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The Neuroscience of Everyday Life

Discover what the exciting field of neuroscience reveals about how the intricate inner workings of the human brain produce all the experiences of daily life.
Neuroscience of Everyday Life is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 55.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent courses The lectures are groundbreaking and life-changing. They helped me understand the mind scientifically and cohesively, and answered many of my confusions and questions about how the mind works. His approach is very ingenious and profound. I'm deeply grateful for his generous teaching and contribution to humanity.
Date published: 2022-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough but approachable presentation Prof. Wang provides a wide-ranging and thoughtful introduction to his field. Excellent examples and just enough history of the field for one to be able to see the current state of the field in its historical context.
Date published: 2022-05-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 8 Great Courses. Have patience ! I purchased 8 Courses containing over 300 lectures of 30 minutes each. If I viewed one per day it could take me nearly a year to complete.
Date published: 2021-08-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Humor and knowledge I have had several course about the brain, as part of my clinical doctorate in Audiology, and also for my own interest. I really enjoyed this course. Dr. Wang obviously knows his subject and presents it in a well organized manner. He has a wonderful and subtle sense of humor. Clearly, it helps to have a basic understanding of brain anatomy before taking this course. In all, this was a good choice for me.
Date published: 2021-01-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from disappointing: should have been fascinating Poor delivery and anemic content; I learned some, but very little from this course. A better choice: today I finished Jeanette Norden's course (#1580)," Understanding the Brain," which is the VERY BEST course of the 43 Teaching Co's courses I have completed to date!! Since I got it from my public library, I cannot post a review of that, but it is outstanding! Don't waste your time on the Sam Wang course.
Date published: 2020-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Sapolsky is fantastic! I have bought many of "The Great Courses" and this is one of the best. Dr Sapolsky is the best lecturers I have ever listened to. Incredibly knowledgeable and also a very dry sense of humor.
Date published: 2020-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It is truly a great Neuroscience class I've taken many Great Courses classes. I think this is one of the best. It's subjective. The class is fairly deep covering topics at the cell level - plasticity, dendrites, synapses, neurons, regions of the brain and etc. It also presents material associated with day-to-day things that'd interest anyone such as quirks of memory. As a result of the class I have bought a neuroscience text book and the classic "The man who mistook his wife for a hat" and I've looked into pursuing a graduate degree in neuroscience. I wish Professor Wang had additional courses. He's great.
Date published: 2018-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting subjects Great Courses feeds my soul,spirit and eagerness to learn and improve in a very entertaining and fascinating way. I am happy they have variety of courses enough to keep me happy and interested till the last day of my life!
Date published: 2018-01-04
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Overview

Discover what the exciting field of neuroscience reveals about how the intricate inner workings of the human brain produce all the experiences of daily life. The Neuroscience of Everyday Life, crafted by distinguished neuroscientist and Princeton University Professor Sam Wang, covers a remarkable range of subjects in 36 richly detailed lectures. You'll explore the brain under stress and in love, learning, sleeping, thinking, hallucinating, and just looking around. Assuming no background in science, Professor Wang's insightful approach makes this course a joy for people who want to know how their brains work every single day of their lives.

About

Sam Wang

As a neuroscience researcher, I study how the brain is responsible for our experiences and thoughts. In this course, I wanted to relate that fact to people's everyday lives-from sensation to dreams to autism to Alzheimer's.

INSTITUTION

Princeton University

Dr. Sam Wang is Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at Princeton University. He earned his B.S. in Physics from the California Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in Neurosciences from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Wang is a well-known researcher in the field of neuroscience and has published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals. His work includes the discovery that learning mechanisms can act like all-or-none switches, and that bird and mammalian brains share similar architectures for generating complex social relations. Dr. Wang is also the coauthor of the best-selling popular book, Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys But Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life. The book has been translated into more than 20 languages and received the AAAS/Subaru Science Book of the Year Award in the Young Adult category. Professor Wang has been widely honored for his scholarship and his advances in neuroscience. He has been the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, the Rita Allen Foundation Young Scholars Fellowship, a Distinguished Young Investigator Award from the W. M. Keck Foundation, and a CAREER award from the National Science Foundation. He was also selected by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a Congressional Science and Engineering Fellow, and he served on the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.

