Neuroscience of Everyday Life

Course No. 1540
Professor Sam Wang, Ph.D.
Princeton University
Share This Course
4.4 out of 5
46 Reviews
89% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1540
Video Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

Your nervous system is you. All the thoughts, perceptions, moods, passions, and dreams that make you an active, sentient being are the work of this amazing network of cells. For many centuries, people knew that this was true. But no one was sure how it happened.

Now, thanks to the exciting new field of neuroscience, we can chart the workings of the brain and the rest of the nervous system in remarkable detail to explain how neurons, synapses, neurotransmitters, and other biological processes produce all the experiences of everyday life, in every stage of life. From the spectacular growth of the brain in infancy to the act of learning a skill, falling in love, getting a joke, revising an opinion, or even forgetting a name, something very intriguing is going on behind the scenes.

For example, groundbreaking research in the past few decades is now able to explain such phenomena as these:

  • Decisions: Studies of decision making at the level of neurons show that our brain has often committed to a course of action before we are aware of having made a decision—an apparent violation of our sense of free will.
  • Memory: Memory is composed of many systems located in different parts of the brain, which means that you can forget your car keys (information stored in the neocortex) but still remember how to drive (a learned skill requiring the striatum and cerebellum).
  • Willpower: Willpower is more than a metaphor; it's a measurable trait that draws on a finite mental resource, like a muscle. While any given individual has a consistent willpower capacity throughout life, it can be strengthened through training—again, just like a muscle.
  • Religion and spirituality: Three mental traits appear to be essential for the development of organized religion: the search for causes and effects, the ability to reason about people and motives, and language. Mystical experiences also trace to specific activities of the brain.

Opening your eyes to how neural processes produce the familiar features of human existence, The Neuroscience of Everyday Life covers a remarkable range of subjects in 36 richly detailed lectures. You will explore the brain under stress and in love, learning, sleeping, thinking, hallucinating, and just looking around—which is less about recording reality than creating illusions that allow us to function in our environment.

Your professor is distinguished neuroscientist and Professor Sam Wang of Princeton University, an award-winning researcher and best-selling author, public speaker, and TV and radio commentator. Professor Wang's insightful and playful approach makes this course a joy for anyone who wants to know how his or her own brain works. And his vivid, richly illustrated presentation assumes no background in science.

Fact or Fiction?

Professor Wang points out that a lot of what we think we know about our brains turns out to be wrong. While bringing you up to date on the latest discoveries in the field, he debunks the following persistent myths:

  • We use only 10% of our brains: Your brain is actually running at 100%! The myth about idle brain power has been promoted by self-help gurus and doesn't stand up to evidence from cases of brain damage, which always cause deficits in function.
  • Mozart makes babies smarter: Playing classical music may help calm you down around an infant, but it's not doing anything for the baby. The better strategy is to have children learn to play a musical instrument when they're older, which does improve brain development.
  • Women are moodier than men: Studies show that the sexes are tied in the moodiness contest, with men reporting just as frequent mood swings as women. However, both men and women tend to remember women's mood swings better.
  • We lose brain cells as we age: The brain is supposedly unique as an organ because it stops adding new cells after birth. In fact, some parts of the brain keep producing new neurons throughout life. The brain shrinks somewhat with age, but its neurons live on.

Tune Up Your Brain!

Operating on about the power consumed by an idling laptop, the brain has often been compared to a computer. But this, too, is a myth. Computers are logically straightforward in design, whereas the brain is a marvel of evolutionary makeshift, with layer upon layer of systems that started out with one function and then were adopted for something completely different. Some of the most primitive functions of the brain, such as the fight-or-flight response to danger, resist being overridden by the brain's powerful reasoning center, which evolved more recently.

Indeed, much of what the brain does is beyond our conscious control. Yet in some cases, there are ways to intervene. Here are some tips that Professor Wang offers to make your brain run at its optimum:

  • How to stick to a health regimen: If you use your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks, this can lead to a measurable increase in your willpower capacity. People who do this are then able to follow a diet or exercise program better.
  • Efficient learning: Don't cram! Spread out your study over several sessions. This allows your brain time to process what you've learned, which requires no additional effort on your part and greatly increases your retention of information.
  • Resetting your biological clock: The best way to beat jet lag is to use light, which cues your brain to where it is in the day/night cycle. For a flight between the United States and Europe, in either direction, a dose of afternoon sunlight after you arrive should help you adjust.
  • The best brain exercise is real exercise: Cognitive functions that normally deteriorate with age, such as memory and response time, can be boosted by aerobic exercise. The effect is largest if you are active starting in middle age, but it's never too late to start.

