Adam Brown

BA, University of Oregon. MA, PhD, New School for Social Research. Postdoctoral Fellow, Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Director of the Sarah Lawrence College Cognition and Emotion Laboratory. Clinical psychologist with special interests in clinical, cognitive, and neuroscientific approaches to memory and emotion, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), resilience, social influences on memory, the construction of autobiographical memory and self-identity, and international mental health. Recipient of grants from the National Institutes of Health, US Department of Defense, Fulbright, and private foundations. Adjunct Assistant Professor, New York University School of Medicine. SLC, 2009–

Current undergraduate courses

Experimental Psychology Research Seminar

Fall

Psychological science attempts to study complex human behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes through research and experimentation. Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to develop both a strong foundation in the theories, techniques, and ethical questions that have guided psychology research and the opportunity to put their ideas into practice. A major component of this course will involve generating hypotheses and designing studies, carrying out original research, learning how to analyze and interpret data, and writing up and presenting findings. Readings will span research from a variety of subfields in psychology (clinical, developmental, social), and assignments will involve individual and group work. A variety of research designs will be discussed and evaluated throughout the semester, such as case studies, observational, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental approaches.

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The Synapse to Self: The Neuroscience of Self-Identity

Spring

It has long been believed that “you are what you remember.” Autobiographical memories are central to how we construct self-identity and experience a sense of self-continuity. They figure prominently in every aspect of our lives: earliest childhood recollections, developmental milestones and achievements, personal loss and public tragedy, and the breakdown of these memories across the life span. Conversely, self-identity plays a key role in how memories are selectively encoded, retrieved, or forgotten. Although these complex relations are far from being understood, neuropsychology and neuroscience research are illuminating the neural regions and networks underlying autobiographical memories and self-related processing. In this course, we will examine neuropsychological research—looking at how the loss of autobiographical memory impacts the integrity of identity such as in cases of amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease. We will also discuss how different memory systems support self-continuity and the capacity to “mentally time travel” back to the past and into the imagined future. We will examine how shifts in self-identity alter the accessibility of our memories and, in turn, our social and emotional functioning. Emphasis will also be placed on autobiographical memory and self-identity disturbances associated with mental illness and the way in which neuropsychologists and neuroscientists study these changes following therapeutic interventions.

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Trauma, Loss, and Resilience

Spring

How people remember and respond to stress and trauma has garnered much attention and controversy in the field of psychology. These debates have reached well beyond therapists’ offices and academic departments, figuring prominently in the media, policy debates, and judicial decisions. Through a review of theory, research, and clinical case reports, this course aims to provide a nuanced examination of traumatic stress research. The course will begin with a historical exploration of how the mental health community has defined and treated trauma over the past century, including the sociocultural forces that shaped these definitions and interventions. We will also delve into more current issues involving trauma, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Readings will survey a range of topics, drawing on cognitive, developmental, neuroscientific, and psychoanalytic perspectives. We will discuss and question: What are the impacts of stress and trauma across the life span? How is trauma processed cognitively, and what brain regions are involved in trauma-related distress? What is the impact of trauma and loss on mental and physical health? What is an appropriate response to trauma (and who decides)? Are there outcomes to stress and trauma other than distress? Is memory for trauma special? Are horrific experiences indelibly fixed in a victim’s memory, or does the mind protect itself by banishing traumatic memories from consciousness? How do those working in the field of traumatic stress cope with secondary exposure? Why are some people able to experience repeated exposure to trauma without significant impairment? Conference work will offer students the opportunity to apply ongoing issues in trauma and resilience research to a wide range of disciplines, including science, law, medicine, art, media, politics, and ethics.

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Current graduate courses

Experimental Psychology Research Seminar

Fall

Psychological science attempts to study complex human behavior, emotions, and cognitive processes through research and experimentation. Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to develop both a strong foundation in the theories, techniques, and ethical questions that have guided psychology research and the opportunity to put their ideas into practice. A major component of this course will involve generating hypotheses and designing studies, carrying out original research, learning how to analyze and interpret data, and writing up and presenting findings. Readings will span research from a variety of subfields in psychology (clinical, developmental, social), and assignments will involve individual and group work. A variety of research designs will be discussed and evaluated throughout the semester, such as case studies, observational, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental approaches.