By This Professor

The Neuroscience of Everyday Life
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The Neuroscience of Everyday Life

Trailer

What Is Neuroscience?

01: What Is Neuroscience?

Launch your investigation into neuroscience, a field that can explain many aspects of human behavior. After taking a brief tour of the brain, preview three classic problems on which neuroscience has shed new light—on the perception of red, dreaming, and early development.

31 min
How Do Neuroscientists Study the Brain?

02: How Do Neuroscientists Study the Brain?

Professor Wang introduces the key approaches used by neuroscientists, each of which gives a different kind of evidence about the brain. Look at what neuroscience has to say about two common beliefs: alcohol kills neurons, and classical music makes babies smarter.

25 min
Evolution, Energetics, and the 10% Myth

03: Evolution, Energetics, and the 10% Myth

Analyze how brains are similar across a wide range of species and how energy use in the brain allows the imaging of cognitive function. Also investigate two persistent myths about the brain: that it works like a computer, and that we use only about 10% of its capacity.

27 min
Neurons and Synapses

04: Neurons and Synapses

The brain operates on just 15 watts of power—about the power of a refrigerator light bulb. See how this current translates into all the phenomena of the brain by examining the chemical pathways that neurons use to communicate across synapses.

26 min
Neurotransmitters and Drugs

05: Neurotransmitters and Drugs

Neurons “talk” to each other through neurotransmitters. Study how these chemicals act on special receptor molecules and how drugs can alter this system. The most abundant neurotransmitters are glutamate, GABA, and glycine. Supplementing these, the biogenic amines norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin play important roles in attention, reward, and mood.

32 min
Juicing the Brain

06: Juicing the Brain

How do drugs work on the brain? Why are some chemicals addictive and others not? Explore the neuroscience of an array of psychoactive substances, including caffeine, marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, nicotine, opiates, L-dopa, and Ritalin. Each works by imitating or altering the action of neurotransmitters.

29 min
Coming to Your Senses

07: Coming to Your Senses

Trace the origins of your senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing, and vision, each of which results from a cascade of events at the molecular level. Discussing many examples, Professor Wang looks at why MSG tastes so good, loud music causes hearing loss, and men are more likely to be color blind than women.

33 min
Perception and Your Brain's Little Lies

08: Perception and Your Brain's Little Lies

At any given moment, your brain is probably lying to you. Although you think you perceive the world directly, your brain analyzes stimuli in ways that may not reflect reality. Experience a startling example with the “stepping feet” illusion.

28 min
Pain-All in Your Head?

09: Pain-All in Your Head?

Pain is a perception generated entirely within the brain, yet it announces that something is drastically wrong. Learn that the intensity of pain depends on the context of an injury. Also investigate how pain responds to different drugs, meditation, and acupuncture.

30 min
Decisions-Your Brain's Secret Ballot

10: Decisions-Your Brain's Secret Ballot

When making decisions, are you a maximizer or a satisficer? The first seeks the best possible outcome from an array of options; the second is satisfied with a swift decision from limited choices. Studies show that our brains often make up our minds before we are aware of it.

29 min
Reward, Adaptation, and Addiction

11: Reward, Adaptation, and Addiction

Reward and addiction are two sides of the same coin. Examine how dopamine-secreting neurons reinforce behaviors that are beneficial to the organism. Unfortunately, certain drugs target these same neurons and put the reward system into overdrive, resulting in physical addiction.

