Program Details

The course centres on questions about the nature of human cognition, how we explain it and the impact on psychiatry and the concept of mental disorder.
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Program Type:
Study Abroad
Degree Level:

Program Overview

Program Description:

The latest research in cognitive science is revealing that cognitive phenomena such as spatial navigation, action perception and emotional understanding all depend on the human body: not only the body’s morphological, biological and physiological make-up, but also how it actively engages with a structured natural, technological or social environment. Meanwhile, an increasing number of studies in cognitive neuroscience suggest that brains are ‘protean’, continuously adjusting their functions in response to physiological and environmental changes. In a very profound way, it appears that human cognition is shaped and structured by the body and features of our socio-cultural environment. What impact does this have on our understanding of cognitive function and dysfunction?

This three-part summer course focuses on recent debates about the nature of human cognition and our efforts to explain it. How do these debates impact our understanding of mental disorder? 

In Part 1: Embodied and Extended Cognition, you will home in on the cognitive processes involved in solving a multiplication problem. Is this down to neuronal processes alone? Can eye movement, posture and the use of a calculator be seen as part of the cognitive system that solves the problem? You will consider philosophical arguments and empirical evidence for the hypothesis that cognitive systems are dynamically constituted by brain, body and environment.

Part 2: Mechanistic Explanation looks at the increasingly prevalent idea that cognitive neuroscientists provide mechanistic explanations of cognitive phenomena. This sparks a discussion of the mechanistic explanatory strategy and whether it can be applied to extended cognitive systems. 

Part 3 looks at Psychiatry and Mental Disorder. You will assess the DSM-ICD psychiatric classification framework and the many issues associated with it before going on to examine the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) initiative, launched by the National Institute of Mental Health and aimed at transforming the DSM-ICD into an objective biological system that conceptualizes mental disorders as brain dysfunctions. You will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these approaches, utilizing the insights and ideas you acquired in the first week. 

The course centres on questions about the nature of human cognition, how we explain it and the impact on psychiatry and the concept of mental disorder. These are key themes in the Philosophy of Neuroscience track, a joint initiative by the VU University Medical Center Amsterdam and VU Amsterdam’s Department of Philosophy.

Setting Description:
With over 180 unique nationalities, Amsterdam is a melting pot of cultures and embraces different cultures, religions, and lifestyles. 165 canals criss-cross the entire city, giving it its nickname ‘Venice of the North.’ The city also features more bikes than inhabitants! With a bustling creative industry, Amsterdam offers plenty of cultural activities and events throughout the year. In Amsterdam you can benefit from the advantages of a big city with enough quiet spots to kick back and relax.
1150 EUR. The tuition fee includes: • Airport pick-up service • Welcome goodie bag • Orientation programme • Course excursions • On-site support • Emergency assistance • Transcript of records after completion of the course

Additional Program Information

Scholarships Description:
The VU Amsterdam Summer School offers ten scholarships that cover the full tuition and housing fees of one course. Information about how to apply for the scholarship will be posted on the VU Amsterdam Summer School website.