MIT: Independent Activities Period: IAP

IAP 2017 Activities by Category - Philosophy, Linguistics, and Cognitive Science

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A Look Inside the Human Brain using Modern Imaging Technologies

Dimitrios Pantazis, Director of MEG Lab

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Limited to 30 participants
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

Modern imaging technologies at MIT and MGH provide exciting new ways to understand the structure and function of the human brain. We will provide guided tours of our imaging facilities and show how we use these tools to look inside the brain. Our magnetoencephalography (MEG) system, capable of measuring magnetic fields a billionth of the magnetic field of earth, can record the simultaneous firing of thousands of cortical neurons as they form dynamic networks.  Our magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners provide high resolution images of the human brain as subjects perform a wide range of perceptual and cognitive tasks. Our positron emission tomography (PET) scanners can identify and localize specific molecules in the brain, revealing pathologies that may underlie many different brain disorders. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive method that uses electromagnetic induction to create weak electric currents and cause depolarization or hyperpolarization in the neurons of the brain. Near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) uses infrared light to illuminate tissue and infer brain activity through the diffusion and scattering of this light. We will introduce these technologies, offer lab tours and demonstrate data collection, and discuss their contribution to neuroscience.

Contact: Dimitrios Pantazis, 46-5147, 617 324-6292, PANTAZIS@MIT.EDU

Seminar on Magnetoencephalography

Jan/18 Wed 02:00PM-03:30PM 46-3015

Electrophysiological basis of MEG signals; instrumentation; modeling; cortical rhythms; brain networks; combining MEG with fMRI, studying the human visual system. 

Dimitrios Pantazis - Director of MEG Lab, Dimitris Pinotsis - Visiting Scientist, Yalda Mohsenzadeh - Postdoctoral Associate

A tour at the MEG Lab

Jan/18 Wed 03:30PM-04:30PM 46-1147

A tour at the MEG Lab, demo scan and data analysis of an MEG experiment

MEG Lab:

Dimitrios Pantazis - Director of MEG Lab, Yalda Mohsenzadeh - Postdoctoral Associate

Seminar on Positron Emission Tomography

Jan/19 Thu 02:00PM-03:00PM 46-3015

Seminar on Positron Emission Technology. Introduction to PET technology and scanners at MGH; applications in tumor detection; brain metabolic activity; gene expression; neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer¿s and Parkinson's; pharmacology etc.

Quanzheng Li - Assistant Professor

Seminar on Near Infrared Spectroscopy

Jan/19 Thu 03:00PM-04:00PM 46-3015

Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) instrumentation, principles of light scattering and absorption, imaging of oxygenated hemoglobin, NIRS applications.

Juliette Selb - Instructor

Seminar on Transcranial Magnetic Stim.

Jan/19 Thu 04:00PM-05:00PM 46-3015

Use of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation to depolarize and hyperpolarize neurons of the brain, applications to treat depression and examine basic mechanisms of post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, among others. The seminar will include a demo of the MGH TMS system!

Aapo Nummenmaa - Instructor

Seminar on Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Jan/20 Fri 03:00PM-04:30PM 46-3015

Topics include MRI instrumentation, magnetic fields, safety, functional imaging with BOLD response, diffusion imaging, and others.

Anastasia Yendiki - Assistant Professor, Sheeba Arnold Anteraper - MR Programmer

A tour at the MRI Lab

Jan/20 Fri 04:30PM-05:30PM 46-1171

A tour at the MRI lab. Demo scan (finger tapping) and data analysis.

MRI Lab:

Steven P Shannon - Operations Manager and MR Research Technologist, Sheeba Arnold Anteraper - MR Programmer

AI, Mass Automation, and the Evolution of Human Dignity

Andrew Kortina, Co-Founder, Fin and Venmo

Enrollment: Unlimited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 12/29
Attendance: Participants must attend all sessions

Civilizations from the ancient Greeks to our own have looked at work as one of the primary sources of meaning and dignity in life. Perhaps it has been useful evolutionarily to esteem work over hedonism, but if we imagine a world of super-technology, where there is no need for most humans to work to provide for the survival of the species, how will our concepts of human dignity shift?

In this class, we'll consider various perspectives on this question, and the class will culminate in an essay, story, or video that explores the future of dignity in a (perhaps dystopian) world of abundance.


Video Essay: Humans Need Not Apply

Essay: Free Will, Technodeterminism, and Panache 

Essay: "They Say the #1 Killer of Old People is Retirement."

