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Neuroscience Program

Program Director: Dr. David Weaver
Neuroscience Program Homepage

Neuroscience investigators focus on:

  • the neural, molecular, and genetic mechanisms that underlie nervous system development, learning and memory, addiction, glial responses to neuronal injury, and circadian rhythmicity; 
  • mechanisms of synaptic neurotransmitter release, analysis of how neurotransmitter receptors and membrane channels operate, and how drugs act on these processes to modify cellular function and behavior; 
  • magnetic resonance imaging technology to study and map changes in the brain associated with physiological stimuli as well as drugs of abuse; and 
  • disorders of the central nervous system, with special emphasis on neurodegenerative disorders, autism spectrum disorders, mental retardation and other developmental disabilities. 

The Program in Neuroscience has grown significantly since 2001. Key events in the expansion of neuroscience investigation on campus have been the formation of the Department of Neurobiology and the opening of the Irving S. and Betty Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute (BNRI) within the Department of Psychiatry. Both facilities allowed recruitment of new faculty, allowing rapid expansion. A simultaneous increase in the number of graduate students admitted to the GSBS further fueled rapid expansion in the program. Faculty recruitment has continued at the BNRI and in the Department of Neurobiology, and through the recent recruitment of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, as chair and professor of neurology. The Program in Neuroscience is interdepartmental, administered under the umbrella of the Department of Neurobiology. Participating faculty have primary appointments in several departments, with the largest concentration of faculty coming from the Departments of Neurobiology, Psychiatry, Cell Biology, Physiology and Neurology. The program maintains a schedule of seminars and intramural research presentations that ensures a cohesive program. This atmosphere is especially conducive to the scientific growth of graduate students obtaining their degrees in neuroscience.

Requirements for Specialization 

Graduate students who specialize in neuroscience will acquire a broad background in the concepts of contemporary neuroscience, gain exposure to state-of-the-art techniques and will be provided with a foundation in the function of the nervous system through an integrated program of advanced coursework, laboratory research, and seminar and journal club attendance.

All GSBS graduate students within the BBS division must complete the Biomedical Sciences Core Curriculum and at least three laboratory rotations in the first year. In the second year, students select the faculty mentor who will supervise thesis research. The Qualifying Exam is also taken in the second year of study. Thesis Research Advisory Committee meetings are required annually during thesis research. Tracking courses are used to monitor completion of the Qualifying Exam and annual Thesis Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) meeting.

In addition to the GSBS core curriculum, students in the Program in Neuroscience are required to take at least three Advanced Topics courses during their graduate career, of which one must be Introduction to Neuroscience. This introductory course is usually taken in the spring of the first year and covers topics ranging from development to ionic mechanisms underlying neuronal excitability to systems underlying cognition and behavior, and is designed to prepare students for specialized study in Advanced Topics courses. Several Advanced Topics courses are offered by program faculty each semester. Courses offered by other graduate programs can also be taken to meet the Advanced Topics course requirements. The Advance Topics courses are selected to yield a program of study tailored to meet the needs of each student.

Program in Neuroscience students are expected to attend the weekly Neuroscience Program Seminar Series lectures, featuring visiting experts from outside the university, and to participate in a seminar series in their home department. Students are also required to enroll in Journal Club in Neuroscience for at least two semesters. One presentation in Journal Club is usually used to meet the GSBS Teaching Requirement. Another way to satisfy the Teaching Requirement is to give a presentation in a departmental seminar series.