The Research Subject Is You

Turning from processes that are merely hidden to those that are utterly mysterious, The Neuroscience of Everyday Life also sheds light on these phenomena:

  • Love: Prairie voles are a fascinating model for studying human mating, since, unlike most other mammals, they are monogamous. For them as well as for us, the neurotransmitters oxytocin and vasopressin control the expression of pair bonding, better known as love.
  • Humor: Smiles and laughter are two emotional components of humor that have deep roots as social signals. Another component is characterized by the sudden flash of insight that occurs when we "get"a joke; brain scanners show where this happens.
  • Haunted houses: Neurological phenomena that people have associated with haunted houses, such as the feeling of an invisible presence, also occur from carbon monoxide poisoning—a once-common problem in houses lit with gas. Reports of haunted houses have dropped sharply with the decline in gas lighting.
  • Consciousness: Our conscious awareness extends to only a fraction of the stimuli registered by our brains, like a spotlight focusing on a tiny portion of a flood of data. Experiments show that we often act on unconscious information without being aware of it.

Professor Wang notes that it was his fascination with consciousness, free will, and other big ideas that led him to switch from physics, which he studied as an undergraduate, to a field he regards as even more alive with possibilities for breakthroughs that will change our worldview in fundamental ways.

That field, of course, is neuroscience. The Neuroscience of Everyday Life is your chance to explore a discipline that is now going through its golden age, with the advantage that the subject is not some abstract entity.

It's you.

Hide Full Description
36 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    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. x
  • 2
    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. x
  • 3
    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. x
  • 4
    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. x
  • 5
    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. x
  • 6
    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. x
  • 7
    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. x
  • 8
    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. x
  • 9
    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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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? x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Instant Video Includes:
  • Download 36 video lectures to your computer or mobile app
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 36 lectures on 6 DVDs
  • 136-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 136-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Questions to consider
  • Glossary

Enjoy This Course On-the-Go with Our Mobile Apps!*

  • App store App store iPhone + iPad
  • Google Play Google Play Android Devices
  • Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Kindle Fire Tablet + Firephone
*Courses can be streamed from anywhere you have an internet connection. Standard carrier data rates may apply in areas that do not have wifi connections pursuant to your carrier contract.

Your professor

Sam Wang

About Your Professor

Sam Wang, Ph.D.
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...
Learn More About This Professor
Also By This Professor