Classical Perspectives:

Excerpts from Homer's Iliad and Odyssey

Plato's Apology

Work, Art, Play:

Film: Jiro Dreams of Sushi 

The Tibetan Sand Mandala

Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Alan Watts, Play and Dance

Full syllabus, prep questions, and signup here:

Sponsor(s): Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Contact: Andrew Kortina,

Jan/12 Thu 12:00PM-02:00PM 4-153
Jan/13 Fri 12:00PM-02:00PM 4-153

Andrew Kortina - Co-Founder, Fin and Venmo

Conditional Logic and Belief Revision

Ginger Schultheis and David Boylan

Jan/30 Mon 11:00AM-01:00PM 32-D461
Jan/31 Tue 11:00AM-01:00PM 32-D461

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

This course is an introduction to the logic of conditionals and the logic of belief revision.  We explain how formal tools familiar from conditional logic have been used to give models of belief revision.  We will also show that the logical properties that these systems share raise interesting philosophical questions about natural language conditionals, about how we should revise our beliefs in the face of new information, and about the relationship between these two areas of study.

Sponsor(s): Linguistics and Philosophy
Contact: Ginger Schultheis,


Ruth Levitsky

Feb/02 Thu 12:30PM-01:30PM 4-237

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

Move over spelling bee. Just because you can spell a word doesn’t mean you know how to use it. From the editors of The American Heritage Dictionary comes the Define-a-Thon, a competitive word challenge.

Come see the best definers at MIT. Open to all in the MIT community: students, staff, faculty.

To compete, sign up here:

Audience members who are not competing, just drop in.  No need to sign up.  

Our word caller is Toastmaster Mary Agnes Mullowney.




Contact: Ruth Levitsky, E52-415, 617 253-3399, LEVITSKY@MIT.EDU

Developing Brain-Computer Interfaces for Art and Well-Being

Grace Leslie, Visiting Scientist, MIT Media Lab

Enrollment: Limited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/06
Limited to 15 participants
Attendance: Participants must attend all sessions
Prereq: None required, but cognitive science or programming helpful

This project-based course will provide students with a basic understanding of neurofeedback and brain-computer interface systems using EEG (electroencephalography).  Lectures will cover the design of brain-computer interface (BCI) systems, an introduction to EEG sensing and analysis, design of real-time generative media feedback, and applications of BCI for healthy and physically or neurologically disabled users. Students from complementary disciplines will be assigned to groups of 3 for hands-on development projects working towards the creation of a new BCI concept. Projects will be completed using Max/MSP and Jitter using custom software frameworks developed for the class; hacking and contribution will be encouraged!


There are no specific prerequisites, but students with experience in one of the following areas are encouraged to apply: cognitive science, computer programming for digital media, real-time digital music or video software.

Sponsor(s): MIT-SUTD Collaboration
Contact: Grace Leslie,

Jan/09 Mon 09:00AM-12:00PM E15-341 (TBC), bring laptop w/Bluetooth.
Jan/11 Wed 09:00AM-12:00PM E15-341 (TBC), bring laptop w/Bluetooth.
Jan/13 Fri 09:00AM-12:00PM E15-341 (TBC), bring laptop w/Bluetooth.
Jan/18 Wed 09:00AM-12:00PM E15-341 (TBC), bring laptop w/Bluetooth.
Jan/20 Fri 09:00AM-12:00PM E15-341 (TBC), bring laptop w/Bluetooth.

Helpful to download Max/MSP 30-day trial and try it out before class starts.

Formal Methods in Epistemology

Kevin Dorst

Jan/23 Mon 11:00AM-12:30PM 32-D461
Jan/24 Tue 11:00AM-12:30PM 32-D461

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants must attend all sessions

A crash course in two of the most prominent formal systems used in epistemology: probability theory and epistemic logic. The first part introduces the basics of probability theory as a tool for studying rational belief, with an eye towards examples and intuitive understanding. The second part introduces models of epistemic logic as a tool for studying agents' beliefs about themselves and others, with an eye towards extensions and applications. Throughout, emphasis will be placed on the presuppositions, scope, and limitations of formalism as a tool for philosophy.

Sponsor(s): Linguistics and Philosophy
Contact: Kevin Dorst,

Interdisciplinary Research: A Case Study of History and Philosophy of Science

Marion Boulicault

Jan/11 Wed 10:00AM-11:30AM 32-D831

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

Why does interdisciplinary research matter? What are the best ways to do interdisciplinary research? And what are some the challenges? This short course will explore the nature of interdisciplinary research by examining case studies in the history and philosophy of science.

Sponsor(s): Linguistics and Philosophy
Contact: Marion Boulicault,

Introduction to Epistemic Game Theory

Cosmo Grant

Jan/25 Wed 11:00AM-12:30PM 32-D461
Jan/26 Thu 11:00AM-12:30PM 32-D461

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

In epistemic game theory, you aim to supplement the traditional description of a game (payoff matrix etc.) with a description of the players' states of mind. What does that involve? Well, for example, you could describe the players' beliefs about the other players' strategies, or about the structure of the game, or about the other players’ rationality, or, circularly, about the other players’ beliefs about any of these things.

