Using the Humanities to Teach Neuroscience to Non-majors.

Document Type


Publication Date



We developed and offered a sequence of neuroscience courses geared toward changing the way non-science students interact with the sciences. Although we accepted students from all majors and at all class levels, our target population was first and second year students who were majoring in the fine arts or the humanities, or who had not yet declared a major. Our goal was to engage these students in science in general and neuroscience in particular by teaching science in a way that was accessible and relevant to their intellectual experiences. Our methodology was to teach scientific principles through the humanities by using course material that is at the intersection of the sciences and the humanities and by changing the classroom experience for both faculty and students. Examples of our course materials included the works of Oliver Sacks, V.S. Ramachandran, Martha Nussbaum, Virginia Woolf and Karl Popper, among others. To change the classroom experience we used a model of team-teaching, which required the simultaneous presence of two faculty members in the classroom for all classes. We changed the structure of the classroom experience from the traditional authority model to a model in which inquiry, debate, and intellectual responsibility were central. We wanted the students to have an appreciation of science not only as an endeavor guided by evidence and experimentation, but also a public discourse driven by creativity and controversy. The courses attracted a significant number of humanities and fine arts students, many of whom had already completed their basic science requirement.


The Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education





First Page


Last Page