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Department of

Psychological Sciences

Behavioral Neuroscience Major

The Behavioral Neuroscience major is an interdisciplinary major within the department of Psychological Sciences that emphasizes the interaction of behavior with biological systems, including brain pathways, nervous systems and hormonal systems. Disciplines such as psychology, biology, chemistry, anthropology, and philosophy all contribute to a cohesive understanding of psychological functions from a biological perspective. The assimilation of disciplines helps students develop intellectual skills in critical thinking and sound reasoning and requires integration of knowledge from multiple levels of analysis, all of which are important characteristics of a liberal arts education. Career opportunities include jobs in healthcare, academia, government and the private sector.

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Neuroscience Learning Outcomes

Goal A: Content Knowledge—including providing students’ knowledge of the principles, findings, and theories related to behavioral neuroscience.

By graduation students with a major in Behavioral Neuroscience will be able to       

1. describe and explain the major research methods and statistical analysis used in neuroscience.

2. discuss knowledge of the brain systems and neurotransmitters and the behavior processes that they control as well as how various diseases and trauma to the nervous system affect behavior.

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Goal B: Skills in the Discipline—application of critical analysis, research methods, and statistical procedures in research investigating original hypotheses.

By graduation, students with a major in Behavioral Neuroscience will be able to

3. develop testable hypotheses and design a study using experimental and nonexperimental research methods, including critical analysis of existing literature and the application of both descriptive and inferential statistical procedures

4. demonstrate written communication skills, especially the ability to write in APA (American Psychological Association) style.

5. demonstrate laboratory skills relevant to behavioral neuroscience research

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Required Preparation for the Behavioral Neuroscience Major

Biology Courses:

BIOL 190
BIOL 221 and 221L
BIOL 225 and 225L

Chemistry Courses:

CHEM 151 and 151L
CHEM 152 and 152L

Psychology Courses:

PSYC 101
PSYC 230
PSYC 260

Students must fulfill their core Math requirement with MATH 150 or above and fulfill their core Ethics requirement with PHIL 331 or 334 (when offered as Ethics and the Frontiers of Science).

The Behavioral Neuroscience Major

Genetics: BIOL 300
Behavioral Neuroscience: NEUR 310
Biological Psychology: PSYC 342
Advanced Research Lab: NEUR 410W
Cognition: PSYC 332, 334, or 336
Evolution: BIOL 310, 346, PSYC 344, 347, or 494 (when offered as Evolutionary Psych)
Physiology: BIOL 478, 480, or CHEM 331
Directed/Independent Research: 2 semesters of combined NEUR 496 or 499

Electives: 6 credits from the courses above, or ANTH 310, 311; BIOL 320, 376, 382, 482, or 484; CHEM 301, 301L, 302, 302L, 314, 335, or 427; ENGR 456; NEUR 494; PHIL 331, 334 (when offered as Ethics and Frontiers of Science) if not used to satisfy the core, 413, or 415; PHYS 340; PSYC 355, 357, 432W, or 444W

A minimum grade of C- and a GPA of 2.0 in the 27 graded units of upper division course work used to complete the requirements for the major is required.

The electives chosen to complete the major requirements should be selected in consultation with your academic advisor with a vew to achieving balance among the major areas of physcological knowledge. A maximum of 6 unites from any combination of NEUR 496-499 can be applied toward the units required to complete the major (this includes the minimum of 2 required research units, plus up to 4 elective units), and a maximum of 6 are applicable to the 124 units required for graduation.

Transfer students who wish to graduate as psychology or behavioral neuroscience majors must complete a minimum of 12 uppder-division units of the required coursework at USD.

Note: Due to the number of shared courses between the Behavioral Neuroscience major and the Biology and Psychology majors, students with a Behavioral Neuroscience major are not eligible to minor in Psychology or Biology.

Contact Information

If you have any questions about the Behavioral Neuroscience major, please contact the following professors:

Rachel Blaser, PhD - rblaser@sandiego.edu; (619) 260-7736
Veronica Galván, PhD - vgalvan@sandiego.edu; (619) 260-7739
Sandra Sgoutas-Emch - emch@sandiego.edu; (619) 260-4005

Behavioral Neuroscience Courses (NEUR)

NEUR 310: Behavioral Neuroscience (3)

This course will explore the biological basis of human and animal behavior, with a focus on neural structures and function. Topics will include neural cell physiology, neurotransmitters and receptors, the development of the nervous system, sensory and motor systems, and the biological basis of learning and memory. Prerequisites: PSYC 101, 230, and 342, BIOL 190 and 225/L, or consent of instructor.

NEUR 410W: Advanced Research Methods/Laboratory in Behavioral Neuroscience (3)

This course is designed to provide in-depth, hands-on experience with the concepts, methods, and techniques used in behavioral neuroscience research, including anatomical and histological methods, and surgical and pharmacological manipulations. Written project reports, as well as a literature review and research proposal, will be required. Prerequisites: ENGL 121, PSYC 101, 230, 260, 342 and completion of or current enrollment in NEUR 310, or consent of instructor.

NEUR 492: Major Field Test (0)

As part of the department's assessment program, each graduating senior is required to a major field test in psychology and senior exit survey (BNCS 492). A student who fails to do so may be restricted from graduating.

NEUR 494: Special Topics in Behavioral Neuroscience (3)

The purpose of this course is to provide the advanced undergraduate student with an opportunity to explore a variety of contemporary topics in behavioral neuroscience. These will be in-depth investigations on subjects of special interest to the instructor. Course may be repeated with different topics. Prerequisite: Junior standing; additional prerequisites vary with topic and/or instructor.

NEUR 496: Research Experience (1-2)

Experience in serving as a researcher in a project conducted by a faculty member. By invitation. May be repeated for a maximum of six units. P/F only.

NEUR 499: Independent Study (1-3)

Library, laboratory, or field research of the student's own design conducted under faculty supervision. A written application and final report are required. Senior standing preferred. Prerequisites: NEUR 310 and consent of instructor.