You then aim to connect the players' states of mind with their behavior in a game: for example, if the players' have such-and-such properties, they will play such-and-such strategies. Thus epistemic game theory sheds light on solution concepts like Nash equilibrium, a traditional analytical tool in game theory, and takes a decision-theoretic perspective on a game-theoretic situation, raising lots of philosophical issues along the way.

We'll look at some standard ways to model the players' states of mind, define some key epistemic and game-theoretic concepts, and look at a couple of landmark results.

Sponsor(s): Linguistics and Philosophy
Contact: Cosmo Grant,

LaTeX Made Easier

Kevin Richardson

Feb/01 Wed 11:00AM-12:30PM 32-D831

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

Due to popular demand, a tutorial on LaTeX. I go through the basics of using LaTeX (the professional-looking typesetting thing used for most MIT handouts) for philosophy handouts/papers. Coverage includes:

* The what and why of LaTeX (its grounds and so on...)
* How to create a bare-bones paper and handout
* Margin notes!
* Using BibTeX and other bibliography packages
* Logic/math environments
* Converting LaTeX to Word Doc and other formats

In short, I save you time otherwise spent Googling how to do X in LaTeX.

Sponsor(s): Linguistics and Philosophy
Contact: Kevin Richardson,

Lecture: Music, Mind, and Brain

Peter Cariani, HST Affiliated - Lecturer & Course Director, HST.725

Jan/25 Wed 07:00PM-09:00PM E25-111

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up

In this lecture we will present a concise overview of the psychology of music.


Sponsor(s): Health Sciences
Contact: Peter Cariani,

MIT Heavy Metal 101

Joe Diaz

Jan/09 Mon 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Jan/12 Thu 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Jan/17 Tue 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Jan/19 Thu 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Jan/23 Mon 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Jan/26 Thu 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Jan/30 Mon 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149
Feb/02 Thu 05:30PM-06:30PM 4-149

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions

Not Metallurgy! This veteran crash-course returns this year and will have you head banging, air guitaring, and devil horn raising in no time! Learn everything you ever wanted to know about Heavy Metal, including why Metallica tries too hard to be cool, why ballads never were, and why Lemmy IS God (RIP). We'll watch some video clips, look at metal culture, and listen to some SCREAMING HEAVY METAL! This is guaranteed to be the most BRUTAL class ever offered at MIT!

Anyone is welcome to join, but seating is limited. Learn more about this series at 

Heavy Metal 101: Music and Culture
Monday January 9, 2017

MIT Heavy Metal 101 Presents Tim Ma
Thursday January 12, 2017

History of Heavy Metal: Part I
Tuesday January 17, 2017

MIT Heavy Metal 101 Presents Paul Buckley and Haydee Irizarry
Thursday January 19, 2017

History of Heavy Metal: Part II
Monday January 23, 2017

MIT Heavy Metal 101 Presents Görebläster Körpse-härvest Lunden
Thursday January 26, 2017

History of Heavy Metal: Part III
Monday January 30, 2017

MIT Heavy Metal 101 Presents Matt Zappa
Thursday February 2, 2017

Contact: Joe Diaz, JDIAZ@MIT.EDU

MITing of the Minds 2017

Nathaniel Baron-Schmitt, Philosophy Graduate Student

Enrollment: Unlimited: No advance sign-up
Attendance: Participants welcome at individual sessions
Prereq: none

This year’s MITing of the Minds is the Thirteenth Annual MIT Philosophy Alumni Conference. The conference will showcase recent work in a variety of areas of contemporary philosophy. Presentations will be accessible to a broad audience.

Sponsor(s): Linguistics and Philosophy
Contact: Christine Graham, 32-D808, 617 253-4653, CGRAHAM@MIT.EDU

MITing of The Minds

Feb/02 Thu 10:30AM-06:00PM 32-D461
Feb/03 Fri 09:30AM-04:00PM 32-D461

Please see website for complete details:

Planners Read Plato's "Gorgias"

Ezra Glenn

Jan/10 Tue 10:00AM-01:00PM 9-217, books provided

Enrollment: Unlimited: Advance sign-up required
Sign-up by 01/05

What is the role of oratory and power in a democratic society? Is it worse to do wrong or to be wronged? What is the difference between knowledge and true belief? Why is it important for both the accused and their judges to meet naked in court? (And what do all of these questions have to do with becoming an urban planner?) Come explore these themes with us in a participatory -- possibly dramatic -- reading of Plato's "Gorgias," a Socratic dialog written in 380 BC that is as relevant today as when it was written. Books provided; Greek food included; togas optional. 

Note: this is mostly an opportunity to actually read this wonderful and thought-provoking book with others, not a lecture; come prepared to read and take part, and we'll see how far we get.

Sponsor(s): Urban Studies and Planning
Contact: Ezra Glenn, 7-337, x3-2024,