Adam Brown

Sara Yates Exley Chair in Teaching Excellence

on leave yearlong

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–

Previous Courses

Abnormal Psychology

Seminar—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.

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Trauma, Loss, and Resilience

Seminar—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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Experimental Psychology Research Seminar

Seminar—Spring

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 both individual and group work. A variety of research designs will be discussed and evaluated throughout the semester, such as case studies and observational, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental approaches.

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The Synapse to Self: The Neuroscience of Self-Identity

Open , Seminar—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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