Psychology 480

PSYC 480: Human Neuropsychology

Prerequisites: PSYC 121 and senior standing or permission of instructor

Disorders and diseases of the human brain will be examined to familiarize students with the causes, consequences, and treatment of brain disorders, and to illuminate the role of the brain in normal psychological functioning. Students will learn about the structure and function of the nervous system, causes of brain damage, common neuropsychological disorders and syndromes, disorders of brain function in children and adults, and assessment and rehabilitation of brain function.


Detailed Description of Content of Course

Lectures, discussion, case studies, and media presentations will be used to present students with an overview of the structure and functions of the human nervous system, disorders of brain function, and consequences of brain dysfunction for psychological functioning. Students registering for graduate credit will be required to write a paper exploring the relevance and application of neuropsychological knowledge to topics in their major program of study.

Major topics to be covered in the course may include:

Section 1: Fundamentals and assessment of brain function

1. History of neuropsychology
2. Structure of the human nervous system
3. Neurons and synapses
4. Methods for studying the human brain
5. Neuropsychological assessment

Section 2: Brain damage and brain function

6. Common causes of brain damage
7. Common neuropsychological syndromes
8. Disorders of sensorimotor function
9. Disorders of memory
10. Disorders of communication
11. Disorders of attention, consciousness, and executive function

Section 3: Individual differences, development, and rehabilitation of brain function

12. Individual differences in brain function: Left and right hemispheres
13. Brain development and plasticity
14. Developmental and learning disorders
15. Rehabilitation of brain function
16. Neuropsychology of psychiatric disorders


Detailed Description of Conduct of Course

Psyc 480 will be taught in a lecture-discussion format, with time explicitly set aside for student discussion of course material and its implications for professional practice in various areas of psychology. Films, slides, videos, computer software, and other audiovisual aids will be used to supplement lectures and to help students develop their knowledge of human brain function.


Goals and Objectives of the Course

Having successfully completed the course, the student should be able to:

1). Identify the major structures of the human nervous system, the basic functions of different brain areas/regions, and explain how neurons process and transmit information to other neurons.
2). Identify the major neuropsychological disorders that afflict humans, the causes of these disorders, the effects of these disorders on behavior and psychological processes, and current treatments for these disorders.
3). Explain how neuropsychological functioning is assessed, and describe the role of individual difference variables (gender, age, etc.) in neuropsychological functioning.
4). Critically discuss the role of biological factors in mental and developmental disorders, and the effects of drugs and hormones on nervous system functioning.
5). Describe and explain the various ways in which information is processed and analyzed by the human nervous system, and how this processing mediates perception, action, learning, memory and language.


Assessment Measures

Student progress will be assessed with a variety of measures which may include a combination of in-class examinations composed of a mixture of objective and essay questions, a final examination, in-class quizzes, case study analyses, critiques of popular and professional writings on human brain function, and other writing assignments. (Students registered for graduate credit will also be required to write an additional paper exploring the relevance and application of neuropsychological knowledge to topics in their major area of study.)


Other Course Information

Speakers from the University as well as the medical community who have expertise in topics relevant to neuropsychology will occasionally be brought in as guest lecturers.