Tutorial 1: Basic Neuroscience


This tutorial first introduces basic neuroscience concepts, including the structure of neurons and how they communicate information, brain anatomy and the dorsal/ventral visual pathways, and methods for probing the behaviour of neural circuits. It then explores the nature of processing along the ventral pathway that is involved in visual recognition.


The two-streams hypothesis distinguishes two processing pathways in the brain: The ventral stream (also known as the “what pathway”) shown in purple and the dorsal stream (also known as the “where” pathway") shown in green. (Image © Wikipedia user Selket. License CC BY-SA. This content is excluded from our Creative Commons license. For more information, see https://ocw.mit.edu/help/faq-fair-use/)

Several background tutorials are included to complement the instruction and activities presented in the units. Most of the tutorials include video instruction as well as supplemental material and exercises for further study.

Materials for additional tutorials can be found at the Brains, Minds and Machines Summer Course website.

Unit Activities

Useful Background

  • No background is needed for this tutorial

Syllabus: Brains, Minds & Machines

Tutorial 1.1: Introduction to Visual Neuroscience

Description: Structure of neurons and how they communicate information, brain anatomy and dorsal/ventral visual pathways, and methods for probing the behavior of neural circuits. Processing along the ventral pathway involved in visual recognition.

Instructor: Leyla Isik

Click here for the tutorial transcript

Click here for the tutorial slides

Syllabus: Brains, Minds & Machines

Further Study

Basic neuroscience concepts and methods are introduced in several courses published on MIT OpenCourseWare, including 9.00SC Introduction to Psychology taught by John Gabrieli, 9.01 Introduction to Neuroscience taught by Mark Bear and Sebastian Seung, 9.04 Sensory Systems taught by Peter Schiller and Christian Brown, and 9.10 Cognitive Neuroscience taught by Suzanne Corkin.

An online search for any of the topics covered in this tutorial will yield many pointers to useful background material. The Society for Neuroscience hosts an Education Resources in Neuroscienceportal that contains extensive online resources for teaching and learning neuroscience. Educational resources can also be found on this Neuroscience Resource Guide page at Psychology Degree Guide website.

Syllabus: Brains, Minds & Machines