Because there is no neuroscience major at CWRU, students interested in neuroscience have the freedom to choose any major and design a program of study that focuses on neuroscience by taking courses in different departments. This page is intended to help!


Cognitive Neuroscience vs. Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, including the brain. Much of neuroscience focuses on molecular and cellular processes. Cognitive neuroscience is the study of how cognitive operations (and at CWRU, especially human higher-order cognitive operations) might be illuminated by the study of neurobiology. Such cognitive operations include learning, communication, social interaction, and conceptual mapping. A neuroscientist might study the pupillary light reflex in mice, while a cognitive neuroscientist might study ERP patterns related to decision-making or how the amygdalae respond when participants are exposed to literal versus metaphorical sentences. To see the difference, look at the table of contents of two premier journals in these areas, Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience.


Cognitive Neuroscience and the Department of Cognitive Science

Cognitive neuroscience is an important part of the field of cognitive science. Most courses in the cognitive science curriculum touch on cognitive neuroscience, by asking how brain processes might be related to advanced human cognition—in social thinking, art, science, religion, mathematical insight, scientific discovery, fashion, language, gesture, multimodal communication, decision-making, planning, and so on. This begins in Intro to Cognitive Science and continues through upper division electives. Take COGS courses on aspects of human cognition that interest you, and you will cover cognitive neuroscientific aspects of those topics.

How can I get into a PhD program in neuroscience without a degree in neuroscience?

Graduate programs care more about your training and research experience than they do about your major. To prepare for a PhD program, take the courses that give you training in neuroscience and/or cognitive neuroscience, get research experience with faculty members doing neuroscience, and take the time to think about what sort of research you want to do in this field.

It is also possible, though not necessary, to do a Dean’s Approved Major. Any student interested in developing for the BA a major of his or her own design may submit, before the end of the sophomore year, a program proposal for a Dean’s Approved Major to the Office of Undergraduate Studies. The Dean of Undergraduate Studies and the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences must approve any proposed Dean’s Approved Major. Thus, you can design a major in neuroscience or cognitive neuroscience. The first step in this process is to consult with the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.

How can I get research experience with faculty members doing work in the area of neuroscience?

The best way to form a relationship with these researchers is to take their courses. Positions in neuroscience labs are competitive, so start by researching faculty members, taking their courses, and talking to the faculty members about how to prepare for a research position.


What Courses Can I Take?

The following is a representative list of courses that would be valuable to students interested in neuroscience and/or cognitive neuroscience. Most of these courses have prerequisites, so work with your advisor to plan your program!


BIOL 302/COGS 322        Human Learning and the Brain

BIOL 314        Animal Cognition and Consciousness

BIOL 373        Introduction to Neurobiology

BIOL 374        Neurobiology of Behavior

BIOL 382        Drugs, Brain, and Behavior

BIOL 385        Seminar on Biological Processes in Learning and Cognition

The handout posted on this page is helpful for understanding which courses to take in which order:


COGS 102: Intro to cognitive neuroscience. NO PREREQUISITES. Any student with any major can take this course!


MATH 333. Mathematics and Brain

MATH 378: Computational Neuroscience


PHIL 363/463 Philosophy and Social Neuroscience


PSCL 350 – Behavior Genetics

PSCL 352 – Physiological Psychology

PSCL 379 – Neurodevelopmental Disabilities