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Introduction to Cognitive Science

Delve into the mysteries of the human mind and see what cognitive science can tell us about how we think—and what we have yet to discover.
Introduction to Cognitive Science is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 3.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Great Courses at its Best! Cognitive Science!! This course is what is expected from The Great Courses. Introduction to Cognitive Science delivered by Dr. Thad A. Polk, is a stimulating, sometimes challenging 24 lecture set, mesmerizing the student with dynamic visual graphics, thorough discussion, and actual dissections of a donated human brain and a parallel animal brain. Dr. Polk walks the learner through the inner workings of the brain and rigorously explains the function between the brain hemispheres, regions and components. The Professor's teaching style and enthusiasm inspires and ignites the learner to delve deeper into higher level Cognitive Science and brain anatomy. As a Learner who has enjoyed over 1000 TGC's lecture sets, Dr. Polk stands out with other brilliant professors such as Dr. Rufus Fears (RIP!!), Daniel Robinson, Robert Greenberg, Dr. Filippenko, and the many others! Discussions of memory, language, decision making, brain damage and disease, consciousness, computational modeling, and concluding with a brilliant discussion of AI make this course thorough and rigorous. I highly recommend this course and all other Dr. Polk courses. The Learning Brain TGC's was outstanding. I will be viewing this course a second time as the information and data was overwhelming. This is fantastic learning experience delivered by an exemplar professor!!!
Date published: 2024-07-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course. I am hoping to see more courses like this in the future(especially on cognitive science and computer science).
Date published: 2024-07-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Can Science Mathematically Model Thinking? I’m not sure I’d call this an “Introduction”-level course. Rather, it seems to me to be a more math-inclined version of cognitive science. For example, it is helpful to be familiar with Bayes Theorem and natural logarithms for some of the important lectures. (I was familiar with these concepts so I cannot project how accessible these lectures would have been to someone not familiar with them.) This The Great Courses (TGC) course offers a unique perspective in the field. For example, there is an early lecture teaching how to dissect a brain. (Evidently, you can buy sheep brain dissection kits from Amazon. Who knew? Dr. Polk recommended buying three if you wanted to dissect a brain along with him in his lecture.) Most importantly, however, is the heavy math emphasis, which allows him to seriously address such topics as neural networks, learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Dr. Polk shows how scientists are trying to develop a mathematical model on how people think and asking how such a model can be used to improve thinking and to treat pathologies. Dr. Polk is an articulate, easy-to-follow speaker. He always speaks with a smile, obviously enjoying his topic. Listening to him is a pleasant experience. The course guide is above average by TGC standards. It is written in paragraph format as opposed to bullet or outline format and it averages more than 9 pages per lecture, noticeably above TGC average. It includes many important graphics in the lectures. However, it has no appendix with a glossary of terms or a bibliography, although each lecture does end with a short bibliography. I used video streaming. The many graphics are essential to the course. It is difficult to use audio-only format while driving or exercising. The course was published in 2024.
Date published: 2024-07-01
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Overview

For millennia, philosophers and scientists have been trying to unlock the secrets of the mind with only limited success—until now. Today, with modern technologies, including the best in neuroscience, medical imaging, and recent advances in artificial intelligence, we are making more progress than ever before. In Introduction to Cognitive Science, Professor Thad A. Polk takes you on a fascinating tour of the latest discoveries in the relatively new field of cognitive science. The goal is nothing less than understanding every interaction working in the human brain to produce all forms of cognition.

About

Thad A. Polk

Every aspect of our mental life is controlled by the brain. So if we ever hope to understand the human mind, and how it's affected by aging, by disease, and by drugs, then we need to develop a better understanding of the brain and the neural mechanisms that underlie cognition.

INSTITUTION

University of Michigan

Thad A. Polk is the Samuel D. Epstein Collegiate Professor of Psychology and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. He earned an interdisciplinary PhD in Computer Science and Psychology from Carnegie Mellon University and received postdoctoral training in Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. His teaching has been recognized by numerous awards, and he was named to The Princeton Review’s list of the Best 300 Professors in the United States.

