Cognitive Biology
Cognitive Science 200
Fall, 2012

Meeting for Enrolled Students: Fridays, 2:00-2:55

Lecture to which UCSD community is invited: 3:00 to 4:30

Both in Cognitive Science Building, Room 003

Professor: William Bechtel Office Hours: Wednesday, 3:30-4:50
Office: HSS 8076 Email:
Telephone: 822-4461 Course discussion list:


Cognitive science has focused primarily on human cognitive activities. These include perceiving, remembering and learning, evaluating and deciding, planning actions, etc. But humans are not the only organisms that engage in these activities. Indeed, virtually all organisms need to be able to procure information both about their own condition and their environment and regulate their activities in ways appropriate to this information. In some cases species have developed distinctive ways of performing cognitive tasks. But in many cases these mechanisms have been conserved and modified in other species. This course will focus on a variety of organisms not usually considered in cognitive science such as bacteria, planaria, leeches, fruit flies, bees, birds and various rodents, asking about the sorts of cognitive activities these organisms perform, the mechanisms they employ to perform them, and what lessons about cognition more generally we might acquire from studying them.

Cog Sci. 200 is strutured around a series of lectures. These lectures are open to the entire UCSD communiity, but they are invited for the course and students in the course are encouraged to be active in the discussions at the lectures. As preparation for the lectures, we will meet for an hour before the lecture and discuss papers relevant to the topic of the lecture.

Overview of Schedule



Title of Talk


September 27

William Bechtel, Philosophy, UCSD Bacterial Information Processing: Is It Cognition?

1. Shapiro, J. A. (2007). Bacteria are small but not stupid: cognition, natural genetic engineering and socio-bacteriology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 38, 807-819.
2. Ben Jacob, E., Shapira, Y., & Tauber, A. I. (2006). Seeking the foundations of cognition in bacteria: From Schrodinger's negative entropy to latent information. Physica a-Statistical Mechanics and Its Applications, 359, 495-524

October 4

Brian Keeley, Philosophy, Pitzer College, Claremont How to think about the senses of non-human animals

1. Keeley, B. (in press). Nonhuman animal senses. In M. Matthen (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Perception.
2. Gray, Richard (in press). On the nature of the senses. In F. Macpherson, The Senses: Classical and Contemporary Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

October 11

Ralph Greenspan, Kavli Institute, UCSD Genes, behavior, and cognition

1. Flint, J. and Greenspan, R. J., and Kendler, K. (2010). Model systems and the elements of behavior. Chapter 10 of How genes influence behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Mery, F. (2013). Natural variation in learning and memory. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 23, 52-56.
Dubnau, J., & Chiang, A. S. (2013). Systems memory consolidation in Drosophila. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 23, 84-91.

October 18

Eva-Maria Schoez Collins, Biology, UCSD Memory and learning in planarians: An old paradigm revisted

1. Wilson, R. A., & Collins, G. D. (1967). Establishment of a Classically Conditioned Response and Transfer of Training Via Cannibalism in Planaria. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 24, 727-730.
2. McConnell, J. V. (1966). Comparative Physiology - Learning in Invertebrates. Annual Review of Physiology, 28, 107-136.
3. Shomrat, T., & Levin, M. (2013). An automated training paradigm reveals long-term memory in planaria and its persistence through head regeneration. The Journal of Experimental Biology.

October 25

Kathy French, Biology, UCSD Reproductive Behavior Across Phyla

1. Wagenaar, D. A., Hamilton, M. S., Huang, T., Kristan, W. B., & French, K. A. (2010). A hormone-activated central pattern generator for courtship. Current biology, 20, 487-495.
2. Gabor, C. S., Phan, A., Clipperton-Allen, A. E., Kavaliers, M., & Choleris, E. (2012). Interplay of oxytocin, vasopressin, and sex hormones in the regulation of social recognition. Behavioral Neuroscience, 126, 97-109.

November 1

William Kristan, Biology, UCSD Circuits for decision making in the leech

1. Briggman, K. L., Abarbanel, H. D. I., & Kristan, W. B. (2005). Optical imaging of neuronal populations during decision-making. Science, 307, 896-901.
2. Kristan, W. B. (2008). Neuronal Decision-Making Circuits. Current Biology, 18, R928-R932.
3. Wang, X. J. (2008). Decision Making in Recurrent Neuronal Circuits. Neuron, 60, 215-234

November 8

Jing Wang, Biology, UCSD Perceptual saliency by integrating olfactory context and features in Drosophia

1. Semmelhack, J. L., & Wang, J. W. (2009). Select Drosophila glomeruli mediate innate olfactory attraction and aversion. Nature, 459, 218-223.
2. Root, C. M., Ko, K. I., Jafari, A., & Wang, J. W. (2011). Presynaptic facilitation by neuropeptide signaling mediates odor-driven food search. Cell, 145, 133-144

November 15

James Nieh, Biology, UCSD Honey bee foraging communication: fearful foragers and inhibitory signaling

1. Nieh, J. C. (2010). A Negative Feedback Signal That Is Triggered by Peril Curbs Honey Bee Recruitment. Current Biology, 20, 310-315.
2. Goodale, E., & Nieh, J. C. (2012). Public use of olfactory information associated with predation in two species of social bees. Animal Behaviour, 84, 919-924.

November 22

Tim Gentner, Psychology, UCSD Neural mechanisms of auditory pattern perception, learning, and attention 1. Kiggins, J. T., Comins, J. A., & Gentner, T. Q. (2012). Targets for a comparative neurobiology of language. Frontiers in evolutionary neuroscience, 4, 1-13.
2. Jeanne, J. M., Sharpee, T. O., & Gentner, T. Q. (2013). Associative learning enhances population coding by inverting interneuronal correlation patterns. Neuron, 78, 352-363.

November 29

No Class: Thanksgiving


December 6

Lucia Jacobs, Psychology, Berkeley

Locating an odor in time and space: the evolution of navigation and chemosensory cognition

1. Jacobs, L. F. (2003). The evolution of the cognitive map. Brain, Behavior and Evolution, 62, 128-139.
2. Jacobs, L. F. (2012). From chemotaxis to the cognitive map: the function of olfaction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), 109 Suppl 1, 10693-10700

Course Discussion Website

A discussion website has been established for this course: Biology.

Course Requirements and Evaluation

Students are required to:

  1. For each week after the first week selected students will be assigned to begin a discussion of the readings for the week on the discussion email list. One can begin a discussion either by rasiing a question about a major point in one of the readings or taking issue with a major claim/assertion of the paper. This must be done by Noon on Wednesday. All other students are required to add a comment about one of the initial entries for the week or to raise an addition question or raise an additional challenge by 11AM on Friday. These entries should not be long--a medium length paragraph.
  2. Attend all class sessions, both the class-only meeting from 2:00 to 2:55 and the lecture from 3:00 to 4:30 and complete the readings assigned before each meeting. During each session I will call on registered students both at the beginning to address "What are the main points of the paper?" and later in the class to discuss these points.
  3. Write one paper, 5-7 pages in length, that advances a systematic analysis of an issue that we deal with in the course. The paper need not go beyond the readings and lectures in the course. This paper is due by December 9.

This course should be taken for S/U grade only. If your department requires a letter grade, or you have some other reason why you need a letter grade, please let me know.