Instructor: Dr. Kathryn Schuler, 3401-C Walnut Street, Office 314

Time and place: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm in CHEM 514


Course description

This course offers an introduction to the brain basis of language. Its primary goal is to introduce students to the study of the brain and language by combining basic concepts from linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience. We will consider, through lectures and readings, a number of questions: What areas of the brain underlie language processing and acquisition? What are the fundamental functions of these brain areas and how do these functions overlap with other cognitive processes? How is language impacted when one of these areas is damaged? And what are the methods and approaches researchers use to examine these questions? This is an introductory course and no specific background is assumed or required.



Your final grade is out of 1000 points.

  • 25% Homework: Due at the beginning of class on Tuesdays (25 points each, lowest dropped).
  • 50% Exams: Two take-home exams (250 points each).
  • 25% Moonshot group project. You'll work as a group to find a solution to a big question in language and the brain. Your group will write 6 blog posts on your progress (25 points each) and present a poster on the final day of class.

Bonus points

You can earn up to 50 bonus points this semester via:

  1. Community engagement: make at least 3 comments on other teams' moonshot blog posts and earn 5 bonus points for that week.
  2. Knowledge about research:  earn 10 points for each hour of research participation via SONA and 10 points for attending any MINDCore talk this semester (limit 20 points per semester).


Dates and topics subject to change.

Week Dates Topic Readings & Deadlines
1 Aug 27 & 29 Overview
2 Sep 3 & 5 Neurons HW 1
3 Sep 10 & 12 Networks
4 Sep 17 & 19 Methods BP 1
5 Sep 24 & 26 Sounds & phonemes HW 2
6 Oct 1 & 3 Words HW 3 & BP 2
7 Oct 8 Review Exam 1 due Oct 9 at midnight
Accepted through Oct 18 with no penalty
8 Oct 15 & 17 Syntax None
9 Oct 22 & 24 Semantics BP 3
10 Oct 29 & 31 Bilingualism HW 4
11 Nov 5 & 7 Sign Language BP 4
12 Nov 12 & 14 Acquisition HW 5
13 Nov 19 & 21 Evolution BP 5
14 Nov 26 Cerebellum
15 Dec 3 & 5 Review Final poster due in class Dec 5 & BP 6
16 Dec 12 Finals Exam 2 due Dec 12 at midnight accepted through Dec 19 at midnight with no late penalty.


  • Late assignments: Late homework, group blog posts, and exams will be accepted with a 20% per day late penalty (20% off for 1-24 hours late, 40% off for 24-48 hours late, etc). Late final posters will not be accepted.
  • Collaboration: You can work together to solve homework and exams questions, but you must (1) write your answer in your own words and (2) indicate who you worked with on each question.
  • Attendance: There is no formal attendance policy, but we'll go over solutions to the homework (read: practice exam questions) at the beginning of each class. Solutions to the homework will not be revealed any other way.
  • Accommodations and non-discrimination: I am happy to provide accommodations to anyone with documentation from Student Disability Services and to make alternate arrangements when class conflicts with a religious holiday. Please notify me as soon as possible to make these arrangements.
  • Academic Integrity. I will follow the rules of the University and the Code of Academic Integrity.  It is your responsibility to be familiar with these policies.