1999-2000 Neuroscience

1999-2000 Bulletin Entry for:


(file last updated: [7/6/1999 - 13:19:56])


Undergraduate Concentration

The concentration in neuroscience is designed to provide an interdisciplinary program of study of the neural mechanisms involved in the control of human or animal behavior. The concentration combines a strong foundation in basic science with more specialized courses in biology and psychology. This program is especially appropriate for students wishing to pursue further study in medicine, experimental psychology, or neuroscience.

Graduate Program in Neuroscience

The graduate program in neuroscience, leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, is designed to equip students with the advanced knowledge and training necessary to conduct research in this interdisciplinary field. The program comprises three broadly defined areas: behavioral neuroscience involves work with humans in neuropsychology, experimental cognitive neuroscience, and sensory psychophysics, etc.; cellular and molecular neuroscience provides training in electrophysiology, molecular biology, biophysics, and biochemistry appropriate to neurobiology; and computational and integrative neuroscience trains students in the use of experimental and theoretical methods for the analysis of brain function. A typical program will consist of laboratory rotations as well as formal relevant courses, including an advanced course in the student's area of expertise.

How to Become an Undergraduate Concentrator

The neuroscience concentration requires a strong science courseload. There is a meeting each fall at which interested students can meet with neuroscience faculty to discuss the concentration. The requirements are listed below and include many options. It is recommended that each concentrator meet with his or her advisor to determine which options best satisfy each student's needs. Because of the number of basic science requirements, it is recommended that students begin enrolling in these courses early, especially those listed as prerequisites for advanced courses in the concentration. Students interested in senior research should contact prospective mentors during the spring of their junior year.

How to Be Admitted to the Graduate Program

The general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, given in an earlier section of this Bulletin, apply here. Applicants for admission to the neuroscience program are also required to take the Graduate Record Examination. The student's undergraduate curriculum should include related fundamental science courses.

Students currently enrolled in other programs at Brandeis may elect to switch over to obtain a neuroscience Ph.D. if they have already met or will meet the degree requirements for the neuroscience degree.


Eve Marder, Chair

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Laurence Abbott

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Susan Birren

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Paul DiZio

(Psychology, Center for Complex Systems)

Irving Epstein

(Chemistry, Center for Complex Systems)

Leslie Griffith

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Jeffrey Hall

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Michael Kahana, Undergraduate Advising Head

(Psychology, Center for Complex Systems)

James Lackner

(Psychology, Center for Complex Systems)

Irwin Levitan

(Biochemistry, Center for Complex Systems)

John Lisman

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Christopher Miller

(Biochemistry, Center for Complex Systems)

Sacha Nelson, Graduate Advising Head

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Daniel Oprian

(Biochemistry, Center for Complex Systems)

Jordan Pollack

(Computer Science, Center for Complex Systems)

Michael Rosbash

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Robert Sekuler

(Psychology, Center for Complex Systems)

Piali Sengupta

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Gina Turrigiano

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Xiao-Jing Wang

(Physics, Center for Complex Systems)

Kalpana White

(Biology, Center for Complex Systems)

Arthur Wingfield

(Psychology, Center for Complex Systems)

Edgar Zurif

(Psychology, Center for Complex Systems)

Requirements for the Undergraduate Concentration

A. All students will be required to take the core course in neurobiology, NBIO 140b, and at least one core course in quantitative methods: NBIO 136b, NPSY 137b, PHYS 115A, PSYC 51a, or 210a. A course taken to satisfy the quantitative method requirement cannot also count as an elective course.

Students must choose one of the two tracks described below--Option I leading to a B.A. degree in neuroscience, or Option II leading to a B.S. degree in neuroscience.

Option I: The B.A. Degree in Neuroscience

The standard neuroscience option is designed to provide students with a general background in neuroscience. In addition to the courses required of all candidates (listed above), students must take six semester courses from those courses listed below under Neuroscience Electives--at least two courses must be selected from each group. Students must also take at least nine semester courses from the Basic Science Electives.

Neuroscience Electives

Group 1: BCHM 100a, 101a, 102a, BIBC 22a, 105b, BIOL 22b, 42a, 103b, 149b, NBIO 45b, 136b, 143b, 144b, 145, 147a, NBCH 148b, and PHYS 115a.

Group 2: NPSY 12a, 22b, 120b, 125a, 127a, 137b, 154a, 159a, 172a, 174a, 175b, 196b, and 199a.

A student who has completed two courses in both groups may petition to substitute NEUR 98a, b, or NEUR 99d for one of the remaining two courses. Students must enroll in all laboratories that accompany courses used to satisfy these requirements.

Basic Science Electives

The basic science electives include all courses numbered 10 and above in chemistry, computer science, mathematics, and physics. Courses numbered below 10 may not be included in this group. Laboratory courses are counted as one-half of a regular semester course.

