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Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience

Program of Study


Upon admission, the student will be assigned an advisory committee chaired by a faculty member with research interests related to those of the entering student. Students should expect to spend the majority of their first year in laboratory work, with the assignment to specific laboratories guided by their advisory committees and the students’ expressed research preferences. Students who have not indicated a specific mentor will be guided to a series of laboratory experiences that will allow them to explore their interests, acquire information about specific research areas, and formulate and test specific research hypotheses. For each of these laboratory rotations, students will be expected to prepare a written Research Report as a prerequisite for the start of the next Rotation. To assist them in their laboratory choices, all entering students will attend an Introductory Research Colloquium (during Orientation week) that will include presentations by current students and selected faculty, and will also register for a first-semester Neuroscience Seminar course featuring Neuroscience faculty who are interested in sponsoring student research. The organization of training for entering students is designed to ensure that they identify an appropriate faculty Sponsor by the end of the first year.

In addition to their research work, all entering students will take an interdisciplinary course sequence in neuroscience. These courses, which are taught by faculty from the Neuroscience Doctoral Programs in Biology and Psychology and attended by students from both disciplines, will provide students with a common foundation in molecular, cellular systems, behavioral, and cognitive neuroscience. A continuing colloquium series “Advances in Neuroscience” provides an opportunity to hear about new research initiatives and to meet distinguished neuroscientists from other institutions. During the second year, students will take courses designed to provide more focused knowledge of specific research areas and methods.

Formal selection of a dissertation sponsor is followed by independent research with the sponsor and the selection of a dissertation committee that will replace the advisory committee. With the guidance of the dissertation sponsor and the dissertation committee, the student will prepare a dissertation proposal that will serve as the focus for the Second Doctoral Exam. Although additional specialized courses or tutorials may, in some cases, be helpful, passage of the Second Doctoral examination, sometime before or during the 5th semester, should mark the end of formal courses and qualify the student to focus training efforts on completion of their dissertation.

Core Curriculum:
Year 1:
Neuroscience I: Molecular, cellular and developmental basis of neuronal function.
Neuroscience II: Organization of functional systems mediating behavior and cognition.
• Laboratory Rotations
• Neuroscience Seminar Course
• Research Conduct and Responsibility

Year 2:
Advanced courses:
Behavioral Neuroscience
Cellular Neuroscience
Cognitive Neuroscience
Developmental Neuroscience
(A student will be expected to take 3 of these 4 courses)

Electives and other specialized training courses: The list below indicates some of the specialized courses available to doctoral students. Seminars are particularly important because they provide an opportunity for the student to read and critique recent original research papers. The trainee will choose electives in collaboration with his/her advisory committee.                                                                                                       
A sampling of elective courses and seminars
Animal Behavior I: Evolution
Animal Behavior II: Mechanisms
Animal Communication
Anatomy of Human Cognition
Behavioral Pharmacology
Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention
Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory Systems
Methods in Cognitive Neuroscience
Learning: Behavioral Mechanisms
Learning: Neural Mechanisms
Neural Mechanisms of Motivation
Neuroscience of Perception
Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience
Signal Processing for Neuroscientists
Seminar In Sensory Processing
Seminar in Motor Control
Seminar in Behavioral Neuroscience
Seminar in Cognitive Neuroscience