Harvard Summer Program in Trento, Italy

June 4, 2016 to July 31, 2016
Apply by: 
January 28, 2016

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, you have the opportunity to learn about cognitive science research by participating in experiments, and attending talks and presentations organized at the research center.

You enroll in two 4-week courses. Instruction is in English. Courses generally run Monday through Thursday with Fridays dedicated to program outings. During the program, you 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 you 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, you 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).

In the first half of the program, you take the course MBB S-101. During the second half, you will take MBB S-98. 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-98 Study Abroad in Trento, Italy: Inside the Minds (and Brains) of Other Animals ( 33584)

Giorgio Vallortigara

4 credits
UN Limited enrollment.

Studies on the developmental origins of human knowledge suggest that cognition does not arise as a blank slate. On the contrary, the human mind appears to be built on a set of core knowledge systems that represent significant aspects of the environment such as physical objects, living beings, spatial relationships, and number. Core knowledge systems are evolutionarily ancient, and they can be investigated from a comparative perspective. The course focuses on the evidence showing precocious abilities in nonhuman species to represent inert objects with their basic mechanical properties, the cardinal and ordinal aspects of numerical cognition, the geometrical relationships among spatial surfaces, and the statistical regularities of environmental stimuli. Studies suggest that the abilities associated with core knowledge systems of objects, number, and geometry are observed in animals in the absence of (or with very reduced) experience, thus supporting an innate foundation of such cognitive mechanisms.

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


The application deadline has passed.

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

You 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 28, 2016:

  • 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 (Harvard students may submit an unofficial transcript accessed from my.harvard.edu.)
  • Letter(s) of recommendation from a current or most recent teacher or advisor, mailed to the Study Abroad Office (Study Abroad Office, 51 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA 02138) or e-mailed in PDF format directly from the recommender to HarvardTrento@gmail.com:
    • Harvard College applicants should submit one recommendation
    • Non-Harvard applicants are asked to submit two letters of recommendation

Program directors may ask for interviews.

You will be notified of admission decisions by mid- to late-February.


There is a nonrefundable $50 application fee. The program cost includes the following:

  • Tuition
  • Room and most meals
  • Field trips

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

  • A health insurance fee (waived if you 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.


You 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

Students with disabilities

Contact the Accessibility Services Office as soon as possible. See Students in Need of Accommodations for more information.


  • John A. Assad, PhD, Professor of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School
  • Alfonso Caramazza, PhD, Daniel and Amy Starch Professor of Psychology, Harvard University and Visiting Research Professor, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento
  • Giorgio Vallortigara, Professor, Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento