Harvard Summer Program in Trento, Italy

Study neuroscience through the Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative

Faculty: Alfonso Caramazza and additional faculty

This eight-week program at the Center for Mind/Brain Sciences (CIMeC), University of Trento, Italy, provides a unique opportunity to study the mind/brain.

Taught by faculty from Harvard and the University of Trento, the courses include lectures and hands-on laboratory sessions (e.g., neuroimaging demonstrations). Depending on the demand, the program may also include a noncredit Italian language class. In addition to courses, students have the opportunity to learn about cognitive science research by participating in experiments, and by attending talks and presentations organized at the research center.

Students enroll in two four-week courses. Instruction is in English. Courses generally run Monday through Thursday with Fridays dedicated to program outings. During the program, students receive housing and a meal plan at the University of Trento, where they have the opportunity to interact with Italian students.

Program outings and trips are designed to immerse students in Italian culture and tradition. There are hikes in the Italian Alps, a weekend getaway on Lake Garda (Italy’s largest lake), and day and overnight trips to nearby cities such as Verona, Venice, and Florence. On free weekends, students can organize additional trips to nearby lakes (Lake Caldonazzo, Lake Levico, or Lake Garda) or to explore other popular destinations in Italy (in the past students visited Milan, Rome, and Tuscany).

Course of study

All students must take MBB S-101 in the first half of the program and then choose from one of two courses. The noncredit Italian course described above would meet twice a week from the first week of classes until the end of July (seven weeks).

MBB S-96 Study Abroad in Trento, Italy: The Social Brain (33301)

Paul E. Downing
Marius V. Peelen
(4 credits: UN) Limited enrollment.

Human beings are social creatures. We spend much of our time in the company of other people, whose behaviour is complex, often unpredictable, and highly relevant to our own daily lives. Making sense of all of this places strong demands on the "social brain," a set of interwoven systems that continuously (and often unconsciously) seeks answers to questions like: Is anyone there? Who is there? What are they doing? What are they looking at? What are they feeling? In this course, students learn about the brain systems that ask and answer these questions, with a focus on findings from human neuroimaging studies. The course consists of lectures, reading research articles, and a large practical part in which students learn the basics of performing a neuroimaging experiment on social vision.

Prerequisite: MBB S-101 or equivalent

MBB S-97 Study Abroad in Trento, Italy: The Evolutionary and Developmental Origins of Cognition (33302)

Sang Ah Lee
(4 credits: UN) Limited enrollment.

How much of our cognitive capacities do we share with other animals? What representations do we possess early in life and how do we begin to build more complex concepts from them? This course provides an introduction to evolutionary and developmental approaches to studying cognitive processes and their neural correlates. We begin with an overview of several domains of specific representations, and then focus in on the domain of spatial navigation, for a more in-depth study of its behavioral, cognitive, and neural underpinnings in both humans and various nonhuman animals.

Prerequisite: MBB S-101 or equivalent

MBB S-101 Study Abroad in Trento, Italy: Windows into the Structure of the Mind and Brain (33300)

Alfonso Caramazza
John A. Assad
(4 credits: UN) Limited enrollment.

The mind/brain can be studied at multiple levels of description and with various methodologies. The course reviews methods from psycholinguistics to neuroimaging, and from computational modeling to cellular and clinical neuroscience. Each method is illustrated through laboratory demonstrations. This course is mandatory for all program participants, and it is meant to provide the neuroscience and cognitive science foundation necessary to explore specific topics in the field.

Prerequisite: none.

Course credit

See Study Abroad Credit Information.


Alfonso Caramazza, PhD, Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and Visiting Research Professor, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento
Paul E. Downing, PhD, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Bangor University, UK
Sang Ah Lee, PhD, Assistant Professor, Center for Mind, Brain Sciences, University of Trento
John A. Assad, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
Marius V. Peelen, PhD, Assistant Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento


Before applying, review the Admission and Policies and FAQs pages.

The application period has now closed.

Students must be at least 18 years old and have completed at least one year of college or be a first-year student in good academic standing to apply.

The application materials, outlined below, are due January 29, 2015:

  • A completed online application that includes:
    • A $50 nonrefundable application fee
    • A personal statement of interest in the program, including information on relevant coursework and travel experience abroad (previous travel is not a prerequisite)
    • Transcripts (student record accepted for Harvard students)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from a current or most recent teacher or advisor, mailed to the Study Abroad Office (Study Abroad Office, Room 525, 51 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138) or e-mailed in PDF format directly from the recommender to trento@wjh.harvard.edu:
    • Harvard College applicants should submit one recommendation
    • Non-Harvard applicants are asked to submit two letters of recommendation

Program directors may ask for interviews.

Students are notified of admission decisions by mid-February.


There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The cost of the program is $7,750 and includes the following:

  • Tuition
  • Room and most meals
  • Field trips

In addition to the program fee, students are responsible for:

  • A health insurance fee (waived if students have US insurance that provides coverage outside the United States)
  • Transportation to and from Trento
  • Independent excursions
  • The cost of passports and visas (if the latter is needed)
  • Any immunizations

Suggested budget

See a sample budget for estimated expenses.

How to pay and funding options

See Payment and Funding for payment deadlines, deposit amounts, and more information, including funding options for Harvard College students.


Students receive on-campus housing at the University of Trento. Accommodations include single and double rooms. There is access to lounge areas and kitchens in the individual entryways. Laundry facilities are also available on site.

Additional information

Contact Eva Strausberg Naldini at trento@wjh.harvard.edu.

Information session

December 4, 4–5 pm
William James Hall, room 105

Students with disabilities

Students should contact the disability services coordinator as soon as possible. See Students with Disabilities for more information.