By This Professor

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Introduction to Cognitive Science

Trailer

Opening the Black Box of the Mind

01: Opening the Black Box of the Mind

Welcome to the world of cognitive science, where the goal is nothing less than simulating the precise workings of the human brain. But with the mind hidden in the proverbial “black box,” how can science unravel its mysteries? Learn about the early theories of behaviorism and how the invention of the digital computer became the single most important development in the rise of cognitive science.

28 min
A Hands-On Guide to Brain Anatomy

02: A Hands-On Guide to Brain Anatomy

Professor Polk takes you on a quick tour of the anatomy of the brain. In addition to examining important structures and where they’re located inside the brain, you’ll also learn about their function. You’ll see firsthand where vision happens; how information is communicated between the hemispheres; and the brain regions involved in sleep, motor control, and memory.

32 min
How We Acquire and Understand Language

03: How We Acquire and Understand Language

Explore the fascinating cognitive process of human language, one of our most powerful tools. Discover some of the key features of natural languages and how we acquire them. You might be surprised to learn that one of the most significant aspects of language that we use every single day is ... guessing.

31 min
The Neuroscience of Language

04: The Neuroscience of Language

Meet French patient Louis Victor Leborgne and his physician Paul Broca. Learn how Broca’s work set the foundation for understanding that an injury in one brain region does not necessarily undermine cognitive function in other areas. Although the neurobiology of human languages is not yet fully understood, explore the dual stream model of language processing and the crucial but separate functions it addresses.

31 min
Artificial Neural Networks and Language

05: Artificial Neural Networks and Language

Artificial neural networks play a central role in cognitive science. Learn how these networks simulate the excitatory and inhibitory processing of real neurons, and how scientists train the networks using sophisticated learning algorithms. This type of modeling provides the foundation for the development of ChatGPT and other AI applications.

34 min
How Babies Think about the World

06: How Babies Think about the World

Learn about the violation-of-expectation paradigm that allows researchers to study infant cognition with often surprising results. From physical to psychological to moral reasoning, scientists have determined that babies and very young children understand much more about the world than we had previously realized.

28 min
Working Memory: The Mind’s Notepad

07: Working Memory: The Mind’s Notepad

Participate with Professor Polk in fascinating experiments that reveal many aspects of your working memory—your ability to store information for a brief period for a particular purpose. Learn about the several working memory systems you use every day and discover how cognitive scientists think working memory might be implemented in the human brain.

31 min
Episodic Memory: A Library of Times and Places

08: Episodic Memory: A Library of Times and Places

How is it that we can remember so much information for so long, but we also make so many mistakes in what we remember? Explore the psychology, neuroscience, and computational modeling of episodic memory—long-term memory for personal episodes from your own life. Discover how and why this information gets distorted over time in subtle ways we don’t notice.

30 min
Semantic Memory: The Mind’s Knowledge Base

09: Semantic Memory: The Mind’s Knowledge Base

We each maintain an enormous database of information we’ve learned over the course of our lives, our semantic memory. Learn about the latest cognitive science models in which semantic memory is organized by modality, with some regions of the brain representing perceptual features and others representing functional features.

32 min
The Animal Mind

10: The Animal Mind

If an animal can learn specific hand signals and communicate with a trainer, does that mean he has language? If a great ape can recognize itself in a mirror, does it have the consciousness we attribute to humans? Learn about some exciting animal experiments and the resulting evidence. Cognitive scientists have arrived at some conclusions that you might find contrary to your personal experience.

30 min
The Psychology of Decision-Making

11: The Psychology of Decision-Making

While we like to think of ourselves as rational creatures, why is it that we so often make what seem to be irrational decisions? Learn about Bayes’ Theorem, which tells us the correct way to calculate a conditional probability, as well as the “representativeness and availability heuristics” that so often cause us to misjudge.

32 min
Decision-Making at the Neural Level

12: Decision-Making at the Neural Level

How do we make decisions at the neural level? Explore a fascinating monkey experiment that allows us to see which neurons fire while the animal is making a real decision. You’ll also explore the timing of dopamine delivery as the monkey develops familiarity with a rewarding activity.

