Behavioral Neuroscience

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Journey to the Start

Einstein once wrote that “The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Discoveries, innovation, languages, social progress, even entire societies were built on humankind’s actions, as driven by its thoughts.

Yet at its base level, an idea is nothing more than an electro-chemical reaction, with neurons delivering rapid-fire messages across the synapses in our brains. To understand how thought becomes action, we must start where thought begins — within the brain structures and mechanisms themselves.

It is within these physical transmissions that a beautiful and complex mix of communication is taking place. Interpretations, reasoning, and learning are happening here, all at once. And somehow, this cacophony of lightspeed movement harmonizes together to form the endpoint that drives actions and behaviors themselves. 

The Behavioral Neuroscience program, one of the most established programs in the United States, seeks to trace the connections and uncover the nature of how these mysterious transmissions transform from thoughts into actions.

Faculty Research

Behavioral Neuroscience
Biomimetic Underwater Robot Program
Dr. Ayers' research focus is on the neuroethology of motor systems in invertebrates and lower vertebrates and the application of this knowledge to the development of advanced robots.
Behavioral Neuroscience
Developmental Neuropsychobiology Laboratory
Dr. Brenhouse’s lab studies the dynamic interaction between the brain, the body, and the environment throughout early life and adolescent development. Using animal models with genetic, behavioral, and pharmacological manipulation, her laboratory investigates why later manifestation of mental illn..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Aggression Lab
Dr. Melloni studies the neurobiology of aggressive behavior. The main goal of this research is to understand how drug use and exposure to social stress during adolescence alter brain development and influence aggressive behavior.
Behavioral Neuroscience
Monaghan Lab
Dr. Monaghan’s lab uses the axolotl salamander to investigate the cellular and molecular basis of complex tissue regeneration. Axolotls have the amazing ability to regenerate large portions of their limbs, tail, heart, and spinal cord. His lab studies the development and regeneration of the nervo..
Behavioral Neuroscience
O'Malley Lab
Dr. O’Malley studies the computational capabilities of neuronal populations at the core of nervous systems, including everything from sensorimotor transformations to more complex behaviors. Current projects are aimed at understanding symbolic operations in mammalian cortex.
Behavioral Neuroscience
Laboratory of Neuroanatomy and Behavior
Stress-related mental illnesses like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) are twice as common in women, but relevant pre-clinical research on the mechanisms of stress and fear has primarily been conducted in male animals. Our work explores the relationships ..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Center for Neurophysiology
Dr. Sikes specializes in the neurophysiology of the cingulate cortex; in particular, the role of cingulate cortex in pain sensation.  Research has included pathway investigation to understand pain information transmission, and now focuses on contrasting the effects of somatic and visceral noxious ..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Action Lab
Motor skills such as throwing a ball, eating with knife and fork or dancing are uniquely human and key to functional behavior. Optimizing the acquisition and preventing or reverting the degradation of skill requires a rigorous quantitative understanding. The Action Lab analyzes how human neurophysi..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Neurogeometry Lab
Research in this lab is aimed at understanding the basic brain functions and principles of synaptic connectivity in the cerebral cortex through the quantitative analysis of neuron morphology.
Behavioral Neuroscience
Laboratory of Neurobiology
Research in Prof. Zupanc’s laboratory focuses on the exploration of neural mechanisms underlying structural plasticity in the adult central nervous system of vertebrates. 
Behavioral Neuroscience
Neurotransmission and Brain Plasticity Lab
The Neurotransmission and Brain Plasticity Lab studies how exposure to cocaine (and other psychostimulants including methamphetamine) during pregnancy affects neuronal interactions in the fetus throughout development.
Behavioral Neuroscience
Language and Mind Lab
The Language & Mind Lab studies how the mind works and how we (laypeople) think it does, concentrating on the concept of innate knowledge.
Behavioral Neuroscience
Work at the CTNI is focused on four major areas 1) Alzheimer’s disease, 2) Parkinson’s disease 3) repetitive mild traumatic brain injury, and 4) opioid addiction. Preclinical animal models for each of these problems in human health are studied using non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging to fo..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Denise Jackson's Lab
The primary focus of Dr. Jackson’s research is on how exposure to cocaine (and other psychostimulants including methamphetamine) during pregnancy affects neuronal interactions in the fetus throughout development. We utilize neurochemical and behavioral strategies to assess alterations in brain ar..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Dr. Rosengaus’ Lab
Dr. Rosengaus’ research tries to understand the factors that may have selected for the evolution of insect sociality. This work is at the interface of evolutionary biology, behavioral and chemical ecology, immunology and genetics. Social insects represent excellent social test organisms to answer..
Behavioral Neuroscience
Miller Lab
Greg Miller's lab focuses on the neurobiology, immunology and genetics associated with acute and chronic exposure to drugs of abuse. Their goals are to understand how drugs of abuse work in the brain and the body, to create new pharmacological treatment strategies for people who are addicted and mo..

Degree Options

Coursework and Requirements
A sampling of the types of courses you could take here.
Neural Systems and Behavior
BIOL 3601

Reviews major experimental approaches and key concepts used in behavioral neurobiology. Topics covered include spatial orientation and sensory guidance, neuronal control of motor output, neuronal processing of sensory information, sensorimotor integration, neuromodulation, circadian rhythms and biological clocks, behavioral physiology of large-scale navigation, neurobiology of communication, and cellular mechanisms of learning and memory.

Neuropsychology of Fear
PSYC 3506

Explores our understanding of the physiological and cognitive aspects of fear, from early theories of emotion to current research in both humans and animal models. Emphasizes linking brain structure to function—how do different brain regions contribute to fear processing and expression? Also focuses on psychiatric illnesses whose symptoms suggest a maladaptive fear response, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias.

Sensation and Perception
PSYC 3452

Discusses how our five senses work to aid us in perceiving states of the body and of the world, how our perceptions are modified by what we know and expect, and how sensation and perception develop (especially in infancy). Includes discussion of neural and anatomical bases of sensation and perception.

PreMed & PreHealth

Our PreMed and PreHealth Advising program offers personalized expertise to COS students pursuing careers in health careers. This comprehensive program includes application guidance, workshops and presentations, course mapping and more.

Learn More


Students studying behavioral neuroscience have the option to pursue many different career paths. Northeastern’s Cooperative Education (co-op) program allows students the ability to explore these types of career options by gaining practical experience working in the field with local, domestic and international employer partners.


The Minds Behind COS Behavioral Neuroscience
Faculty Spotlight
Rebecca Shansky
Behavioral Neuroscience
Shansky’s research focuses on the neural connections between the medial prefrontal cortex and the amygdala, and sex differences in how this circuit processes fear and responds to stress.
Dagmar Sternad
Behavioral Neuroscience
Sternand’s Action Lab research studies the neural activity of human subjects during movement. These work has been the basis of studies for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke patients, and children with motor disorders.
Günther Zupanc
Behavioral Neuroscience
Zupanc’s research focuses on neural plasticity in the adult central nervous system of teleost fish, and on the role of structural changes of neurons in behavioral plasticity.

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