Reviews

Neuroscience of Everyday Life is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 46.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A User's Guide to the Brain That's how I see this course, and it's wonderful from that perspective. Being "of a certain age", I have family and friends with various of the neurological conditions cited by the instructor over the length of the course, and I was very interested in the scientific component of how our brains work. I have to admit that I finished the first 6 lectures somewhat disappointed and was concerned the whole course would be a highly technical recitation of neurotransmitters and brain components that would bore me to tears. Then I came here and read other reviews and realized I had to push past this stage-setting. Once I did that, the various special topics and their presentation, grounded in experiments and enhanced by some speculation, captivated me, one after the other. And the little touch of the instructor saying "Welcome back" at the beginning of each session really warmed my heart!
Date published: 2015-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brain Food ! Professor Wang , combined enthusiasm , clarity and beautifully illustrated lectures to convey his passion for his subject / There are a number of brain related courses so the decision to choose one was difficult . I am sure I made the right choice .
Date published: 2014-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you have an interest, this is worthwhile I consumed this course a few months ago, and wasn't sure if I'd already written a review; scrolling through the reviews, I realize that I had watched the course passively, just getting what got through to me, but many people were much more focused and intense and got a lot more out of it. I just enjoy being exposed to things I'm interested in. I found the lectures enjoyable; I now know more that I did, and because I do the same with other courses, I guess I'm gaining some knowledge in layers. I'm happy with that, but from the other reviewers I wonder if I shouldn't go through the course again (which I'm considering for several courses); there is obviously so much more going on than I realized. This is a good course with a fine teacher, whether you take it in actively or passively, if you have an interest in the subject.
Date published: 2014-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Neuroscience Of Everyday Life I am very deep into your course Neuroscience of everyday Life, have completer up to tape 32? However upon my return from a business trip for 10 days, I cannot get any sound, only picture. I am confused about why I cannot access the remainder of this subject. I order many courses from your company, even after your changes. Perhaps you can assist me in this regard. I have received notice that I also have two more courses ordered and notice that they are on the way (order confirmation S03060209. Thank you, RJSmith747@yahoo.com
Date published: 2014-08-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good foundation course for beginners As a beginner when it comes to neuroscience, I found this course interesting. The organization and sequence of the lecture topics were well thought out, logical and building on one another. The use of pictures, graphics and other visuals generally helped to better understand the points being made by the professor. Their variety and in some cases high-tech production stimulated my interest and often satisfied my curiosity for "show me, don't just talk about it". However, this course suffers from a number of flaws that prevent it from rising above average in rating. Though I classify it as a beginners' course, it is a little too light on depth to the point of being too superficial on some topics (e.g., religion, free will, happiness). Dr. Wang's delivery is uneven: sometimes he is really focused, speaks clearly and each sentence hits the mark; too often, he is redundant (e.g., at the beginning of the last lecture, he says in two slightly different ways that the lecture is about happiness. Another example, which happens more than once, is that he says things like "Let me give you two examples. And the two examples are as follows. Example 1..." ). There is too much superfluous talking in those lectures. Dr. Wang is also very distracted by what is going on in the studio instead of keeping his focus on the camera that is filming him. This is exacerbated by the constant going back and forth of the camera angles which often shift at inappropriate times (e.g., in the middle of Dr. Wang making a key point instead of letting him finish his point and then changing the camera angle). It comes across as both Dr. Wang and the camera operator having ADHD! The overall production of this DVD is definitely poorer in quality than all other courses I have taken from The Great Courses. The sound and the video are sometimes not in synch (the mouth moves but the sound is delayed) and in at least two places, the words on the soundtrack are not those pronounced by Dr. Wang's lips. For me that kind of glitch is very distracting and caused me to backtrack and listen to the segment over again to get the correct message. Finally, Dr. Wang's delivery is marred by his overuse of phrases or words such as: now; it turns out; so;... and I could make a very long list of such phrases and words here. At first I took it as part of his "casual talk" style of delivery but after a while it got really annoying especially when the "it turns out" phrase signaled that Dr. Wang was going to skip over some more in-depth explanation (which would have made the course more substantial) in favour of some general conclusion that often had a superficial or over-generalized feel to it. Nevertheless, it is still a good course from which I learned quite a bit, especially when using the booklet that came with the DVD and the bibliography that I used in several instances to get the deeper explanations that are missing from the course.
Date published: 2014-02-25
