Class Central is learner-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The University of Chicago

Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life

The University of Chicago via Coursera


Learn how the nervous system produces behavior, how we use our brain every day, and how neuroscience can explain the common problems afflicting people today. We will study functional human neuroanatomy and neuronal communication, and then use this information to understand how we perceive the outside world, move our bodies voluntarily, stay alive, and play well with others.


  • The Nervous System
    • Neurobiology is a rapidly growing area of scientific research, and is becoming increasingly prevalent in the news and popular culture. In this course, we will study of the nervous system from a biological perspective by exploring the fundamental concepts in neurobiology, including how we sense the world, how we act in the world, and common neurological disorders.
  • Neural Communication + Embodied Emotion
    • Neurons are the cells of the nervous system responsible for communicating, relaying, and integrating information. Neurons "talk" to other neurons through a special type of language that involves electrical signaling within individual neurons, and the use of chemical compounds known as neurotransmitters to communicate between neurons. In this module, you will learn more about how a neuron functions at rest, how information is relayed within a neuron, and how neurons relay information to other neurons or target tissues.
      In the second half of this module, you will be learning about how the body and emotions work together to produce our everyday emotional experiences. We will look at the enteric nervous system and learn how to discern whether the sympathetic or parasympathetic system is impacting our current emotional state.
  • Neuroanatomy
    • Neuroanatomy tells us how the nervous system is organized. Understanding the form of the brain is essential to understanding its function. By comparing the structure of the brain with a patient's symptoms, neurologists are able to identify the location of certain disorders. Studying how the human brain develops provides insight to why it is organized as it is. This module, you will learn about how the brain develops during gestation, some major pathways in the nervous system, and what can go wrong!
  • Perception and Vision
    • Perception is how the brain interprets incoming stimuli. Not all stimuli that can be sensed are perceivable, and sometimes those that can be perceived play tricks on us. The systematic ways that stimuli are interpreted (or misinterpreted) show how well the brain can understand our surroundings, sometimes with limited information. This module we will explore perception and vision.This module contains a lot of material, so be sure to start early so that you have time to finish!
  • Hearing
    • The sound of birds chirping in the morning, a babbling brook or crashing waves on the beach, or warm conversation with the ones you love. The experience of all these things requires the ability to hear. Arguably the most important sense for human communication, it is also the most commonly impaired of our senses. In this module, you will learn how the human ear is artfully designed to enhance our ability to hear the human voice. You will follow sound waves as they travel from the external world, to the eardrum, through the bones of the middle ear, and to the cochlea that transduces sound information into neural impulses.
  • The Vestibular Sense & Gaze
    • The vestibular system and gaze control give us so much but are grossly under appreciated. They are so fundamental that we discount them, assuming that they will always be there. When the vestibular system fails us, its importance dominates our lives. Living with either a vestibular or an eye movement disorder is very disruptive to everyday life. In this module, you will learn how the inner ear is designed to detect and respond to head movements. You will learn about the circuit that connects the inner ear to the motoneurons that control the location of your eyes, allowing us to reflexively maintain our view of an object even as we move about in the world. Finally, we will talk about how you can modify this reflexive control of the eyes and how you can control where you are looking.
  • Voluntary Movements
    • "Voluntary movements are how we interact with the world. The organization of the motor system has implications for how we move, and the types of movements we can make. This module we'll start to explore the organization of the motor system, from neurons to muscles.

      This module contains a lot of material, so be sure to start early so that you have time to finish!"
  • Motor Modulation
    • You should now have an understanding of how muscles function to initiate movements. However, the brain requires more than just the cerebral cortex to determine what movements to perform and to make those movements smooth and guided. This module, we'll explore the cerebellum and the basal ganglia, fascinating structures that play a major role in movement. You'll also learn how these brain regions are involved in motor learning and disease.
  • Homeostasis
    • Although our bodies are very robust and we can live in a range of environments, our brain requires very specific conditions to function properly. Homeostasis is the active process by which our nervous system regulates internal conditions, such as blood pressure and temperature. This module we will explore what homeostasis does, and how it functions in everyday life.
  • Abstract Function
    • You've now learned an incredible amount about the way the brain functions to perceive and act upon the world we live in. You've gained an understanding of neurobiology on a cellular level, and how many diseases and disorders of the nervous system can affect our bodies and minds. In our final module, we will journey into the realms of emotion, attention, memory, and language. By the end of this module, you will have a greater understanding of the more abstract cognitive functions the brain.

