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Organization, Regulations, and Courses 2017-18

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:
    MATH 3 Introduction to Calculus
    MATH 4 Applications of Calculus to Medicine and Biology
    MATH 8 Calculus of Functions of One and Several Variables
    CHEM 5 General Chemistry
    CHEM 6 General Chemistry
    PHYS 3 General Physics I
    PHYS 4 General Physics II
    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)

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

Core Courses

  1. PSYC 45 Behavioral Neuroscience

  2. PSYC 65 Systems Neuroscience with Laboratory

  3. PSYC 21 Perception, or PSYC 27 Cognitive Neuroscience or PSYC 28 Cognition.

  4. PSYC 46 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, or BIOL 12 Cell Structure and Function and BIOL 13 Gene Expression and Inheritance 


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.


  1. Students who elect to take the BIOL 12/13 sequence to satisfy their cellular/molecular neuroscience requirement can take PSYC 46 as one of the four elective credits.

  2. Whichever course is taken to satisfy the PSYC 21/PSYC 27/PSYC 28 requirements, the other course may be taken for elective credit.  Note that students cannot get major credit for both PSYC 27 and PSYC 28.

  3. You can only get major credit for taking PSYC 6 or BIOL 34, but not both.

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

  5. PSYC 6 and PSYC 10 and BIOL 34 cannot be taken as an NRO, or elective, or required course, or culminating experience.

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

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

  8. Students will not be allowed to earn credit for both PSYC 26 and PSYC 45.

Culminating experience (1 course)

(Cannot be used to satisfy the electives requirement)

BIOL 74, PSYC 90, PSYC 91, or any approved PSYC 80's seminar, see approved on the PBS website,

PSYC 90 Independent Neuroscience Research

Students may engage in independent laboratory research under the direction of a neuroscience faculty member by enrolling in PSYC 90.  Students may take up to three terms of PSYC 90, but only two terms will count towards credit for the major.  (Note: If one term is to serve as the Culminating Experience, the other term cannot be used towards the requirement of two electives numbered 40 or higher.) Students are required to write a final report of their research.  The prerequisites, requirements, and enrollment procedures are described in the course description for PSYC 90.

PSYC 91 Neuroscience Thesis Research
Qualified students (usually seniors) majoring in neuroscience have the opportunity to participate in thesis research that provides individualized advanced instruction and research experience in neuroscience that has the potential to culminate in the awarding of Honors or High Honors in the neuroscience major.  Students must enroll in at least two terms of PSYC 91 while carrying out their thesis work.

 To begin thesis work and to enroll in PSYC 91:

  1. Students must have a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.30 in the major and 3.00 overall and have successfully completed PSYC 6, and PSYC 10 or BIOL 29.

  2. Students must identify a two-person thesis committee (one of which is the research advisor) that will evaluate the thesis.  The thesis committee must include a regular faculty member of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences (PBS).  The other individual must have an active academic appointment at Dartmouth.  The thesis committee must be approved by the Chair of the Neuroscience Steering Committee.        

  3. Enrollment must take place by the end of the second week of the fall term of their senior year.  The application for enrolling in thesis research can be found on the PBS Department webpage and includes obtaining written permission of the advisor and then written permission of the Chair of the Neuroscience Steering Committee.  Enrollment in the PSYC 91 course is via the PBS Department website once permission has been granted.

To be awarded Honors at graduation the student must fulfill the following requirements:

  1. Satisfactorily fulfill all course requirements of the major and maintain at least a 3.30 major GPA.

  2. By the last day of the fifth week of the Winter term preceding the completion of the thesis, the student must submit a prospectus of the thesis work to the Chair of the Neuroscience  Steering Committee.  The prospectus should include a brief description of the rationale for the research, methods being used, analyses to be employed, and implications of the expected results.

  3. An acceptable thesis must be written based upon at least two terms of laboratory or field research that is carried out under the auspices of PSYC 91 and is under the supervision of a PBS department faculty member.  The thesis will entail an independent and individual project.  Furthermore, the thesis must be read by, orally defended to, and approved by the thesis committee.  The defense must be attended by at least one member of the Neuroscience Steering Committee.  The thesis committee will make a recommendation to the Neuroscience Steering Committee regarding the potential awarding of honors.

  4. Students will present their research to department faculty and interested others during the latter part of the Spring term of their senior year.