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Got my money back... I'm a big fan of The Great Courses in general. As a former attorney and current psychology doctoral student, I have been using The Great Courses to supplement my graduate coursework. The courses by Dr.'s Robinson, Heller, and Leary have been wonderful adjuncts to my studies. I figured this course would be the same. Unfortunately, not so much… Granted, Dr. Wang know's significantly more about neuroscience than I do. However, he doesn't appear to know his limits, and makes sweeping, inaccurate, and sometimes offensive statements. Here are three examples : 1) He says that no matter what their parents do, little girls will inevitably play with frilly pink dolls, and little boys will inevitably play war with guns. Yes, he says that in regards to personality development. Need I say more? 2) He states repeatedly that opiates are safer than amphetamines. Here's an example he uses: He states that William Burroughs II used opiates and lived to an old age, but William Burroughs Jr. used amphetamines and died in his 30's. Therefore, amphetamines are more dangerous than opiates. ?!?! Looking beyond the awful causal assumption, there are two problems here: First, WB Jr. quit amphetamines 10 years before dying. After quitting drugs, however, he became such a severe alcoholic that he had to undergo a liver transplant. He started drinking again after the transplant, and died of complications. Absolutely nothing to do with amphetamines. I expect better research from a Yale professor. Second, significantly more people die each year from opiates than from amphetamines. Sure, meth is a horrible drug that destroy's lives, but many more people die with heroin needles hanging from their arms than do meth addicts. Amphetamines may be more negatively impactful to the brain, however opiates carry a substantially higher risk of accidental overdose. As a budding addictions psychologist, I think this is actually an irresponsible statement. While I don't expect either of these drug users to be the target audience of his lectures, it would be tragic if someone actually acted on this "information" and later died of a heroin overdose. 3) He states repeatedly that ADHD is something that kids will outgrow. This position is at least ten years outdated; multiple studies throughout the 2000's have shown that over 60% of children with ADHD carry it into adulthood. Early in the series he makes a statement that borders dangerously close to dispensing medical advice: He says that parents shouldn't give their kids medication (after all, they are based on deadly amphetamines), and instead "just wait and see" if the kids outgrow it. I was shocked and offended at that statement. Another way of wording this position is as follows: If your (properly diagnosed by a neuropsychologist) kids graduate from high-school with B's & A's, then the psychologist was wrong and your kids didn't actually have this imaginary disorder. However if your kids graduate with C's and D's (assuming that they actually graduate), then oops, I guess they were ADHD after all… Lives ruined. Later in the series he says that ADHD symptoms are just the result of the developmental process of the adolescent brain, and again advocates the "wait and see" approach. Addictions and ADHD are my academic specialty area's, so I readily identified this misinformation. I do not have expert knowledge of many other topics he discusses, however, and became concerned that I was potentially exposing myself to other pieces misinformation. As such, I requested my first refund from The Great Courses (which was granted). I would not recommend this course to people who are unable to ferret out these (albeit occasional) misleading statements. I would also not recommend this course to persons attempting to bolster their academic studies. Instead, check out some of the other excellent psychology courses available.
Date published: 2013-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Popular NeuroScience at its best! As a physician I was already knowledgable about many of the ideas and themes developed throughout the course. I would classify this course as a popular science course. It is not very demanding regarding anatomy and physiology. Dr Wang eases the viewer into the necessary details that will make the lectures understandable even for people with no scientific background. His lectures on action potentials and synapses are small gems and will build a solid foundation for future understanding. Gross anatomy of the brain eg temporal lobe, amygdala etc are kept to a nominal level, so that you can keep a helpful location in your mind about where these structures are. There is a really wide variety of themes that are developed throughout the course. The main thread that connects these themes is the idea that "we are our brains" and that plasticity leads to brain changes throughout one's lifetime. Dr Wang is clearly a skillful teacher, who can simplify even very complex and controversial matters. His teaching style is relaxed and evenly paced. At the end of each lecture he successfully summarizes the main points of the lecture and builds a connection to the lecture that follows. A previous reviewer stated that the course lacks in visual elements. I disagree with that view, because I found the course rich in visual data and illustrations. There are plenty of illustrations of brain regions, as well as experiments in people with phantom limbs, infants and causality, infants and numerosity. There are also videos of animal experiments and avant garde neuroscientific methods such as two photon microscopy of neuronal circuits and connectomics. The lectures on addiction, personality, IQ, mood, love really stand out. I agree with a previous reviewer that his lecture on near death experiences is excellent. You will never notice the time passing by. I wish Dr Wang would have gone deeper in this subject. Another reviewer criticized Dr Wang for dualism in the lecture on spirituality and religion. I have to say that this is an unfortunate misunderstanding of the reviewer. Dr Wang is not a dualist, on the contrary he repeats time and time again that "we are our brain". Personally, I found that Dr Wang handled the subject of religion with exceptional care and balance and I cannot imagine that anyone can be offended by his particular presentation. His final lecture discusses the subject of happiness and the future of neuroscience. I wish he had devoted a few more lectures on new technologies, as it seems that the gap between neuroscience and science fiction will tend to diminish. Overall, a great course from a great teacher. This course will not make you a neuroscientist but you will surely wish you were one! You will marvel at the miraculous organ that makes us who we are. I would like to see other courses from Dr Wang that delve deeper into specific areas of NeuroScience.
Date published: 2013-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Philosophy of neuroscience The course is less technical and is focused more on philosophical questions with some references to the physical structure of the brain and its processes. The lectures could use better materials (pictures!) and animations to explain the workings of the brain. Presenter talks for most of the time which is fine, but that does not help educationally to understand the most complex structure in the universe. Still, a good course.