Option II: The B.S. Degree in Neuroscience

The B.S. program is an intensive neuroscience option designed to provide students with a strong background in neuroscience and associated areas. In addition to the courses required of all candidates (listed above), students must take seven semester courses from those listed above in Neuroscience Electives, with at least two courses selected from each group. Candidates for the B.S. must also take at least 10 semester courses from the offerings given above in Basic Science Electives. Courses numbered below 10 may not be included in this group.

Among courses offered to fulfill the requirements of this concentration: no course may be taken pass/fail; no more than one grade of D in a semester course will be allowed; and students must enroll in all accompanying laboratory courses.

B. Honors Program

Candidates for honors in neuroscience must petition the program committee during the fall of their senior year to enter the Senior Honors Program. Candidates must enroll in NEUR 99d.

Combined B.S./M.S. Program

Candidates for honors in neuroscience may be admitted to a special four-year B.S./M.S. program upon recommendation of the Neuroscience Program and approval by the Graduate School. Application must be made by May 1 preceding the senior year. Applications should include a proposed course of study specifying how the degree requirements will be met, a transcript, and a brief description of the proposed research project. To qualify for the B.S./M.S. degree in neuroscience students must complete a total of 38 courses. These courses must include those needed to satisfy the requirements for the B.S. degree, as indicated above, plus three additional electives chosen from the neuroscience electives listed above. Of the 10 electives required for the B.S./M.S. degree, at least six must be at the graduate level (and completed with a grade of B- or above). In addition, a substantial research contribution is required and students must submit a research thesis to the neuroscience graduate committee for review. A thesis submitted for the master's degree may also be submitted for honors in neuroscience.

Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science

Graduate students will be eligible for an M.S. in neuroscience if they complete six graduate level courses in neuroscience or related fields to be agreed upon with the neuroscience advising head with a grade of B- or better, and a research project. The six courses will include at least one each in the three subareas of neuroscience listed, and M.S. candidates must either take NBIO 140b or have taken its equivalent before entering the program. The research component can be met by satisfactory performance in three or four laboratory rotations (including submission of written rotation reports) or submission of a research thesis to the Neuroscience Graduate Committee for review.

Residence Requirement

The minimum residence requirement for the M.S. degree is one year.

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Program of Study

NBIO 140b (Principles of Neuroscience) is required. Students must complete at least three, 12-week laboratory rotations, at least two of which must be in neuroscience labs. One such lab may be in a Brandeis non-neuroscience lab. They also must complete at least six graduate-level courses relevant to their area of interest, with a course program to be agreed upon by the advising head of the subarea, the student, and the advisor. These must include at least three neuroscience courses, and at least one not in the student's own subarea. Other courses should be relevant graduate level courses (such as molecular biology or biochemistry for the molecular and cellular students, advanced statistics for the behavioral neuroscience students, etc.).

The suggested schedule of course work for the first two years is the following:

First Year:

Fall: NBIO 140b, NBCH 148b, and NBIO 306d.

Spring: NBIO 145b, NBIO 306d, and one course selected from the Neuroscience Electives.

Second Year:

Fall: NBIO 306d and one course selected from the Neuroscience Electives.

Spring: NBIO 306d and one course selected from the Neuroscience Electives.

Qualifying Examination

Complete two proposition-type qualifying exams. One of these shall be in the field of neuroscience, but not directly related to the student's thesis work (second year). One shall be in the form of a formal thesis proposal (third year).


Act as a teaching assistant for two semesters in courses taught by neuroscience faculty, or as needed in the home departments of the neuroscience faculty. Assignment of the teaching duties will be the responsibility of the neuroscience graduate program head, who will consult with the relevant departments (psychology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, and physics) concerning TA needs each year.

Residence Requirement

The minimum residence requirement is three years.

Journal Club

Enroll and participate in the Neurobiology Journal Club throughout their stay at Brandeis.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Complete a Ph.D. thesis in the field of neuroscience. Normally this work would be carried out in the laboratory of one of the members of the neuroscience training faculty. After submission of the dissertation, the candidate will be expected to present the principal results of his or her work and its significance during an examination in defense of the dissertation. A public seminar to the University community is also required.

Courses of Instruction

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

NPSY 12a Sensory Processes

[ cl35 ss ]

Prerequisite: PSYC 1a, or MATH 10a, or permission of the instructor.

Examines the human senses, with an emphasis on seeing and hearing. Sensory function and malfunction studied from standpoints of anatomy, physiology, and psychophysics. Insights from the study of special observers including developmentally immature humans, members of nonhuman species, and people with abnormal sensory systems including abnormalities resulting from injuries to the brain. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Sekuler

NPSY 22b Cognitive Processes

[ cl19 ss ]

Prerequisite: PSYC 1a or MATH 10a, and sophomore standing in psychology or neuroscience. This course may not be repeated for credit by students who have taken LING 150b in previous years.

Cognitive factors in perception, attention, memory, and language. Experimental investigations will be emphasized. Usually offered every fall.

Mr. Kahana

NBIO 45b The Physiological Basis of Psychological Processes

[ sn ]

Enrollment limited to 75.

