The modules are suitable for courses in both cognitive neuroscience and cognitive psychology and they are informed by rapid advances in the understanding of brain structures and functions in recent decades. We selected ten topics that form the backbone of this type of course and that have the strongest connection to brain mechanisms as they are currently understood. We left out the topic of problem solving as we feel that the topic has not advanced as rapidly in recent years as other topics and it has a comparatively weak grounding in terms of brain structures, processes and networks that are associated with it. We also reluctantly left out the topic of language (both language understanding and language production) because it is a large topic that deserves a course of its own, and it represents a very specialized kind of brain activity. One other topic that we left out because of lack of room was motor control. It too deserves a course of its own to cover the complex interaction between motor cortices, cerebellum, midbrain region, brainstem and spine.
We have taught the psychology for engineers course annually since fall 2010 and we have found that these topics are accessible to industrial engineering students in their first course on psychology even though a course like this would typically be taught to psychology students in their third or fourth year. We believe that topics such as social psychology, consciousness, personality, and abnormal psychology are inadequately informed by brain mechanisms and are not currently suited for an engineering approach to the brain. While these modules represent material that we have experience in covering, we have built these new modules completely from scratch supported by the latest advances in cognitive neuroscience and the latest practices that promote high engagement learning. Our vision is to eventually have a discipline of brain engineering that will take a design and modeling (engineering) view of the brain. With the increasing use of brain implants and techniques such as deep brain stimulation for treatment of conditions like depression and Parkinson’s disease we are likely to see humans slowly evolve into cognitively facilitated beings in the coming decades. Brain engineers are needed to ensure that brain enhancement and reconstruction is done in a thoughtful and appropriate way that respects the properties of neural structures and the way that the brain works.