Date published: 2013-01-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Never mix science with theology Studying the neurology of the brain during prayer and meditation is a legitimate scientific pursuit. However, when the lecturer uses the terms mind and brain as different entities, then you know he is hedging toward Dualism. The ghost in the machine is alive and well in his brain/mind. When you start making statement that the brain's structure seems to have evolved to "communicate" with a supreme being, the sparks from the ax are flying. He shows fMRI and PET scans during prayer and meditation to illustrate which parts of the brain are active during these activities. As he says, this shows correlation, not cause and effect. If only he would have stayed with this scientific idea and not leave the path of reason from the natural to the supernatural. Plus, he seems to show several of the same scans over and over for only a brief time making it difficult, for me anyway, to study. So too, it seemed most of the studies had no control group, although I admit it would be difficult to do. As far as NDE, every "study" is anecdotal, as it only can be, and it doesn't belong in neurotheology but on the fringe with popularly written books on the subject. I can not find the words to express the ridiculousness of the idea about Michelangelo and the shape of the brain compared to God's shape in the Sistine Chapel's ceiling. Was he serious or just trying to appeal to his students to make the lecture interesting? In short, Professor Wang is short on science and long on extrapolation to the celestial realm.
Date published: 2012-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dear Dad, the top-down view DVD reviews. My father died of Alzheimer's. To stay in his beloved house and present a good front whenever I visited, he kept all his vital necessities (his peanut butter, bread and various clothing items) in a single location — the dishwater. Eventually I was forced to use trickery. We "visited" an assisted-care facility. For a day or two he begged me to go back home. He cried like a child. I was overwhelmed with guilt. Then it abruptly stopped. The house he shared with my mother for 40 years until she died, his castle and refuge, disappeared like everything else down a memory hole. He was serene again within a week of entering the facility. Perhaps drugs had something to do with it. That was years ago. He now rests in peace. _______________ So I was curious to see what TTCs two main brain courses — Jeanette Norden's UNDERSTANDING THE BRAIN and Sam Wang's THE NEUROSCIENCE OF EVERYDAY LIFE — had to say about this question. Three other issues peaked my interest: 2) How does our brain organize sensory perceptions? 3) If it's 10 am, it must be snack time! We all live with setup-payoff loops that make up our good and bad habits. How does this work at the neural level? 4) How is our sense of "self" created? We order our past into a single narrative. And our future is a mass of "what if" anxieties. What is its connection with the brain? ________________ But first allow me a analogy. Assume you were explaining a typical house to a space alien. Two approaches come to mind: • The bottoms-up explanation. This is the dining room, the living room, etc. The bedroom can be used to sleep, to make love, to read a good book, to get changed, to seek refuge from the spouse, etc. UNDERSTANDING begins anatomically in this fashion. Start with the parts, then explain how they relate to each other. • The top-down and myth-busting approach. In life we sleep, eat, raise kids, work out of the office, express status, etc. How does the house help us do that? Is it true that house values can only go up? This is the EVERYDAY LIFE approach. Anatomy is kept to a minimum. Both cover the same subject in 36 lessons each, but the emphasis is different. ___________________ OK so what about the 4 issues? 1. Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. UNDERSTANDING devotes a full lesson to this. In EVERYDAY LIFE, it only occupies part of a lesson on aging. In both cases, the disease is described as incurable. But UNDERSTANDING gives you much more on the anatomical and behavioural consequences. Its guidebook is also more complete. 2. Perception. When we put on new prescription glasses, everything seems distorted, then normal again within a day. We feel new clothes for a while. Then they no longer register. Our brains are survival machines primarily focussed on change. Routine puts everything on autopilot, a brain-created sensory reality. With vision for example, we blink and parts of the retina are blind. Yet our vision is seamless. How is that? Part of being on autopilot is capturing immediate impressions long enough so that they seem solid even though the eye has moved on. Both courses are almost equivalent on this topic. UNDERSTANDING provides more anatomy. 3. Habits are intimately tied in with pleasure centers of the brain and synaptic chemistry. Big surprise: we seek pleasure and avoid pain! But pleasure is also intimately tied in with memory and emotion, without which we cannot make decisions no matter how well-informed we are. The old reason-passion opposition is therefore false. Pleasure centers can also be hijacked by addictive drugs, but then the body adapts until doses have to be increased to get the same effect. I found UNDERSTANDING more complete on this subject, but I can see how others lose patience with all the anatomical terminology. Neither course has much to say about changing habits. Neither is very practical if self-improvement is your goal. 4. UNDERSTANDING definitely spends more time on self-consciousness than DAILY LIFE. Its guidebook bibliography is much more complete on the subject. Remember what we said about perception? That it is a brain-created phenomena designed to highlight change and promote survival. The gap between neurology and our subjective sense of ourselves is still immense. To a great extent, neurologists are a bit like detectives staking out a house, trying to guess what is going on inside by noting which lights are on and when. Nevertheless, the implications of their work so far is that identity is just as much an artifact as perception. When we look over photo collections of our past, in other words, we construct little narratives to connect the whole thing. But in a frightening sense, that 5-year old child or 20-year-old adolescent is as surely gone as our great-grand parents. To sum up, if biology is your thing or you are detail-oriented, UNDERSTANDING is the better choice. Its guidebook (190p) is also less dumbed-down than NEUROSCIENCE (119p). If anatomy bores you, and you want more time devoted to everyday practical issues, DAILY LIFE is your ticket. PRESENTATION is excellent in both cases. UNDERSTANDING uses an old-style lectern with Dr Norden standing still. DAILY LIFE forces Dr Wang into the V-shaped dance routine. Neither style distracted me. Dear Dad. I hope he forgives me wherever he is."
