Dr. Jeremy Alden Teissére, associate professor of biology & neuroscience and director of the neuroscience program at Muhlenberg College, wants his students to explore what it means to have a rich neuroscience of consciousness.
While the class is a required course for neuroscience majors, it’s open to any student. This semester, neuroscience majors are sharing the classroom with English, theatre, dance, psychology and sociology students, among others.
“This class focuses on the project of neuroscience – the attempt to describe our experience of consciousness in terms of the function of the brain,” says Teissére. “Having a diversity of students really results in a wealth of different perspectives on the project.”
Collectively, the class explores how the experience of consciousness constructs and is constructed by genes, neurons, circuits, language and social context. Students learn different research methods – including introspection, modeling and electroencephalogram (EEG) – that enable them to investigate the behavior of consciousness.
During the course, students read from key thinkers in neuroscience, including William James, Nicholas Humphrey, Daniel Dennett, Patricia Churchland, Jonathan Cole and Shaun Gallagher. By the end of the semester, many students begin to relate to the ideas of specific thinkers and defend arguments and theories with their fellow students.
"Consciousness has traditionally been regarded as infinite, while the brain is not,” says Teissére. “We love to think about our experience of consciousness as special, secret, unstudiable. The idea that our mind could be the product of our physiology and our social context is frightening and disturbing to many people; it challenges their sense of uniqueness. I encourage students to think deeply about their own experience of consciousness – but also to put this experience into conversation with emerging data from neuroscience.”
"Jeremy makes the course accessible, and he explains that the study of neuroscience is a fluid field; it’s constantly expanding, growing and learning about itself.”
-Laura Baehr ’12, Dance/Neuroscience major (pre-health)
"Because of Mind and Brain with Dr. Teissére, I'm able to recognize associations between my classes and see the importance of drawing connections between academics areas, such as those in neuroscience and sociology."
-Samantha Mangel ’12, Neuroscience major, Sociology minor (pre-veterinary)
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