Taught by

Peggy Mason


4.6 rating, based on 27 Class Central reviews

4.9 rating at Coursera based on 2772 ratings

Start your review of Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life

  • Inna Sepp
    A great course if:
    a. you have time to supplement the classes by doing online research;
    b. you already have experience on the field and want to dig a little bit deeper.
    As someone who has zero understanding of the brain and how it works, I found the classes a little bit confusing. They cover a lot of ground in very short videos, so I had to go online an research more --which can be frustrating.
    Peggy Mason is great and her classes are fun, and her passion for the brain shows. I just wished they provided more information or a text book to go along the lectures. That would make the course easier.
  • John Smith
    A fine class that gives you a nice introduction and overview to neuroscience. It is occassionally oversimplified and/or misleading, but it's generally good and interesting. Be prepared for numerous extremely short videos (2-3 minutes), each and every single one with the same intro/outro that gets extremely irritating after a while. In addition, the quizzes (both in-video and for a grade) are badly written and very irritating.
  • Anonymous
    I have tried a couple other MOOCS and gave up on them due to dis-organization. This course is well organized, and developed.

    Plus, the biggest asset is Professor Mason. She is dynamic, engaging, passionate about her subject and truly wants to share her passion and knowledge. Even if you only have a passing interest in neuro - take this course! You will become engaged.
  • Great teacher! Very engaging lectures. I particularly enjoyed the laboratory sessions, with guided brain dissections (not advised to faint-of-stomach, though). Dr Mason is very good at communicating her passion for neurosciences. The course covers a variety of topics, not necessarily in a structured way but always with something interesting to learn.
  • Anonymous
    excellent course materials.

    Amazingly clear and straightforward explanations of this complex subject, neurobiology.

    I found attending and finishing this mooc a very rewarding experience!

    I recommend for anyone with bases of biology and medicine otherwise it may be a struggle but give it a try!
  • Anonymous
    Challenging! A great overview of the nervous system. Professor Mason rocks. She is clear and extremely motivational. The best Mooc ever!
  • Anonymous
    Excellent course, excellent teacher and excellent organization. The subject is really well developed and explained, with very interested additional resources.
    Congratulations to Professor Peggy Mason.
  • Anonymous
    My first MOOC - Dr Peggy Mason is amazing! Loved it.
  • Profile image for Yujin Yoona Chang
    Yujin Yoona Chang
    The brain has a magnificent power and my stery.
    Brain life cycle is working with orders and open to learning .
  • Profile image for Cassiano Rodrigues
    Cassiano Rodrigues
    This is an AMAZING course. It's complete, well taught, and very interesting. I wanted to study neurobiology to help me with neuromarketing and behavioral economics. This course taught me all I needed to know to move forward. Mason is incredible.
  • I’ m Hilal, from Istanbul. I studying neuro sciene. I’ m interested in biology also. I want to take the course because It seems like including rich content and very popular subject. I’m so excited for this couse.
  • Susan Flagstad
    Some of the material was challenging, but the course was always interesting. You'll find yourself calling on the information in your day to day life. This course is definitely worth your while.
  • Anonymous
    I completed this course recently. It's bit theory loaded, but I like the way how it is designed and divided into weeks fitting all basic aspects of brain neuroscience. Thankyou Professor Peggy Mason
  • Anonymous
    I completed this course recently. It's bit theory loaded, but I like the way how it is designed and divided into weeks fitting all basic aspects of brain neuroscience. Thankyou Professor Peggy Mason
  • this is really a very interesting course because we can understand how i the way like the brain funtion in difertents leves of the every day in the life of anybody
  • Anonymous
    Excellent course, Dr. Mason is clear & concise. Very understandable. I recommend this course to anybody that wants to understand how we function.
  • Anonymous
    Clear, interesting and motivating. I learned a lot without having any medical knowledge. It proved most useful for me as a teacher.
  • Francisco Javier Jiménez

Never Stop Learning.

Get personalized course recommendations, track subjects and courses with reminders, and more.