Date published: 2012-08-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from exploring TC Brain and Mind courses TC now has an amazing variety of brain and mind courses. I am offering the following as a guide to get the most our of these remarkable courses by world class teachers.. I am a retired M.D. who took neuroscience courses over 40 years ago and specialized in a field that had minimal need for neurology. The guide is based on proceeding from basic bench-research based hard sciences(molecular biology, genetics, anatomy, physiology) to psychology oriented courses where the knowledge is based on inferences from psychological experiments to finally philosophy courses , the domain of hard thinking, speculation and humanistic approaches. This sequence makes the most sense to me. 1. The first course should be Nordon's Understanding the Brain to gain knowledge of the basics, molecular biolosy, genetics, neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. You need to learn the alphabet before you can read. I would complement this with Wang's Neuroscience of Everyday Life which covers similar material . Wang is a brilliant neuroscientist who presents the material in an accessible manner. At this point I would do Sapolsky's Biology and Human Behavior. This course delves into those portions of hard sciences relevant to human behavior in more detail. 2. Then I would proceed to the courses by various psychologists that concentrate on the various specialized fields of psychology. Vishton's Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception is excellent as is Joorden's Memory and Human Lifespan. Hinshaw's Origin of th Human Biology adds an evolutionary psychology approach to human development and psychological illnesses. This is my favorite course. His father suffered from undiagnosed bipolar disorder and his deep passion is palpable. 3. Finally in order to gain philosophical perspective I recommend Philosophy of Mind and Solomon's Passions : Philosophy and Intelligence of Emotions. They fill in areas where scientific explanatory powers still fall short and add humanistic dimensions. I hope some might find this helpful.
Date published: 2012-07-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everyday life, neuroscience and how to use it This is a delightful set of lectures on how our brain works and the everyday situations that relate to these workings. The focus is on the everyday and the explanations are just right in tone and content. I have listened to other Teaching Company courses on neuroscience, the mind and the brain so I recognized many of the themes but this course brought the information together in an entertaining, useful and memorable way.
Date published: 2012-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Course As a non-scientist, I hesitated to buy this course, but have enjoyed it very, very much. The level of information is perfect for me; I have a little background in biology and general reading. Professor Wang was charming and clear, the material both entertaining and informative, even exciting. I would recommend it highly.
Date published: 2012-03-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One Major Flaw Another great course ruined by constant shifting of camera angles. Why shift camera angles multiple times in one sentence? I agree with the reviews about how distracting it is.There is no kind of smooth and continuous flow. Every time the camera shifts the professor had to refocus. Every time the camera shifts I had to readjust with him. Concentrating on this course is difficult. Why not at least let the professor finish his sentence? I do not see the point behind this madness. This would have been a course I enjoyed for life. Now, it is just annoying and difficult to watch. If presentation distractions do not bother you, then buy it. " Understanding the Brain" by Jeanette Norden is a great example of a great presentation.
Date published: 2012-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing I am an interactive producer/developer that is fascinated by this subject. This DVD is amazing.
Date published: 2012-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great balance between practical and theoretical I really liked how Prof Wang presented the topic of Neuroscience. He takes topics that are relevant to our day-to-day life such as intelligence, memory, aging, personality, anxiety, sexuality, etc and traces them back to their neurological roots in our brains. The course does a very good job of balancing science with human interest. As an example of one of my favorite practical lessons, he explains how our internal clocks work and why we get jet lag. He then goes on to give practical advice for how to minimize the impact of jet lag and the neurological foundations for why the advice works. They is just one example of the practical tied to the theoretical.
Date published: 2012-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Practical Prof. Wang does an excellent job of simplifying a very difficult branch of science, while offering a variety of possibilities from research and some practical suggestions that anyone can use to make their daily life better. The only quibble I had with this course was that by using multiple cameras there was a lot of unnecessary angle shifting. Even with the loss of some of the brain maps, it would have been highly informative in a CD version.
Date published: 2011-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dream Professor! Try a Neuroscience Medley! Professor Wang awoke the "biological substrate" of my mind from its dogmatic slumber. I hardly feel worthy to review his work. Suffice to say, the man is at once a genius *and* a humanitarian, two qualities that rarely converge in the brain of today's thoroughly modern gentleman. I began my exploration of the "jelly between my ears" with Professor Norden's stellar course, but I hungered for something a little more challenging and maybe a wee-bit less maternal (not that Prof. Norden is not positively brilliant in her own right). Finally, I stumbled upon the perfect solution. I set up a playlist on my computer titled "Neuroscience Medley," in which Professors Wang and Norden trade off in delivering their respective lectures. Pure academic ecstasy! If you are at all like me, you probably grow weary over time with the voice and face of even the most captivating lecturer. By trading off between the two scientists, I find that it is easier to maintain interest in, and focus on, the challenging content being presented. Now I play the "medley" day and night (all told, a 36 hour lecture cycle). The brain is still a mystery to me, but I take great comfort in the knowledge that there are dedicated neuroscientists like Sam Wang and Jeanette Norden out there, working night and day in a determined effort to further unlock its elusive secrets.
