PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience
The focus of the PhD Program in Behavioral Neuroscience is on the delineation and analysis of perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, affective, and behavioral disorders observed in neurological disease, as these disorders contribute to an understanding of normal brain function and its modification by pathology, both structural and metabolic. No master’s degree is offered.
The subject matter derives chiefly, but not exclusively, from clinical populations with neurological disorders affecting higher processes, particularly from the study of syndromes involving selective impairment of particular functional systems, such as memory, language, or purposeful movement. Current methods of clinical assessment, cognitive psychology, experimental design, and the neurosciences are integrated into a broad program of clinical and basic research. Students with special interests in neuroanatomy, psychopharmacology, addictions, or neurotransmitter abnormalities, have opportunities to work with nonhuman animal models.
An important feature of the program is a research apprenticeship with a core faculty member, and course credits are offered as Research in Behavioral Neuroscience. This arrangement is intended as preparation for independent research careers. Students also have the opportunity to assist resident and staff neurologists/psychiatrists in providing consultative services, to participate in grand rounds, and to attend didactic seminars and hospital lectures at Boston University School of Medicine and the Boston VA Healthcare Campus.
With permission of the major advisor and/or Program Director, other graduate-level courses from the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences may be selected for credit in the proposed doctoral program, as well from the College of Arts & Sciences (e.g., the departments of Mathematics, Psychology, and Cognitive & Neural Systems) and the College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College. They include the following courses:
- GMS AN 702 Advanced Neuroanatomy
- GMS MS 703 Neuroscience
- GMS AN 707 Neurobiology of Aging
- GMS PM 720 or 730 Medical Pharmacology
- GMS MS 783 Molecular Basis of Neurologic Diseases
- GMS PM 850 Biochemical Neuropharmacology
- GMS PH 740 Physiology
- GMS BT 570 Biostatistics with Computers
- GMS MS 700 or GMS IM 651 Elementary Biostatistics
- SPH BS 703 Biostatistics
- GMS BI 751, or 755 and 756 Biochemistry
- GMS PM 820 Behavioral Pharmacology
- GMS MS 700 Elementary biostatistics
- SPH BS 703 Biostatistics
as well as courses in the Mathematics, Psychology, and Cognitive & Neural Systems departments.
For some students with specialized interests and backgrounds, additional courses available throughout Boston University may be credited toward the PhD degree with special permission.
Additionally, Behavioral Neuroscience students who are enrolled in the MD/PhD program typically will enter the Behavioral Neuroscience Program at the conclusion of the second year of Medical School. The MD/PhD student will commence required course work, begin preparation for the Qualifying Examinations, and gain competence in research related to a future dissertation. Upon completion of all requirements for a PhD degree in Behavioral Neuroscience, including the dissertation, the MD/PhD student will return to academic and clinical activities in medicine.
The curriculum for the doctoral program consists mainly of existing courses within the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. These courses are:
- Human Neuropsychology Seminar I (GMS BN 775)
- Human Neuropsychology Seminar II (GMS BN 776)
- Basic Neurosciences (GMS BN 777, 778, or 779)
- Neuropsychological Assessment I (GMS BN 796)
- Functional Neuroanatomy in Neuropsychology (GMS BN 798)
- Research in Behavioral Neuroscience (GMS 991 or 992)
- Behavioral and Biological Aspects of Stress and Trauma (GMS BN 780)
- Forensic Practice in Neuropsychology and Neuroscience (GMS BN 782)
- Directed Studies in Behavioral Neuroscience (GMS 791, 792)
- Adult Neurologic Communication Disorders (GMS BN 793)
- Brain Asymmetry: Functional and Structural Differences Between Hemispheres (GMS BN 794)
- Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory and Perception (GMS BN 795)
- Neuropsychological Assessment II (GMS BN 797)
- Seminar in Neuroimaging (GMS BN 821)
- Case Studies in Neuropsychology (Sections A, B, & C) (GMS BN 891, 892)
- Child Clinical Neuropsychology (GMS BN 893)
The first six courses listed above will be required for all incoming PhD students in the program (MD/PhD students are exempt from taking Basic Neurosciences). A brief description of each course being offered appears below. Training in statistics also will be required.
