CWRU now offers as BS in Neuroscience, a great choice for students interested in the molecular and cellular processes of the nervous system. Some students may want to choose a different major, and design a program of study that focuses on neuroscience by taking courses in different departments. This page is intended to help students interested generally in the brain choose a path. Here’s a quick list of some good options.
- BS in Neuroscience (link will be added when major page is created)
- BA in Cognitive Science, with coursework focused on neuroscience (see course list below)
- A major in Psychology, Art History, Spanish, Theater, Biology, etc., with coursework focused on neuroscience
- BS in Neuroscience and a BA in something else, via the “secondary major”, a type of double major that combines a BS with a BA.)
- A Dean’s Approved Major (see below), for example, one designed as Cognitive Neuroscience
A good starting point is understanding the difference between neuroscience and cognitive neuroscience.
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 (101) and Intro to Cognitive Neuroscience (102) 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.
Can I get into a PhD program in neuroscience without a degree in neuroscience?
Yes. 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.
What if I want a degree in cognitive neuroscience?
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 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!
NEUR 166: Explorations in Neuroscience (1 credit)
NEUR 201: Fundamentals of Neuroscience I (3 credits)
NEUR 202: Fundamentals of Neuroscience II (3 credits)
BIOL 373: Intro to Neurobiology (3 credits)
BIOL 322: Sensory Biology (3 credits)
BIOL 358: Animal Behavior (3 credits)
BIOL 374: Neurobiology of Behavior
NEUR 301: Biological Mechanisms of Brain Disorders (3 credits)
PSCL 350: Behavior Genetics (3 credits)
BIOL 302: Human Learning and the Brain (3 credits)
BIOL 378: Computational Neuroscience (3 credits)
BIOL 385: Seminar on Biological Processes in Learning and Cognition (3 credits)
PSCL 101: General Psychology (3 credits)
PSCL 352: Physiological Psychology (3 credits)
PSCL 379: Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (3 credits)
COGS 102: Introduction To Cognitive Neuroscience (3 credits)
COGS 201: Human Cognition in Evolution and Development (3 credits)
COGS 305: Social Cognition and the Brain (3 credits)
COSI 305: Neuroscience of Communication and Communication Disorders (3 credits)
COSI 357: Acquired Neurogenic Communication Disorders (3 credits)
PHIL 311: Neuroethics (3 credits)
PHIL 366: Brain, Mind and Consciousness (3 credits)
MATH 333: Math and Brain (3 credits)