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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2020-21

Major in Neuroscience

Neuroscience is a broad interdisciplinary field requiring a rigorous preparation in basic science. Students in this discipline are expected to understand basic principles of neuroscience, cell biology and statistics. They are also expected to gain competency in calculus, chemistry, physics or computer science. These prerequisites are fundamental to understanding contemporary experimental methods in neuroscience.

Required courses are intended to provide a strong background for the broad spectrum of neuroscience, which spans molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral, and cognitive components. Then, students are expected to choose a set of electives that will lead them towards a broad understanding of the neuroscience field, as well as techniques used by neuroscientists to study the brain. With this background students are encouraged to engage in a research project with a specific emphasis in neuroscience. Many of the elective courses are offered through the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, but courses can be taken through other departments depending upon the area of specialization. For example electives in Computer Science and Mathematics could be selected that emphasize computational methods. Alternatively, a student might choose electives, including advanced seminars or independent research, that emphasize cell or molecular biology. A list of approved electives is available on the PBS website, and with permission of the Neuroscience Steering Committee, other courses that are appropriate given the student's area of specialization may be taken for elective credit.

A central mission of the major is to encourage students to work closely with sponsoring faculty to learn experimental methods in neuroscience. Students fulfill their culminating experience by either conducting research in neuroscience under the direction of a faculty advisor or taking an upper level seminar with an emphasis in neuroscience. Faculty in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences provide a core resource for research opportunities for students; however, neuroscience research opportunities for undergraduate majors also involve faculty in the School of Medicine, the Thayer Engineering School, and other departments within the College of Arts and Sciences, subject to approval by the Neuroscience Steering Committee.

Potential majors are encouraged to begin planning their course of study by the end of their first year. Information concerning course requirements, transfer credit, checklists, along with a worksheet to help in planning your schedule can be viewed on the PBS website. Sign-up for courses requiring permission is also handled through the PBS department website starting in May of the prior academic year in which the course will be taught.

Degree Requirements

Prerequisites - (6 Courses)

  1. PSYC 6 Introduction to Neuroscience
  2. PSYC 10 Experimental Design, Methodology, and Data Analysis Procedures or BIOL 29 Biostatistics
  3. Any 4 of the following 11 courses, with at least one course from each category:
  1. Category 1:
    CHEM 5 General Chemistry
    CHEM 6 General Chemistry
    PHYS 3 General Physics I
    PHYS 4 General Physics II
  2. Category 2:
    ENGS 20 Introduction to Scientific Computing
    COSC 1 Introduction to Programming and Computation
    COSC 10 Problem Solving via Object-Oriented Programming
    COSC 31 Algorithms (Formerly COSC 25)
    MATH 3 Introduction to Calculus
    MATH 4 Applications of Calculus to Medicine and Biology
    MATH 8 Calculus of Functions of One and Several Variables


  • Prerequisite courses may be taken NRO except PSYC 6, PSYC 10, and BIOL 29
  • Students must obtain a grade no lower than a C in PSYC 6. Students who fail to obtain a C or better in PSYC 6 may still complete the major in the event that they earn a C or better in their next two Neuroscience courses.


Required – (8 courses including 4 core courses and 4 electives)

Core Courses

  1. PSYC 35 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience (previously offered as PSYC 46), or BIOL 12 Cell Structure and Function and BIOL 13 Gene Expression and Inheritance 

  2. PSYC 36 Systems Neuroscience with Laboratory (previously offered as PSYC 65)

  3. PSYC 37 Behavioral Neuroscience (previously offered as PSYC 45)

  4. PSYC 38 Cognitive Neuroscience (previously offered as PSYC 27) or PSYC 28 Cognitive Psychology.

Elective Courses

Four electives from the approved list on the PBS website,  With permission of the Neuroscience Steering Committee, other courses that are appropriate given the student’s area of specialization may be taken for elective credit.  Of the four electives taken for neuroscience major credit, two of them must be at the 40s level or higher.  PSYC 90, PSYC 91.01, and PSYC 91.02 cannot fulfill the requirement for two electives at the 40s level or higher.



  • Students who elect to take the BIOL 12/BIOL 13 sequence to satisfy their cellular/molecular neuroscience requirement can take PSYC 35 as one of the four elective credits.

  • Students cannot get major credit for both PSYC 38 and PSYC 28.

  • Core and elective courses CANNOT be taken as an NRO.

  • Students who take PEMM 150 or PEMM 211 should register for PSYC 90 and have permission of the instructor.

  • Courses that are taken as part of another major or minor cannot be used as core or elective courses for Neuroscience.

  • At the beginning of each academic year, the Neuroscience Steering Committee will announce which courses qualify for elective and culminating experience credit.

  • Students will not be allowed to earn credit for both PSYC 26 and PSYC 37.

Culminating experience (1 course)

BIOL 74, PSYC 90, PSYC 91.01, or any approved PSYC 80's seminar, see list on the PBS website,



  • The culminating experience is in addition to the requirement of four qualifying elective courses.
  • The culminating experience cannot be taken as an NRO.
  • For PSYC 90, 91, and 80's seminars, neuroscience students will not be granted instructor permission until they fulfill the prerequisite of completing at least two of the core course requirements of the major, in addition to any course-specific prerequisites.