32 min
Computational Models of Decision-Making

13: Computational Models of Decision-Making

Could our brain and mind be designed as Bayesian computation engines? Instead of dealing in black or white absolutes, is it possible our brains are always updating the conditional probability of various hypotheses based on evidence and base rates? Explore the evidence for this possibility and the behaviors scientists would expect to see if this were the case.

35 min
The Emotional Brain

14: The Emotional Brain

Do your emotions cause physiological changes in your body or do physiological changes cause your emotions? Is each physiological change associated with one and only one emotion? You might be surprised by the answers to these questions as you learn about theories of cognition and emotion and explore the fascinating case of patient “SM.”

37 min
The Science of Perception and Illusion

15: The Science of Perception and Illusion

When we look at the world around us, we’re usually sure that we see our environment as it really exists, but that is just not the case. With fascinating visual examples, learn the many steps involved as our brain constructs the images that we think we just simply “see.” Once it’s created, is the image accurate—or can our expectations play a profound role in our perception?

31 min
Computational Models of Vision

16: Computational Models of Vision

Learn about one of the most influential computational models of the brain’s visual system and how it led to the development of convolutional neural networks, CNNs. CNNs revolutionized computer vision, but could this type of neural network also lead to a better understanding of the visual system in the biological brain?

36 min
What Damage Reveals about the Brain

17: What Damage Reveals about the Brain

Historically, one of the best ways for neuroscientists to learn about the brain has been to study people whose brains have been damaged, resulting in unusual and unexpected phenomena. Meet three such patients—Phineas Gage, “DB,” and John—and see how cognitive scientists used the deficits of each to uncover a wealth of information about the healthy brain.

31 min
Depression and Anxiety

18: Depression and Anxiety

Dig into computational psychiatry, the field that brings together computer science, math, and neuroscience to simulate the neural processes contributing to psychiatric disorders. Explore how many symptoms of depression and anxiety make sense when viewed through the lens of Bayesian decision theory.

33 min
Autism, Schizophrenia, and OCD

19: Autism, Schizophrenia, and OCD

Learn how cognitive scientists are developing theories and computational models to explain the behaviors associated with these three disorders. Explore the latest theories that explain the obsessions and compulsions of OCD, and recent research into the glutamate system’s impact on schizophrenia.

34 min
The Puzzle of Consciousness

20: The Puzzle of Consciousness

What is the nature of consciousness and how is it implemented in the human brain? Does consciousness inevitably arise when a certain threshold of intelligence is met? These are some of the most profound questions humans have ever asked. Explore what cognitive science has contributed to studying both the content and level of human consciousness.

36 min
Putting It Together: Unified Theories of Cognition

21: Putting It Together: Unified Theories of Cognition

Investigate ACT-R, one of the most well-developed cognitive architectures that exists today in the quest to create a unified theory of cognition. Learn how ACT-R implements a specific theory about how the mind’s different parts work together to give rise to cognition. With Professor Polk’s guidance, you’ll walk through a “simple” computation modeled by ACT-R.

36 min
The Rapid Rise of Artificial Intelligence

22: The Rapid Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Learn how AI has profoundly impacted the field of cognitive science. Explore the ways in which AI’s deep neural nets, trained using sophisticated supervised learning algorithms, have been able to rival human performance in many domains, ranging from generating art and other visual content to predicting the 3D structure of proteins with significant impacts in biology and medicine.

36 min
Cognitive Science in the Field

23: Cognitive Science in the Field

Explore how the latest discoveries about cognition have affected the field of education, helping both the learner and the teacher. We now have the science to influence decisions about when and how to study, and how to help students better retain information. Even in the disparate fields of law and design, learn how cognitive science has profoundly impacted best practices.

30 min
The Future of AI and Cognitive Science

24: The Future of AI and Cognitive Science

Have you wondered what could happen if we develop the ability to build artificial intelligences that rival or surpass our own? Scientists no longer believe the issue is “if,” only when. Consider the issues of transhumanism along with present-day positive impacts and concerns with respect to AI. What can we expect the future to hold?

36 min