BNS Core Courses
There are many core courses in the Behavioral Neuroscience major that bridge the gap between biology and psychology. Learn about the many offerings below, at varying course levels. As a BNS major, students will select six of the below core courses throughout their time at Northeastern.
3000 level BNS cores:
Focuses on the relation between brain function and human behavior. Examines how nerve cells function individually and work together both in small networks and in the nervous system; the structure of the nervous system; how our sense organs provide the nervous system with information about the outside world; how the brain controls movement; and how psychological concepts from motivation to language and memory are represented in the brain.
Neuropsychology of Fear
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 What causes these illnesses, and how does our understanding of the neural basis of fear inform our treatment strategies for these disorders?
Presents an overview of the field of behavioral endocrinology from a psychological perspective. Examines how hormones influence brain structure and function; how hormones affect behavior and vice versa; sex differences in brain and behavior; and the role of hormones in mood disorders, cognition, and stress.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
Explores how our behavior is affected by (and how it affects) our immune system. The brain and the immune system regulate our behavioral responses to the world around us, which helps explain why we feel “down” when we’re sick and why we often catch a cold when we’re stressed. Offers students an opportunity to better understand how we have evolved to psychologically adapt to environmental challenges—and, importantly, how this can sometimes backfire with mental illness as an outcome.
Examines the evolution of animal behavior. Topics include how behaviors have evolved, the adaptive function of behavior, and the relative roles of genes and the environment in the development of behavior. Behaviors from feeding and reproductive strategies to communication and social behavior are considered. Implications for human behavior are considered.
Introduces the cellular and molecular functioning of the nervous system, the organization of neurons into circuits, the processing of information, and the generation of motor output. Students who perform well in PSYC 3458 are encouraged to take BIOL 5587 Comparative Neurobiology.
Learning and Memory
This new course approaches learning and memory from the multidisciplinary perspective of neuroscience. We will explore the neurobiology of learning and memory from the level of the synapse up to the neural systems underlying emergent mnemonic function. Topics include the synaptic mechanisms underlying neural plasticity; the molecular basis of mnemonic processes; and the neural circuits serving distinct memory systems. In addition to lecture based material, students will be introduced to the current scientific literature and will become proficient in reading, interpreting and evaluating primary research and review articles via presentations and active discussions in the classroom. The overarching goal of the course is to provide a neurobiological perspective on how information is encoded, consolidated and later retrieved and the significance of dysfunction in these processes associated with neurologic disease.
Neural Systems and Behavior
Reviews major experimental approaches and key concepts used in behavioral neurobiology. Begins with look at its history. 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 largescale navigation, neurobiology of communication, and cellular mechanisms of learning and memory.
Covers the cellular, molecular, and genetic processes that guide neural development. Focuses on how nerve cells are generated, patterned, and connected with one another to regulate animal behavior. Topics include cell differentiation, tissue patterning, neural plasticity, and cognitive development.
4000-5000 level BNS cores:
Examines interactions between drugs, brain, and behavior. Focuses on such topics as synaptic transmission, behavioral functions of specific neurotransmitter systems, pharmacological treatment of mental and neurological disorders, and drug abuse.
Examines the behavior of neurological patients and normal patients to develop an understanding of how the human brain works to produce higher mental functions. Topics include discussions of brain scans, human neuroanatomy, cerebral lateralization, language, memory, neurological disorders, and neural plasticity and recovery of function.
Explores the neurobiological, genetic, and neurochemical etiology of mental illness as described and categorized according to the DSM IV. In the class we discuss how psychology, neuroscience, pharmacology, and medicine come together to manage mental illness. For each specific mental illness covered we investigate how changes in physiology and biology might manifest in the aberrant behaviors that define psychopathology. Lastly, we examine how pharmacology is often used to treat these various mental illnesses and how genetic expression is involved in predisposing some people to these disorders while sparing others.
Explores the genetic basis of behavior. Behavioral genetics is considered to lie at the intersection of psychology and genetics and is a dynamic field with plenty of possibility. Offers students an opportunity to hone and develop a stronger foundation in the principles of Mendelian, population, and quantitative genetics. Studies the genetic basis for sleep, social behavior, responses to environmental stimuli, learning, memory, addiction, and the etiology of neuropsychiatric disorders.
Systems Neurobiology of Cognitive Decline
This new course addresses the Neurobiology of Aging from a neural-systems perspective. Alzheimer’s Disease and other neurodegenerative diseases loom large as we consider the molecular, behavioral and neuroanatomical elements of brain degeneration and breakdown. A principled understanding, however, requires assessment of the brain systems that support normal cognitive operations and how the insults of age and injury degrade these computational/system processes. We will explore these knowledge frontiers with the goal of constructing a cohesive framework within which to assess the failure of neuronal circuits and what can be done to prevent or repair such damage.
Cell and Molecular Neuroscience
At its core the principles that govern the communication between cells of the nervous system are determined by their molecular components. The molecular landscape defines the individual properties of a neuron and the function of neuronal networks as a whole. This new course will take an interdisciplinary approach, combining molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology and genetics to address the fundamental molecular properties of neurons and neuronal networks. The course will focus on neuronal signaling through the function of ion channels and receptors, supramolecular mechanisms like synaptic transmission and axonal transport and the molecular mechanisms that underlie biological networks and neural coding of information. Throughout the semester we will use the fundamental understanding of molecular networks as a framework to explore the mechanisms that underlie neurological diseases and disorders. Additionally, we will discuss current treatments and therapies that rely on modulating neuronal signaling through molecular interactions.
Presents a cellular approach to structure and function of the nervous system. Topics include neuronal anatomy, phylogeny of nervous systems, electrophysiology of membrane conductances, synaptic transmission, integration in nerve cells, neuronal networks, sensory systems, motor systems, sensory-motor integration, development and regeneration of neuronal connectivity, and fundamentals of neurotechnology for biomedics. Focuses on the development of these concepts from the primary research literature. A term project involves the design of a simple nervous system for a hypothetical animal.
Functional Human Neuroanatomy
Examines the detailed structure of the human nervous system, linking structure to function at both the clinical and neurobiological level. Offers students an opportunity to obtain a solid functional anatomical foundation for neuroscience. Reviews basic neuroanatomy and then provides a detailed look into the structure of the nuclei within the central nervous system and their connectivity. Examines the role of these structures in motor and sensory function as well as in complex cognitive functions at a physiological and clinical level.
Lab for Functional Human Neuroanatomy
Examines the detailed structure of the human nervous system in specimens of the human brain and spinal cord as well as in images of stained sections of these tissues and magnetic resonance images (MRI). The structure of individual nuclei and the main sensory and motor tracts of the nervous system are examined and discussed by students working in small groups. Although focusing on anatomical details, the lab introduces the student to clinical diagnosis of neurological cases.
Neurobiology and Behavior
This course provides a comprehensive overview of behavioral neurobiology, with special emphasis on a neuroethological approach. Upon successful completion of the course, the student will have a contemporary understanding of the historical development of the behavioral sciences, major ethological and neurobiological concepts, and the principal mechanisms that govern behavior in animals and humans. Lectures are complemented by student presentations on select topics. This advanced course is open to upper-division undergraduates.