Vision and Art : An Interdisciplinary Approach to Neuroscience Education

Rosa Lafer-Sousa, Bevil R Conway


Undergraduate institutions are increasingly adopting neuroscience within their curricula, although it is unclear how best to implement this interdisciplinary nature material given of the field, the which requires knowledge of basic physics, chemistry, biology and psychology. This difficulty is compounded by declines over recent decades in the amount of physics education that students receive in high school, which hinders students ability to grasp basic principles of neuroscience. Here we discuss our experiences as teacher (BRC) and student (RLS) with an undergraduate course in Vision and Art. The course capitalizes on students prior interest in visual art to motivate an understanding of the physiological and computational neural processes that underlie vision; our aim is that the learning strategies that students acquire as a result of the format and interdisciplinary approach of the course will increase students critical thinking skills and benefit them as they pursue other domains of inquiry. The course includes both expert lectures on central themes of vision along with a problem-based learning (PBL) laboratory component that directly engages the students as empirical scientists. We outline the syllabus, the motivation for using PBL, and describe a number of hands- on laboratory exercises, many of which require only inexpensive and readily available equipment. We have developed a website that we hope will facilitate student- driven inquiry beyond the classroom and foster inter- institutional collaboration in this endeavor. We conclude the paper with a discussion of the potential limitations of the course and how to evaluate the success of the course and the website.

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