Associate Professor Schroeder, director

The Major in Behavioral Neuroscience

The interdisciplinary major in behavioral neuroscience is intended to fill the needs of the students seeking understanding of the biological bases of behavior.  It guides the student toward investigation of physiological, structural, and developmental foundations of animal behavior using the techniques of several sub-disciplines of psychology, biology, and chemistry.

The major consists of fourteen courses (twelve core courses and one course chosen from each of two related areas).  A score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement Psychology Examination or its equivalent may be substituted for Psychology 100.  This exception requires the student to choose an additional laboratory course for the major.  Independent research, either as Individual Study or Honors Study, is strongly recommended.

Core Courses (12)

Biology 106 and 202;

Psychology 100, 201, and 202;

Biology/Psychology 214 and either 314 or 322;

One of the following:  Psychology 332, 336, 343, 426, 493D, or Biology/Psychology 409.

One of the following:  Biology 302, 309, or Chemistry 303.  (Note that Biology 208 is a prerequisite for Biology 302 and 309 and that Chemistry 224 is a prerequisite for Chemistry 303.);

Chemistry 103, 104, and 223.

One course from each of the following two areas:

Humanities and Social Sciences

Anthropology 319;

Human Development 306;

Linguistics 110;

Philosophy 224, 226, 229.

Behavior and Individual Research

Psychology 204, 210, 212, 215 307, 309;

Biology 224, 302;

Behavioral Neuroscience 391, 392, 491, 492, 497-498.

Learning Goals in the Behavioral Neuroscience Major

Behavioral neuroscience is focused on the relationship between brain function and behavior.  In order to understand this relationship, students begin the major by taking introductory courses in biology, psychology, and chemistry.  These foundations allow a student to then understand how the brain and behavior is related and provide basis for delving into topics of specific interest.


The major includes introductory courses in biology (BIO 106, Cells), psychology (PSY 100, Introduction to Psychology), and chemistry (CHM 103, 104, General Chemistry).  Each of these courses includes a lab to demonstrate the basic techniques used in each discipline.  In addition to teaching foundational concepts these courses also focus on necessary skills that include general research methods, critical thinking, ethics and scientific writing.


An emphasis is placed on practical application of the empirical process in courses such as Behavioral Neuroscience (PSY/BIO314) and Psychopharmacology (PSY/BIO 332), where students learn the same histological, pharmacological and animal behavior methods used in many neuroscience research labs.  In addition, students learn to use databases of published literature to search for and critically evaluate relevant studies specific to topics covered in each course.  The major also includes a requirement for either an advanced biochemistry or molecular biology course with a lab, providing students with exposure to techniques in these related fields.


Every student has the option to explore specific topics in course projects.  For example, one assignment in Psychopharmacology is to compare the effectiveness of a conventional and an alternative treatment for a mental illness.  A student who has an interest in understanding schizophrenia might complete the assignment by comparing the use of omega 3 fatty acids to the conventional treatment of antipsychotic medications.  Specific interests are further explored in specialized courses such as Behavioral Endocrinology (PSY/BIO 409), Cognitive Brain Imaging (PSY 343) and Neurobiology of Disease (PSY/BIO 336) or through individual study and honors thesis projects that focus on a specific area of interest to the student and her mentor.


The study of neuroscience is approached from a number of disciplines.  With a foundational understanding of basic neural processing, students are prompted to explore how neuroscience can be studied in the context of developmental psychology, cognitive science, sociology, and philosophy.


The opportunity to practice techniques, including the use of animals, in laboratory courses provides every behavioral neuroscience major with some basis for further work in the field.  The numerous opportunities to build on those research experiences in the form of individual study or honors study is especially important for students who are interested in pursuing graduate study.  Students are also strongly encouraged to learn how to communicate the findings of their research by presenting at conferences on campus or elsewhere.  Behavioral neuroscience majors present their work each year at the North East Undergraduate Research Organization for Neuroscience semi-annual meetings and at the Society for Neuroscience annual meetings.