Course Description

Consciousness extends across an expansive landscape of societal, clinical, and technological themes from free will to artificial intelligence. Unlike any other phenomenon in the natural world, consciousness occupies profound mystery yet is totally accessible by the conscious experiences in daily life. For these reasons, consciousness has been the source of millennia of intrigue, study, and debate. This course is a fast-paced exploration of the key questions on consciousness – what is it, where is it, and who has it – answered and debated from interdisciplinary perspectives, including the philosophy of mind, neuroscience, psychology, medicine, and technology. Primary emphasis is given to the scientific study of consciousness and research investigating its neural mechanisms in the human brain. This course also emphasizes disorders of consciousness (e.g., coma, epilepsy, and vegetative state) and the challenges diagnosing and treating this large and heterogeneous clinical population. Students will gain the knowledge and momentum to continue exploring the taught themes long after completing this course.

Learner Outcomes

  • Describe the essential questions, debates, and competing positions on the emergence of consciousness.
  • Detail the basic anatomy and function of the human nervous system, particularly those relevant to sensory perception.
  • Interpret the results from primary research documents on the neural mechanisms of consciousness and how these results relate to major theories of consciousness.
  • Discuss the implications for results on the neural mechanisms of consciousness for clinical, ethical, technological, and societal considerations.
  • Apply the knowledge gained from this course to be an educated consumer of content that discusses consciousness – from research to media.


This course may apply toward the Biomedical Sciences Endeavor digital badge.


No prerequisites, but previous exposure to neuroscience or the philosophy of mind can be an asset.

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