Focus Program

Duke's Focus Program for first-year students provides clusters of courses designed around an interdisciplinary theme. Students explore such issues as engineering and the urban environment, the performing arts, genomics, migration and globalization, global health, and social ideals. Focus faculty from diverse academic departments are leading researchers in their fields. Focus faculty come from academic departments in Arts & Sciences, Medicine, and Engineering and are leading researchers in their fields. Topics for study include several themes that draw from the Linguistics Program, including Cognitive Neuroscience, Law, Modeling in Economic and Social Sciences.

Cognitive Neuroscience and Law

Cognitive Neuroscience and Law offers an introduction to several important aspects of the study of the brain. This cluster will include courses that include the basic principles of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology and neurochemical processes, as well as a focus on the neurofunctionality of brain and language, including how the brain enables us to understand language, disorders of the brain that impair language comprehension, how individuals acquire and maintain their first and subsequent languages, and how recent advances in brain imaging technology have improved our ability to understand the relationship of brain and language. In addition, our cluster will study the intersection of law and neuroscience; how recent advances in understanding and studying the brain have affected issues fundamental to the legal system, such as criminal intent, insanity, and truthfulness. This cluster should appeal to anyone curious about how the brain is structured, how it works, how we study it, how it produces and comprehends language, and how our understanding of the brain influences our judgments on issues of legal responsibility for our actions.


  • Linguistics 216FS/Neuroscience 116FS — Neuroscience and Human Language (NS, SS)

  • Linguistics 212FS/Public Policy 250FS/ Science and Society 212FS — Law, Ethics and Responsibility (EI, STS, SS)

  • Neuroscience 121FS/Linguistic 121FS/Psychology 121FS: Sleep in Society: History, Culture, and Medicine (SS, NS, CCI)

  • Neuroscience 153FS/ Public Policy 185FS/ Science and Society 153FS — Drugs and the Law (SS)