuroscientific perspectives. Read more about Music and the Brain »

PSY 340S-01: Educational Neuroscience

Spring 2022
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 2022
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 »