Neuroscience and Behavior

Lab research is an essential component of the major in neuroscience and behavior.

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system, which can be approached at many levels--from molecules and cells to organisms and their behavior. The interdisciplinary major in neuroscience and behavior at Mount Holyoke is designed for students with integrative interests in biological and psychological science and a passion for scientific exploration. Course requirements provide students with a solid background in both the current findings and modern techniques of biology, chemistry, and psychology, while course electives allow students to explore questions about the nervous system and behavior in greater depth. In keeping with the field as a whole, many students elect to conduct independent research beginning as early as their sophomore year.

Learning Goals

Students should have a broad understanding of the development, physiology and evolutionary history of the nervous system and of the behavior of animals, both human and non-human. Toward this end, they should have a general understanding of the electrochemical behavior of nerve cells and synapses, sensorimotor processes, and neuroplasticity and should know how to use phylogenies to construct hypotheses about evolutionary patterns. Students should be introduced to technology appropriate to the field, including basic electrophysiological recording and cytological and molecular techniques. They should understand how to design laboratory-based and field experiments, and should be well versed in methods of data collection, statistical analysis and written and oral presentation. Students should be exposed to the primary literature of the discipline and should be taught to use this as a major resource for their own learning. Finally, students should be aware of major events and trends in the history of neuroscience and ethical issues in research.

First-Year Students

Introduction to Neuroscience (NSB 100) is the gateway to the Neuroscience and Behavior major and should be taken by students considering this option. Additionally, completing Biology 200 as well as Chemistry 101 and 201 by the end of the first year positions any prospective major well for entering her second year of study.