GMS BN 775 & 776, Human Neuropsychology I and II, 4 credits each
GMS BN 775
Relationship of the field of neuropsychology to other medical and scientific disciplines. Includes electrical activity of the brain, the study of consciousness and emotions, cerebral dominance, pathologies of language, and traumatic brain injuries.
GMS BN 776
Relationship of the field of neuropsychology to other medical and scientific disciplines. Includes psychiatric aspects of neurological disease and the pathologies of memory, intelligence, perception, and motor function.
GMS BN 778, Basic Neurosciences, 4 credits (also offered as GMS BN 777 for 3 credits, and 779 for 2 credits)
GMS BN 777, 778, 779
Overview to include neurophysiology, neurochemistry, neuroanatomy, neurobehavior, and neuropsychopharmacology. Processes occurring at the cellular and physiological levels are related to known central nervous system dysfunction.
GMS BN 780, Behavioral and Biological Aspects of Stress and Trauma, 4 credits
This course reviews the psychobiological aspects of responses to trauma and stressful conditions, including the importance of individual differences and social factors.
GMS BN 782, Forensic Neuropsychology, 4 credits
This course is taught by neuroscientists, physicians, lawyers, and judges. Topics cover the growing role of psychology, neuropsychology, psychiatry, and behavioral neurology in the law and judicial proceedings. Examples are: malingering; competency to stand trial, testify, and be executed; sociopathy; insanity defense; criminal culpability in children; autism; and biological bases and treatment of violence.
GMS BN 791, 792, Directed Studies in Behavioral Neuroscience, variable credits
In a one-on-one format, students work closely with a faculty member to study a topic of special interest to both of them.
GMS BN 793, Adult Communication Disorders, 4 credits
The phenomena of aphasia, alexia, and associated disorders of language are considered in relation to theories of the storage and processing of verbal information. Relevant models dealing with phonology, word selection, syntax, and semantics are discussed.
GMS BN 794, Brain Asymmetries: Functional and Structural Differences Between Hemispheres, 4 credits
The distinctive roles of the left and right hemispheres are reviewed, first by examining alterations in language and nonverbal behavior under conditions of brain damage and second by examining techniques used to investigate functional asymmetry in the normally intact brain.
GMS BN 795, Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory and Perception, 4 credits
The study of normal and abnormal memory and perception is related to brain structure and function, theoretical and clinical issues about how abilities change with increasing age.
GMS BN 796, Neuropsychological Assessment I, 4 credits
Overview of structure and function of the central nervous system. Emphasis is on quantitative and qualitative analysis of standardized and experimental tests of cognitive functions useful in differential diagnosis of neurological syndromes. Cross-cultural issues in assessment also are addressed.
GMS BN 797, Neuropsychological Assessment II, 4 credits
Continuation of GMS BN 796. Emphasis is on neurobehavioral syndromes and the use of assessment tools for delimiting neuropsychological deficits and intact skills.
GMS BN 798, Functional Neuroanatomy in Neuropsychology, 4 credits
Overview of central nervous system, structure and function; basic understanding of neurobehavioral symptoms and their relationship to neuropathology, including vascular infections, and congenital, degenerative, and toxic insults to the central nervous system. Appropriate for psychologists, speech pathologists, or other students in the behavioral sciences.
GMS BN 821, Neuroimaging Seminar, 2 credits
This course is intended for students with limited background in the application of neuroimaging techniques for the study of psychiatric and neurological illnesses. Techniques, including PET, SPECT, MEG, MRI, fMRI, DTI, and MRS, will be discussed with relevance to selected neuropsychiatric disorders.
GMS BN 891 & 892, Case Studies (three different clinical rounds, Sections A1, B1, and C1), 2 credits per Section
Individual patients with perceptual/cognitive/affective symptomatology concomitant with brain damage are examined intensively through the use of a variety of behavioral assessment procedures. Patients’ symptoms and test results are reviewed for the differential diagnosis and etiology of neurological syndromes. Emphasis on qualitative and quantitative analyses of standardized and experimental tests.
GMS BN 893, Child Clinical Neuropsychology, 4 credits
Covers general theoretical issues (e.g., intrauterine and postnatal development of the brain, handedness and lateralization of function, and recovery of function and neurobehavioral plasticity); diagnostic entities (e.g., attention deficit disorder, early brain damage, developmental language disorders, dyslexia, and effects of malnutrition); and assessment and treatment.