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.

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

Tursiops truncatus (Common Bottlenose Dolphin/Tuimelaar).

This project will study how dolphins use energy to solve cognitive problems and how the perception of dolphin intelligence by the public shapes attitudes toward their conservation.  Read more about Are Dolphins Really That Smart and Does It Make Us Like Them More When They Are? (2019-2020) »


Mulago National Referral Hospital.

This project will evaluate and adapt infection control, medication management and patient family education interventions to improve neurosurgical care in Uganda. Read more about Benchmarking Interventions Aimed at Improving Neurosurgical Patient Outcomes in Uganda (2019-2020) »


EEG device Brainco.

This project will develop and administer surveys to the general population to gain a nuanced perspective of views on brain data privacy across ethical, legal and policy contexts. Read more about Consumer EEG Devices: Attention, Emotion, Privacy and the Brain (2019-2020) »


Jogging on a bright November morning, by Ed Yourdon.

This project will use imaging technology along with analysis of neuropathology and behavior to examine how genetics and environment modify risk for Alzheimer’s disease in a female mouse model. Read more about Exercise Therapy and Brain Networks: Implications for Alzheimer's Disease (2019-2020) »


Model showing project focus.

This project will advance the development of new gene therapy technologies using genome editing technologies and stem cell techniques to target age-related brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Read more about Gene Therapy in Alzheimer's Disease: Novel Therapies and Ethical Aspects of Somatic Gene Editing (2019-2020) »


Artificial Intelligence.

This project will attempt to build morality into artificial intelligence by incorporating morally-relevant features based on crowd-sourced data. Read more about How to Build Ethics into Robust Artificial Intelligence (2019-2020) »


Brains, by Thomas Hawk.

This project will use fMRI imaging and behavioral data to explore the impact of musicianship and multilingualism on delaying the behavioral symptoms of dementia. Read more about Language, Music and Dementia (2019-2020) »


SYC Football Game180, by Xanteen.

This project 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 Oculomotor Response as an Objective Assessment for Mild TBI in the Pediatric Population (2019-2020) »


A participant of the Mid-Carolina Senior Games attempts to hit a 3-point shot at the Pope Fitness Center, by Tech. Sgt.

This project will combine approaches from neuroscience, psychology and global health to identify ways to motivate adults to become more physically active and make healthier food choices in daily life. Read more about Using Neuroscience to Optimize Digital Health Interventions across Adulthood (2019-2020) »


Brain & Society Courses

Gateway Courses

ETHICS 140FS: On Suffering: How Science and Stories Shape Us

Fall 2019
Instructor: Raymond Barfield

This is a course about how a genuine encounter with the stories told by people, or groups of people, can bolster, undermine, and reorient our otherwise abstract philosophical, political, and scientific accounts of various forms of suffering – the suffering of individuals, marginalized groups, and... Read more about On Suffering: How Science and Stories Shape Us »


NEUROSCI 101: Biological Bases of Behavior (Team-based Learning)

Spring 2020
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 (Team-based Learning) »


NEUROSCI 153FS: Drugs and the Law

Fall 2019
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 »


Other Undergraduate Courses

NEUROSCI 267: Neuroethics

Spring 2020
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 2019
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 2020
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 2020
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 2020
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 »