Behavioral Neuroscience

Behavioral Neuroscience Minor

The department of behavioral sciences focuses on the disciplines of psychology, sociology, criminology and behavioral neuroscience. Behavioral neuroscience explores biological processes underlying behavior. Information derived from behavioral neuroscience helps us understand normal and abnormal brain development and subsequent behaviors, the role of environmental factors on brain functioning and how brain dysfunction is linked to physical and mental health. Because the field is interdisciplinary and integrative, studies of brain-behavior linkages incorporate findings related to learning, memory, intellectual functioning, language, sensation, perception, motivation, emotion and development.

The behavioral neuroscience minor requires the completion of coursework in two disciplines, psychology and biology. This academically rigorous program will be of interest to students considering careers in medicine, clinical psychology, clinical neuropsychology, forensic psychology, gerontology, health psychology, sports psychology, biology, biomedical sciences, neuroscience, and science education.

All prerequisites must be completed prior to enrollment in the following courses.

BIOL 171: Scientific Endeavors
BIOL 172: Exploring Molecular Biology
PSYC 327: Psychopharmacology
PSYC 348: Psychoneuroimmunology
PSYC 356: Biopsychology
PSYC 364: Neuroanatomy

Choose one course from the following electives:

PSYC 323: Functional Neuroscience
PSYC 331: Biological Bases of Clinical Disorders

Students earning the behavioral neuroscience minor are strongly encouraged to take PSYC 101.


What is Behavioral Neuroscience?
Behavioral neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field of study that emerged in the 1960s and is attractive to behavioral and cognitive neuroscientists, cell and molecular biologists, chemists, computer scientists, criminologists, linguists, mathematicians, neurologists, neuropsychologists, neurosurgeons, philosophers of mind, physicists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others.  What attracts this diverse range of scholars to behavioral neuroscience is a shared interest in the brain and more specifically, the relationship between brain processes and behavior.  When studying neural and physiological processes underlying behavior, behavioral neuroscientists tend to focus on theories and research related to learning, memory, sensation, perception, language, motivation, emotion, and reasoning.  Information derived from behavioral neuroscience helps us understand normal and abnormal brain development and subsequent behaviors, the role of environmental factors on brain functioning, and how brain dysfunction is linked to physical and mental health.

Some questions addressed in behavioral neuroscience include: Why do some people commit violent acts against strangers or significant others?  What mechanisms underlie mood and anxiety disorders or schizophrenia? How do neurological pathologies, such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, and cerebrovascular accidents, impair cognition?  What mechanisms underlie eating disorders, such as obesity or anorexia nervosa?  How does brain development impact learning among adolescents and college students?  It may have been fun to examine such questions in the 1960s, but behavioral neuroscience research is currently providing unprecedented insights into brain-behavior relationships and more comprehensive answers to those questions and others than ever before.   This new knowledge is generating revolutionary ideas that will impact quality of life, making it a most exciting time to learn about behavioral neuroscience. 

The behavioral neuroscience minor, like most contemporary programs, seeks to provide an in-depth understanding of behavior, health, and disease and thereby foster scientifically-driven critical thought.  In this vein, the proposed minor will involve two disciplines, biology and psychology, and will require the completion of six courses:  Biopsychology, Neuroanatomy, Psychopharmacology, Psychoneuroimmunology, Functional Neuroscience, and Seminar in Behavioral Neuroscience.  This progressive, interdisciplinary blend of courses will enable students to appreciate complex interactions between the brain, other biological processes, and behavior in ways not possible when studying the disciplines of psychology and biology alone.  Indeed, what makes behavioral neuroscience distinctive is its holistic focus on behavior.

Career Paths
Concentrated coursework in behavioral neuroscience provides excellent preparation for admission to graduate and medical schools, other health-related professions, industrial positions and the like. For those students who plan to attend graduate school, advanced degrees in behavioral neuroscience-related fields prepare students for employment in basic and applied research, teaching, and/or practitioner-based fields. Preparation in behavioral neuroscience will also benefit students planning to enter health-related professions, to include medicine, neurotoxicology, nursing, nutrition, occupational therapy, pharmacy, and physical therapy.

Health care is one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy. Additionally, pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries are growing exponentially, and students with preparation in behavioral neuroscience will be better-prepared to seek employment in these types of corporations. Outside these settings, the minor in behavioral neuroscience will be beneficial for students who wish to become middle school and/or high school science teachers, and communication majors with an interest in professional writing in newspapers and magazines may be better equipped for future employment by completing this minor.