PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience
The mission of the Behavioral Neuroscience PhD Program is to provide students with a firm foundation in basic principles and methods of Experimental Neuropsychology in preparation for embarking on a career as an experimental neuropsychologist and behavioral neuroscientist in academia or industry.
The Behavioral Neuroscience PhD Program is unique in that the focus is on human neurobehavioral disorders in relation to brain structure and functioning. The Behavioral Neuroscience Program provides a true translational link between cutting-edge research and its emphasis on medical patient care. Our students and alumnae represent strong, talented, and highly productive professionals. The strength and uniqueness of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program is exemplified in the quality and constitution of our course offerings, faculty, and research opportunities.
The Behavioral Neuroscience PhD Program is an interdisciplinary program administered through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, BUSM, and consists of faculty members mainly in the Departments of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Anatomy & Neurobiology, BUSM (many holding joint appointments within the VA Boston Healthcare System).
The key features of the program are:
- The delineation and analysis of perceptual, cognitive, linguistic, affective, and behavioral disorders observed in neurologic disease, as these disorders contribute to an understanding of normal brain function and its modification by pathology.
- The subject matter derives primarily from clinical populations with neurological disorders affecting higher processes, particularly from the study of syndromes involving selective impairment of functional systems such as memory, language, attention, executive functioning, and/or purposeful movement.
- Current methods of clinical assessment, neuropsychology, experimental design, and the neurosciences are integrated into a broad program focused on clinical research. There is also limited opportunity for basic science research.
Students in the program are encouraged to participate in a research apprenticeship with a faculty member with course credits being offered as Research in Behavioral Neuroscience. This arrangement is intended as preparation for independent research careers. Students also have the opportunity to participate in grand rounds, and to attend didactic seminars and hospital lectures at Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System.
The doctoral program curriculum consists of core and elective courses and research in neuropsychology within the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Candidates may also enroll in a directed studies or graduate courses offered in other Boston University departments, including but not limited to, the Departments of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Psychology, and course offerings of the Graduate Program for Neuroscience. For some students with specialized interests and backgrounds, additional courses available throughout Boston University may be credited toward the PhD degree with special permission.
Behavioral Neuroscience students who are enrolled in the MD/PhD program typically will enter the Behavioral Neuroscience PhD 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.
Required of all PhD students in the program (MD/PhD students are exempt from taking Basic Neurosciences). A brief description of each course being offered appears below. A graduate-level course in statistics is also required.
- 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)
GMS BN 775 & 776, Human Neuropsychology I and II, 4 credits each
GMS BN 775
Course focuses on the 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
Course focuses on the 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 includes 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 MRI, fMRI, DTI, MRS, PET, and SPECT, will be discussed with relevance to selected neurobehavioral 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. There are three distinct sections of this course each semester. These sections specialize in different neurobehavioral disorders.
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.