26 min
The Many Forms of Memory

12: The Many Forms of Memory

Chart the famous case of H. M., who lost the ability to form new memories after an operation for epilepsy. The tragic outcome sheds light on the location of different components of memory. Also probe the connection between declarative memory and our ability as animals to find our way in the world.

31 min
Quirks of Memory

13: Quirks of Memory

Memory evolved to deal with fear, spatial navigation, and factual knowledge. It can be rewritten and strengthened, but also altered in the rewriting. Study the quirks of memory that show up in source amnesia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and the formation of false beliefs.

30 min
Learning, Studying, and Sleep

14: Learning, Studying, and Sleep

Learn what it means to learn at the cellular level by focusing on two key principles: cells that fire together wire together; and out of sync, lose your link. Then get tips on how to study most effectively based on what neuroscience has discovered about learning. Finally, investigate the role of sleep in consolidating new knowledge.

29 min
Willpower and Mental Work

15: Willpower and Mental Work

Willpower draws on a finite mental resource. Look into the famous “marshmallow study” with four-year-olds, which showed the far-reaching effects of childhood self-control on later life. Next, learn strategies for harnessing willpower most effectively, including the trick of brushing your teeth with your nondominant hand.

30 min
Work, Play, and Stress

16: Work, Play, and Stress

You don't want to be too relaxed. Study the role of stress as an adaptation to best respond to uncertainty or danger. Stress also has an intimate relationship to play. Trace the stress response from its source and learn the detrimental effects of chronic stress on the body and brain.

30 min
Biological Timekeepers and Jet Lag

17: Biological Timekeepers and Jet Lag

Anyone who travels quickly across several time zones is tinkering with the brain's circadian clock. Explore this biological timekeeper, which is located in the hypothalamus and takes its cues from light entering the eyes—a mechanism that suggests a strategy for combating jet lag.

33 min
The Hidden Talents of Infants

18: The Hidden Talents of Infants

Begin a series of lectures on the developing brain by focusing on infants. Around three months of age, babies are learning to acquire information in five ways: by noticing rare events, reasoning from cause to effect, distinguishing objects from agents, categorizing, and discarding irrelevant information.

28 min
The Mozart Myth and Active Learning

19: The Mozart Myth and Active Learning

The Mozart myth is the widespread belief that playing classical music to babies increases their intelligence. Discover what is really going on in young minds, which need only normal experiences to thrive. Professor Wang offers advice on the best strategy for nurturing learning in children.

30 min
Childhood and Adolescence

20: Childhood and Adolescence

The most rapid changes in the brain happen before the age of six, but growth and maturation continue all the way through adolescence and beyond. Track the nature of this growth and how it explains the propensity of adolescents for risk-taking, hyperactivity, and short attention spans.

29 min
Handedness-Sports, Speech, and Presidents

21: Handedness-Sports, Speech, and Presidents

Why are humans so overwhelmingly right-handed? What does this tell us about left-handed people? Look into the possible sources of this trait and the reason lefties excel at some sports but not others. Intriguingly, a possible connection with language processing may explain why several recent U.S. presidents have been left-handed.

31 min
Reaching the Top of the Mountain-Aging

22: Reaching the Top of the Mountain-Aging

The brain continues to change throughout life. Assess these transformations at the level of neurons and see how they affect large-scale traits such as memory, verbal comprehension, and emotional control; the last two actually improve with age. Also consider debilitating changes such as Alzheimer's disease and stroke.

28 min
“Brain Exercise” and Real Exercise

23: “Brain Exercise” and Real Exercise

How useful are brain-training exercises such as Sudoku puzzles? Discover that interpreting the ambiguous research results is a brain exercise in itself! Compare the limited benefits from these activities with the more robust cognitive effects of physical exercise, in which what helps the heart also boosts the mind.

29 min
Animal and Human Personality

24: Animal and Human Personality

Starting a series of lectures on individual differences in brains, probe personality in humans and animals. Personality is a complex of traits that are partly inherited. On the other hand, shyness and anxiety are two attributes that can sometimes be reversed through early intervention.