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Related Cross-Discipline Paths

Previous courses

Abnormal Psychology

Fall

According to recent data, approximately half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a psychological disorder at some point in their lives; and about 25% of adults in the United States may have suffered from a mental illness in the past year. Why are rates of mental illness so high, and what can we do to reduce these figures? What does it mean to be mentally ill, and who decides? Where do we draw the line between normal and abnormal, and what kinds of methods do we use in psychology and neuroscience to make this determination? This course will serve as an introduction to the field of abnormal psychology. We will cover theoretical frameworks, research methods, and treatments associated with a range of psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, addiction, and personality disorders. In addition, we will discuss historical, political, and cultural influences that shape the way in which mental illness has been defined, represented, and treated. Course materials will draw on experimental and theoretical research, memoirs, films, and clinical case studies. This course will be of particular interest to students interested in pursuing graduate school or careers working in fields related to clinical psychology.

Faculty

First-Year Studies: Synapse to Self: Neuroscience of Self-Identity

FYS

It has long been believed that “you are what you remember.” Autobiographical memories are central to how we construct self-identity and experience a sense of self-continuity. They figure prominently in every aspect of our lives: earliest childhood recollections, developmental milestones and achievements, personal loss and public tragedy, and the breakdown of these memories across the lifespan. Conversely, self-identity plays a key role in how memories are selectively encoded, retrieved, or forgotten. Although these complex relations are far from being understood, neuropsychology and neuroscience research are illuminating the neural regions and networks underlying autobiographical memories and self-related processing. In this course, we will examine neuropsychological research by looking at how the loss of autobiographical memory impacts the integrity of identity such as in cases of amnesia and Alzheimer’s disease. We will also discuss how different memory systems support self-continuity and the capacity to “mentally time travel” back to the past and into the imagined future. We will examine how shifts in self-identity alter the accessibility of our memories and, in turn, our social and emotional functioning.  Emphasis will also be placed on autobiographical memory and self-identity disturbances associated with mental illness and the way in which neuropsychologists and neuroscientists study these changes following therapeutic interventions. Students will develop a foundation in experimental methods for studying memory and self-identity and will have the opportunity to carry out original qualitative and quantitative research. 

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The Neurobiology of Mental Health

Fall

Mental illness is a major public health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that anxiety and depression will globally represent the second-largest illness burden by 2020, placing great challenges on individuals, families, and society. To meet these challenges, psychologists and other mental-health professionals have been increasingly integrating theories and techniques from neuroscience with the study and treatment of psychological disorders. Such efforts have led to what is now being referred to as the field of “clinical neuroscience,” aimed at identifying the neurobiological foundations underlying psychological disorders. These approaches consider how genetics, hormones, and neural processes impact behavior and emotional functioning. Importantly, interactions between biology and culture, developmental stages and environment, will be considered. This course will begin with a historical overview of the growing field of clinical neuroscience. Then, foundations in neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and neurodevelopment will be reviewed before approaching the neurobiological components of psychological disorders and interventions. Particular attention will be paid to schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Additionally, readings will cover brain research believed to promote resilience against the emergence of mental illness, such as adaptive coping strategies, hunger regulation, and the interaction between psychological and immunological functioning. 

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The Neurobiology of Mental Health - Graduate

Fall
Mental illness is a major public health issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that anxiety and depression will globally represent the second-largest illness burden by 2020, placing great challenges on individuals, families, and society. To meet these challenges, psychologists and other mental-health professionals have been increasingly integrating theories and techniques from neuroscience with the study and treatment of psychological disorders. Such efforts have led to what is now being referred to as the field of “clinical neuroscience,” aimed at identifying the neurobiological foundations underlying psychological disorders. These approaches consider how genetics, hormones, and neural processes impact behavior and emotional functioning. Importantly, interactions between biology and culture, developmental stages and environment, will be considered. This course will begin with a historical overview of the growing field of clinical neuroscience. Then, foundations in neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, and neurodevelopment will be reviewed before approaching the neurobiological components of psychological disorders and interventions. Particular attention will be paid to schizophrenia, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, drug abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Additionally, readings will cover brain research believed to promote resilience against the emergence of mental illness, such as adaptive coping strategies, hunger regulation, and the interaction between psychological and immunological functioning.
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The Psychological Science of Happiness

Spring

Historically, psychology has focused on understanding disorders of mind—such as anxiety, depression, hallucinations, and delusions—with the goal of bringing people from a negative state to “neutral.” In recent years, however, those who study human behavior have had a growing interest in positive emotions and what enables people to thrive and flourish. This course will survey research exploring various dimensions of happiness and well-being, drawing on readings from psychology, neuroscience, and economics. We will discuss a variety of topics related to the study of happiness, such as how researchers define and measure happiness, the biological basis of positive emotions, self-esteem, gratitude, resilience, creative achievement, emotional intelligence, meaning making, the characteristics of successful relationships, the bidirectional relationship between physical health and positive emotion, the evolutionary basis of positive affect, relationships between money and happiness, and when and why the pursuit of happiness sometimes backfires. Course and conference work will focus on exercises that connect you to the research that we will be discussing.

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