Date published: 2011-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excelllent overview This was a surprisingly good course. The topics were all well chosen and at all times applicability to real life was stressed. The chapter on consciousness and free will should be watched by anyone with an interest in the philosophy of the mind, and the chapter on autism by anyone interested in that disorder. I highly recommned this course for everyone, as it will show you how much of what you think is voluntary action is actually the subconscious decision making by of the brain.
Date published: 2011-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course Excellent course taught by one of the top researchers in the field. Prof. Wang uses outstanding graphics and covers the subject well. He is easy to follow and not afraid to address sensitive topics. It may be helpful to have some prior basic knowledge of neurology (e.g., course 1597) and brain structure (e.g., course 1580).
Date published: 2011-09-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Course! I really enjoyed this course, and am puzzled by the negative reviews. Every lecture was well detailed, great examples, fascinating research, and the professor did a great job explaining concepts. While the first few lectures are thick in the details of how the brain works, I think that is most the difficult to understand. From there the lectures illustrate well the first concepts learned and build on how we use our brains in every day life. This course was better than I had expected, just what I had hoped for, and I didn't find the camera angles to be a problem. The videos of the brain included, slides, etc were very helpful and well done. I learned a great deal from this course, and will watch some of the lectures again. I'm very happy to have it in my library!
Date published: 2011-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well done and fascinating! I'm really enjoying this course. It's just the kind of information I was looking for. I've read a lot of books on neuroscience, but they can be hard to wade through. I really like the way this course is organized, starting out with the biology of the brain and how synapses work, then going into brain function of everyday things, such as memory, learning, etc. While the instructor is not bubbling with personality, he gives excellent explanations, provides nice, well defined diagrams for various areas of the brain, and clearly knows his stuff. The occasional joke or humorous comment is nice. I find the whole course is very well done, rich with content, educational, and examples are fascinating! I am eager recommending it on my facebook page. To the person who judged the course based on the first few lectures, you should have watched more. The most complex stuff is upfront, and makes sense as you go through the rest of the course. I didn't find the instructor looking uncomfortable at all, and thought he kept up well enough with the camera. That seems like a petty criticism. The content is so fascinating to me that I have not been concerned with camera angles. That seems to be the way most of these courses are done and I don't have issue with it. Thank you for this awesome course and to Prof Wang.
Date published: 2011-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A CLEAR, HELPFUL, UNDERSTANDABLE SURVEY This remarkable series of lectures is one that can be referred to again and again. With a few exceptions, each lecture is a stand alone treatment of a subject. I watched the DVD's in blocks of three at a time from beginning to end , but I would recommend to those contemplating the purchase of the DVD's consider a different approach. There is a chart that recurs frequently in several lectures on the paths of memory, but stays on the screen only long enough for Dr Wang to make a point. One may find it helpful to copy this chart so that following the lectures may become easier. The quickest way to find it, based on my experience, is at the beginning of lesson 13 on disc 3. If one is ambitious and possesses some minimal artistic talent, it could also be helpful to copy the chart of the sympathetic nervous system. Once one has one or both of these charts, it's suggested one look through the list of topics and explore them individually in order of one's interest. There are a some exceptions as I indicated. The first few provide a fascinating exploration of the chemistry and the "wiring' of the brain. The lectures 18 through 22 on human development from the fetus to old age make an absorbing set. Frequently in his lectures, Dr Wang moves easily from experiments and studies of animals to humans to illustrate his points. It's refreshing to find him discussing where science doesn't yet know enough to make conclusions. But, the evidence points to some interesting possibilities calling for further research. Yes, his delivery is rapid fire, but not so much that one can't easily follow him. He paces on the rug which probably outlines the limitations of camera coverage. None of these issues detract from importance of what he has to say nor the numerous exhibits that accompanied the text. It's amazing how the new tools available have allowed science to advance in this relatively new field of neuroscience. This series of lectures make an important addition to the other TGC courses offered on other aspects of the human brain and body. As I have indicated, this course makes a very useful reference source that can be referred to regularly by lay people like me or those more qualified in the subject. It is recommended to everyone.