32 min
Intelligence, Genes, and Environment

25: Intelligence, Genes, and Environment

Fluid intelligence is the ability to reason through an unfamiliar problem. Discover that there is a strong inherited component to this ability. However, under conditions of deprivation, fluid intelligence is mostly environmentally determined. Also see how intelligence test performance can be influenced by prior expectations on the part of the test taker.

30 min
The Weather in Your Brain-Emotions

26: The Weather in Your Brain-Emotions

Investigate the essential function of emotions and where they originate. One emotional phenomenon—blushing—raises an intriguing question: Is it the effect of embarrassment or the cause, and what does this tell us about other emotions? Finally, look at the link between disgust and the moral sense.

33 min
Fear, Loathing, and Anger

27: Fear, Loathing, and Anger

Probe deeply into primal emotions that originate in the brain's hippocampus, hypothalamus, and amygdala: namely anger, rage, fear, and anxiety. Evolution has equipped us to learn a specific fear after only a single experience, but unlearning the same fear requires prolonged conditioning.

30 min
From Weather to Climate-Mood

28: From Weather to Climate-Mood

Mood is to emotion as climate is to weather; that is, mood is a long-lasting phenomenon. Delve into the nature of moods, which in their most extreme forms constitute major psychiatric problems. Finally, examine treatments for depression and other mood disorders.

31 min
The Social Brain, Empathy, and Autism

29: The Social Brain, Empathy, and Autism

Whether you realize it or not, as you watch these lectures you are deploying a theory of mind about Professor Wang's thoughts and motivations. Look more closely at this remarkable faculty—the social brain—by investigating a neurological disorder where it appears to be absent: autism.

29 min
Mars and Venus-Men's and Women's Brains

30: Mars and Venus-Men's and Women's Brains

While the brains of other animals often show striking differences between the sexes, male and female humans have remarkably similar brains. Learn the nature of our hormone-driven differences, for example, in toy preference, spatial reasoning, and susceptibility to certain neurological disorders.

33 min
Sex, Love, and Bonds for Life

31: Sex, Love, and Bonds for Life

Trace the source of human sexual behavior to the hypothalamus, where secretion of the hormones vasopressin and oxytocin play a role in the full range of sexual expression—from love and attachment to mating, birth, and bonding between mother and infant.

28 min
Math and Other Evolutionary Curiosities

32: Math and Other Evolutionary Curiosities

Turn to two evolutionary curiosities that are uniquely human: humor and mathematics. Neither seems to provide a survival advantage through natural selection. Or do they? Professor Wang looks at the origins and function of humor. Then he searches for the roots of our mathematical ability.

33 min
Consciousness and Free Will

33: Consciousness and Free Will

Investigate two big ideas where neuroscience intersects philosophy: consciousness and free will. In exploring the many facets of consciousness, discover that we may be overrating it as a cause of behavior. Free will is even more difficult to evaluate and raises the question: Are we agents or are we robots?

32 min
Near-Death and Other Extreme Experiences

34: Near-Death and Other Extreme Experiences

Plumb the depths of extreme experiences to learn what neuroscience has to say about near-death visions, out-of-body experiences, haunted houses, and other paranormal phenomena. In each case, the brain appears to be trying to piece together a story from incomplete or highly unusual data.

28 min
Spirituality and Religion

35: Spirituality and Religion

How does the human brain lead to spirituality and religion? Chart the synchronous firing of neurons that accompanies deep meditative states. Then draw on what you have learned in the course to explore the role of the brain in finding transcendent meaning in the world through religion.

31 min
Happiness and Other Research Opportunities

36: Happiness and Other Research Opportunities

Conclude the course by exploring a mysterious brain function that looms large for practically everybody: happiness. Finally, survey some of the new research trends in neuroscience that are leading to a deeper understanding of the everyday wonders of the human brain.

34 min