In response to the recent explosion of interest in the university-wide Mind, Brain, and Behavior (MBB) initiative, we officially formed HSMBB in the fall of 2002. Since then, we have dedicated ourselves to promoting multidisciplinary dialogue among students formally involved in one of the seven MBB tracks or secondary fields (neurobiology, psychology, philosophy, computer science, history of science, human evolutionary biology, and linguistics) or else informally interested in MBB-related topics or courses. We also publish an annual journal, The Harvard Brain, showcasing the best in undergraduate writing spanning MBB topics and issues.
We’ll do this by hosting everything from informal dinner discussions to MBB movie nights, often with faculty (last year, we watched Kinsey with Professor of OEB David Haig!). In past years, we have discussed the neuropsychology of aging with psychologist Mark Baxter, tests of artificial intelligence with computer scientist Stuart Shieber, developmental disorders with psychologist Sue Carey, gender differences in human aggression with anthropologist Richard Wrangham, fighting lobsters and fighting fruit flies with neurobiologist Ed Kravitz, subconscious social biases with psychologist Mahzarin Banaji, religion and the placebo effect with historian of science Anne Harrington, neuroscience and human behavior with biologist John Dowling, the Dalai Lama‘s understanding of mental imagery with psychologist Stephen Kosslyn, and the ethics of animal testing with psychologist Marc Hauser. Through these informal dinner discussions, we create a comfortable atmosphere in which students and faculty can share and engage ideas together.
We have talked with psychology professor Daniel Schacter about anterograde memory loss before a screening of Memento; after watching A.I., philosophy professor Ned Block led an informal group discussion on consciousness and intelligence; we saw Awakenings with neurobiology professor John Dowling, who fielded our questions on the accuracy of the film’s depiction of Parkinson’s Disease and its progressive course; psychology professor Pamela Keel joined us in viewing A Streetcar Named Desire, after which we discussed possible psychopathologies suffered by several characters in the film.
In close collaboration with the MBB initiative, we also traditionally co-sponsor a series of interdisciplinary panel events (such as the MBB Conversations…) and the various undergraduate symposia (one each sophomores, juniors, and seniors).
This year, we’re especially thrilled about two new additions to our busy agenda: a weekly seminar series led by MBB faculty and grad students and a research mentorship program that will match undergrads and MBB grad students sharing similar interests.
Basically, we’re all about making connections : students with students, students with faculty, neurobiologists with philosophers, historians with computer scientists, you get the idea. If this sounds like fun to you, feel free to send us an email at hsmbb at hcs.harvard.edu to ask us how you can get more involved!
We are currently entertaining many new ideas, including the possibility of creating a program where HSMBB members can volunteer in the local community. Above all, we hope to continue to find new members and new means by which to help similarly MBB-interested students find each other so that they may engage in dialogue and debate; we hope to guide students to supportive MBB faculty; and finally, we hope to counsel students in choosing the paths they pursue at Harvard and beyond.