CBN 5000: Seminar in Neuroscience

Spring 2021

Course Information

Course Description

This course is a seminar in neuroscience and the capstone course for the CBN major. Students will gain an in-depth understanding of major debates in the field and current issues in neuroscience research that inform how we approach the science of the brain and behavior.


Through this course, you will gain the following knowledge and skills:

Course Materials

All reading material will be posted on the course website. There is no required textbook for the course.

Course Requirements


Course assessments will focus on using what you have learned to demonstrate your skills in making oral and written arguments supported by evidence, which are key skills for every scientist. Half of the course grade is based on in-class material, and half is based on a research paper that you will complete over the course of the semester. Start working on your paper early! The sooner you begin working on it, the more opportunities you will have to receive feedback on your work.

Please submit all assignments in PDF form by email to the instructor and teaching assistant.

If you have any concerns about completing these assessments, please let me know as soon as possible. I am happy to work with you to find alternative ways for you to demonstrate your knowledge in the course, but the sooner I know, the better.

Assessment Grade percentage
Research Paper (50%) Topic Statement 5%
Intro Draft 15%
Method/Data Analysis Draft 15%
Final Paper 15%
Participation (50%) Discussion Participation 15%
Response Journals 15%
Guest Lecture Response Papers (4 total) 20%

Grading Scale

A-...90.00-93.32% A...>93.32%
B-...80.00-83.32% B...83.33-86.66% B+...86.67-89.99%
C-...70.00-73.32% C...73.33-76.66% C+...76.67-79.99%
D-...60.00-63.32% D...63.33-66.66% D+...66.67-69.99%

Research Paper

At the beginning of the semester, you will select an area of neuroscience to focus on for individual study. This topic may correspond to a research project you are working on in a faculty member's lab (indeed, this is encouraged!). You will review the literature on a specific topic in your area and write a research report describing a proposed novel, empirical study on that topic.

Instructions and template for writing your paper:

Additional resources:

Participation and Class Discussions

Discussing research with other scholars is an essential skill for every scientist. Therefore, a large part of the course grade is based on attending class and participating in discussion. Please arrive on time to class. If you must miss class, I will be happy to meet with you to go over any material you missed. Just send me a message. Many of our class periods will be devoted to discussion of current research and debates in the field, centered around one or more journal articles on the topic.

Each discussion will be led by several students in the class. Everyone should be prepared to contribute to the discussion of the readings and how they fit with one or more broader theories in neuroscience. It's okay if there are things in the article you don't understand—that's why we discuss the material together. I am also happy to meet with you before class to answer any questions. If you must miss class for some reason on a day you are scheduled to lead discussion, please meet with me to make up the work.

Because of the hybrid format of the class, half of the class will be in-person and half will participate via Zoom on any given day. Please see the schedule to know which days you are expected to attend in-person versus on Zoom, determined alphabetically by last name. Both groups of students will participate in the class discussion. If you are unable to attend in-person for any reason, you may participate via Zoom.

At the end of each class, we will reserve a few minutes for everyone to write a brief response reflecting on the topic we discussed that day. In addition, for guest lectures, you will write a short (1 page) response paper on the lecture and associated readings.

Course Policies

Standard Villanova Course Policies

Course-specific Policies

Course Schedule

Date Group 1
Group 2
Topic Readings Deadlines/Notes
1/26 Zoom Zoom Intro/organizational meeting Crockett talk
1/28 Zoom Zoom Research paper overview, topic statement Finding research topics and sources
Research paper guidelines/resources
2/2 Bartley 024 Zoom No class—Snow day
2/4 Zoom Bartley 024 RCR: Authorship, peer review Authorship 2
Authorship 3
Peer Review 3
2/9 Zoom Zoom Guest lecture - Troy Shirangi Shirangi et al. (2016)
Meeh et al. (2021)
Topic statement due
2/11 Bartley 024 Zoom Research Topic 1: Development Casey et al. (2008)
Galván talk
2/16 Zoom Bartley 024 Research Topic 1: Development Pfeifer & Allen (2012) Response paper 1 (Shirangi) due
2/18 Zoom Zoom Working Break 1 Kanwisher talk
Wolpert talk
Individual meetings
2/23 Bartley 024 Zoom Research Topic 2: Perception Firestone & Scholl (2015)
2/25 Zoom Bartley 024 Research Topic 2: Perception Commentaries by: Beck, Cañal-Bruland, Clore, Esenkaya, Hackel, Levin, Lupyan, O'Callaghan, Vinson
3/2 Bartley 024 Zoom Guest lecture - McCall Sarrett Sarrett et al. (2020)
3/4 Zoom Zoom Work on papers, individual meetings Intro draft due
3/9 Zoom Bartley 024 Research Topic 3: Language Christiansen & Chater (2008) Response paper 2 (Sarrett) due
3/11 Outside (primary discussants) Outside Research Topic 3: Language Commentaries by: Behme, Corballis, Goldberg, Harnad, Lieberman, Namy, Pagel, Reuland
3/16 Zoom Zoom Working Break 2 Schoonover talk
Boyden talk
Individual meetings
3/18 Zoom Zoom Guest lecture - Ben Sachs Sachs et al. (2014)
Sachs et al. (2015)
3/23 Outside (primary discussants) Outside Research Topic 4: Memory Gallistel (in press) Method/Analysis draft due
3/25 Outside Outside (primary discussants) Research Topic 4: Memory Langille & Brown (2018) Response paper 3 (Sachs) due
3/30 Outside Outside RCR: Research misconduct, social responsibility Research Misconduct 3
Social Responsibility 1
Social Responsibility 2
4/1 Zoom Zoom RCR: Mentoring, data management Mentoring 1
Mentoring 2
Data Management 2
4/6 Outside Outside (primary discussants) Research Topic 5: Gut-brain axis Hooks et al. (2018)
4/8 Outside (primary discussants) Outside Research Topic 5: Gut-brain axis Commentaries by: Andreoletti, Borghi, Dalile, Johnstone, Kelsey, Lynch, Ostinelli, Wissel
4/13 Zoom Zoom Asynchronous Day Herculano-Houzel talk
Suzuki talk
Lozano talk
Individual meetings
4/15 Zoom Zoom Guest lecture - Meghan Caulfield Caulfield et al. (2017)
4/20 Outside Outside (primary discussants) Research Topic 6: Psychological disorders Borsboom et al. (2019) Response paper 4 (Caulfield) due
4/22 Bartley 024 Zoom Research Topic 6: Psychological disorders Commentaries by: Elbau, Eronen, Hur, Ioannidis, Jayawickreme, McNally, Müller, Nephew, Perlovsky Final paper due
4/27 Zoom Zoom CBN outcomes assessment
4/29 Zoom Zoom Careers, grad school, work-life balance Woolston (2017)
Foltz (2020)

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