Mind, Brain, Behavior

A First-Year Ampersand Program

Exploring the Human Consciousness

How do we think? What is human consciousness? What is the relationship between the mind, the brain, and behavior? During the past few decades, an explosive growth of knowledge in the cognitive sciences and neuroscience has begun to yield answers to fundamental mysteries about the nature of human thought. Students in this two-year program investigate theories, questions, and research findings emerging from this interdisciplinary area of study. 

The Mind, Brain, Behavior (MBB) program, which is open to incoming first-year students in the College of Arts & Sciences, is a unique program that engages students who share an interest in this area of study to create a lively intellectual and social community; to foster a culture of inquiry; and to enable students, early in their undergraduate career, to actively participate in research. The program is limited to 45 students each year to keep the discussions and classes small. Participation in MBB is fully compatible with all majors and pre-professional programs.

What Students Have to Say

Arvin Sarkissian

The MBB program will change the way you look at your instincts, make you question how accurate your own memories are, and even transform how you study for your other classes. You’ll be amazed by how some of the simplest experiment paradigms have revealed the most complex things about language, memory, and attention. Be warned: existential crises may occur!

Max Klapow

The Mind, Brain, Behavior Program pushes you to explore, question, and ultimately grasp some of the biggest questions of cognitive science, from “Why and how do we remember?” to “How and why do we speak?” Furthermore, the program is fundamentally designed to immerse students in the research culture of WashU. Not many freshman can say that they have the opportunity as an incoming sophomore to be placed in a lab with a mentor in area of our own choosing.

how to apply

The application process for first-year programs and seminars opens on Tuesday, May 15, at noon (CT) and closes on Tuesday, May 21, at noon (CT). There will be a link to the application webform on the First-Year Programs homepage during this time for you to sign up.

First-Year Programs homepage

Program Outline

First Year


MBB 120A Introduction to Study of the Mind-Brain: Psychological, Biological and Philosophical Perspectives

A consideration of three primary areas of research in cognitive science: attention, memory and language. These topics are used to illustrate the techniques by which mental abilities are investigated and explained in psychology and neuroscience: the focus, in particular, is on the use of reaction time studies, brain imaging and cell recordings to isolate the basic components that make up complex functions. In addition to the central concepts and theories in each area, the course addresses philosophical implications of this research concerning how the mind and brain are related, how the mind-brain encodes or represents information, and the nature of consciousness. And there is an emphasis on applying these findings to important problems, such as Alzheimer's disease and deficits due to brain damage. The class is taught by three members of the faculty from different disciplines and combines a whole-group lecture with small discussion classes. The goal is to give students a good understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science and to help them develop the ability to think and write critically about scientific research into the mind-brain.


MBB 122 Introduction to the Study of the Mind Brain II

In this course, participants in the Mind, Brain, Behavior program continue their exploration of cognitive science. We explore different frameworks for thinking about how the different branches of cognitive science relate to each other. The course contains an introduction to relevant topics in the philosophy of science and the philosophy of mind. 

Second Year 

In the sophomore year, students are able to undertake research under the supervision of a faculty member who serves as a research mentor for the MBB program. Sophomores may choose among several research options, each combining independent work with opportunities to work collaboratively. This research experience culminates in a research symposium held at the end of the spring semester, sophomore year.