Date published: 2011-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Here's A Hypothesis For You! Here's a hypothesis for all active learners in the TTC community: A solid course in neuroscience is now really a must, especially for those who are students of psychology, philosophy, and medicine. Developments in neuroscience over the past several decades challenge so much of what we have taken for granted as the truth of things. Plus, the prospects of where research will take us in the future are so substantial and important we must be attuned to following and learning in this still-new discipline. Professor Wang is quite smart and has organized a fine course that both lays the groundwork for study of the brain and mental function and also gives the student fascinating pathways to understading through relating the science to everyday life. The criticisms among reviewers that the professor's motions in the DVD presentation can be sudden and jerky are somewhat valid. Further, he seems sometimes so caught up in being true to his desire that the course be "relevant" that he rushes and loses focus in presenting the content. But I want to make the case as powerfully as I can that these are not good criteria by which to make a decision to purchase and take this course. The material, as I've suggested, is tops for learners interested in who exactly we human beings are and why and how we think and act in our lives. The professor is brilliant. And the range of the course is broad, with the most exciting sort of questions asked and explored. What is the nature of pain, and what happens in the brain that both causes it and can mitigate it? What's the importance of willpower, and how can it be increased? How do we make decisions? What explains memory? How do we learn? What are the effects of stress on the brain and then the rest of our bodies? When do adolescents "get their act together," and how does the brain play into it? What do spirituality and religion do the brain and for us? What is happiness, its features and causes, and how might neuroscience play a role in the future in furthering it? Great questions. Smart professor. 5 star course.
Date published: 2011-08-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from wouldn't recommend knowing that the first few lectures set the foundations for the remainder of the course and act as critical building blocks, I had to watch them several times and still didn't get it. I have some background in neuroscience and what I already knew was expanded upon in the lecture but the new stuff was completely baffling. Dr. Wang did not appear to be comfortable in his presentation of the materials, the visual aids were worthless, he spoke way too quickly and so I consequently did not finish the course because those foundational materials were badly presented thereby making the remainder of the material all that more confusing. You definitely need have a good grasp of the subject matter beforehand, otherwise you will find it frustrating.
Date published: 2011-08-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from oh dear We didn't finish this course. Unfortunately I agree with the reviewer who found the presentation terrible, the jerky, constantly shifting camera angles and Professor Wang's dancing around (trying to keep up?) were fatally distracting as was his rapid fire speech. After Professor Norden's course on "Understanding the Brain" - which was excellent - this was especially disappointing.
Date published: 2011-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Softening Understanding of Hard Science This DVD was very worthwhile. I am a member of various organizations regarding Neuroscience and so exposed to a great deal of information in this discipline. Professor Wang chose interesting topics and used clear examples to illustrate his points. His presentation kept my interest. This is a wonderful example of why Neuroscience is gaining ground in the understanding of everyday business and life. I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2011-06-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Lecture series of the many I've ordered. I can't add to what other reviewers have already said, but Dr. Wang has blown my expectations out of the water, and my expectations are always very high. He presents in such a personable manner, and I really appreciate the way he applies the course material to real everyday life. I have learned so much and am grateful. I will order the next series by Dr. Wang whenever it appears.
Date published: 2011-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent Journey The Teaching Company should be commended for continuing a great series on the brain and human awareness. I was enlightened when I listened to "Understanding the Brain" by Professor Nordon, stimulated when I heard "Origins of the Human Mind" by Professor Hinshaw and my mind was completely blown away after listening to this course. Professor Sam Wang took what could be a difficult course both by the nature of its contents and by necessity for political awareness and presented the material in a straight forward and interesting presentation. Dr Wang is not only an accomplished scientist but is also a great communicator. His lectures ranged from the biological processes that motor neuron communication to many of the overreaching processes of the mind that have resulted in deep philosophical discussions since the beginning of civilized thought. His goal in this course was to show how the brain is central to whom we are and how we live our daily lives. Items like love, memory,intelligence, personality, mood, fear, anger and spirituality are just some of the areas he discussed. Common myths about our experiences are discussed and either reinforced or debunked. While I enjoyed Professor Nordon's cllnical approach to the subject matter I appreciated even more Dr Wang's approach to making many of our daily life practices better understood by highlighting the central role of the brain in our life actions. I enjoyed his lecture approach and even though I have a scientific background I learned a tremendous amount of new and salient information. If you want to learn who you really are and why you act the way you do--then I highly recommend this course. Its a mind blowing adventure.
Date published: 2011-01-27
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Very Disappointing The material was okay, but the presentation was terrible. He may be good in the class room but the constant shifting from camera to camera and halting speech and repeating himself all combined to make me unable to concentrate and follow. No smoothness, no flow. A disaster.
Date published: 2011-01-17
  • y_2019, m_11, d_20, h_1
  • bvseo_bulk, prod_bvrr, vn_bulk_3.0.3-b1
  • cp_2, bvpage2n
  • co_hasreviews, tv_4, tr_42
  • loc_en_US, sid_1540, prod, sort_[SortEntry(order=SUBMISSION_TIME, direction=DESCENDING)]
  • clientName_teachco
  • bvseo_sdk, p_sdk, 3.2.0
  • CLOUD, getContent, 70.81ms
  • REVIEWS, PRODUCT

Questions & Answers

Customers Who Bought This Course Also Bought