Understanding how the brain works is one of the major challenges of modern science. Topics to be covered include perception, memory, emotion, and behavioral control. Principles of neuropharmacology, brain anatomy, and electrophysiology are reviewed. Illustrates how the combined use of physiological and psychological methods give insight into brain processes. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Lisman

NBIO 46b The Neurobiology of Sleep and Dreaming

[ sn ]

Prerequisite: BIOL 42a or NBIO 45b or NBIO 140b or permission of the instructor. Enrollment limited to 20.

Why do we sleep? What is the neurobiological basis of dreaming? Lectures, discussions, and a class project help students answer these questions. We also review related topics, such as the stages of sleep, circadian rhythms, and sleep disorders. Special one time offering. Will be offered in the spring of 2000.

Mr. Leslie

NEUR 98a Readings in Neuroscience

Signature of the instructor required.

Usually offered every year.


NEUR 98b Readings in Neuroscience

Signature of the instructor required.

Usually offered every year.


NEUR 99d Senior Research

Signature of the instructor required.

Usually offered every year.


(100-199) For Both Undergraduate and Graduate Students

NPSY 120b Man in Space

[ cl1 sn ss ]

Enrollment limited to 25.

Topics include how orbital flight is achieved, spacecraft life support systems, circulatory dynamics, sensory-motor control and vestibular function in free fall, and the physiological and psychological adaptations necessary in space flight, and how astronauts must readapt on return to Earth. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Lackner

NPSY 125a Advanced Topics in Perception and Adaptation

[ sn ss ]

Enrollment limited to 10.

Covers current issues and theories in vision, vestibular function, proprioception, and adaptation to unusual force environments from psychological and biological perspectives. Usually offered in odd years.

Mr. Lackner

NPSY 127a Motor Control

[ ss ]

Enrollment limited to 20.

Surveys control of posture, movement, gesture, and speech from various perspectives including muscle properties, reflex organization, central neural mechanisms, spatial representations, and learning, and development. Emphasizes research in physiology, psychology, biomechanics, and artificial intelligence. Usually offered in odd years.

Mr. DiZio

NBIO 136b Computational Neuroscience

[ sn ]

Prerequisites: MATH 10a and b, and either PHYS 10a and 10b, CHEM 11a and 11b, BIBC 22a and BIOL 22b, or approved equivalents.

An introduction to the development, analysis, and computer simulation of mathematical models. Topics include modeling of neurons, neural networks, population dynamics, magnetic systems, nonlinear oscillations, and chaotic systems. Usually offered in odd years.

Mr. Abbott

NPSY 137b Cognitive Modeling

[ cl19 sn ss ]

Signature of the instructor required.

A general introduction to the construction and simulation of mathematical models of human cognitive processes. The major emphasis will be on models of human learning and memory. Students will be expected to have some background in computer programming. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Kahana

NBIO 140b Principles of Neuroscience

[ cl19 cl47 sn ]

Prerequisite: BIOL 22b or permission of the instructor.

Basic principles of neurobiology. Topics include ion channels and their role in generating resting and action potentials, basics of synaptic physiology and pharmacology, locomotion, visual processing, learning, among others. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Marder

NBIO 143b Developmental Neurobiology

[ sn ]

Prerequisite: BIOL 22b or permission of the instructor.

Discusses the mechanisms used in the development of the nervous system. Topics include determination of neuronal cell fates, neuronal differentation and pattern formation, and mechanisms responsible for generation of connectivity in the nervous system. Usually offered in even years.

Ms. Sengupta

NBIO 144b The Neurobiology of Memory

[ sn ]

Prerequisite: NBIO 140b. Signature of the instructor required.

Topics include definition of the types of memory, genetic and pharmacological perturbations of memory, and neural network approaches to memory. Principal focus on the cellular and molecular basis of memory. Anatomical, biochemical, and physiological work on long-term potentiation in the hippocampus will be extensively discussed. Usually offered in odd years.

Mr. Lisman

NBIO 145b Systems Neuroscience

[ sn ]

Prerequisite: NBIO 140b.

How the nervous system processes information and generates behavior, with an emphasis on understanding how circuit dynamics result from the interaction of cellular and synaptic processes. Topics include generation of rhythmic behaviors, structure and function of the auditory, visual, and sematosensory systems processing, and learning and memory. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Lisman

NBIO 147a Neurogenetics

[ sn ]

Prerequisites: BIOL 18a,b, BIBC 22a and BIOL 22b. Signature of the instructor required.

Development and function of the nervous system and responses of excitable cells studied in neurological and behavioral mutants. Characterization and manipulation of genes, defined by these mutations and using molecular biological tools. Organisms: microbes, roundworms, fruit flies, mammals. Neurobiological areas: embryonic neural development, nerve cell differentiation and pattern formation, membrane excitability, responses to visual and chemical stimuli, biological rhythms, and reproductive behavior. Usually offered every third year. Last offered in the spring of 1999.

Mr. Hall

NBCH 148b Cellular Neuroscience

[ sn ]

Prerequisite: NBIO 140b or permission of the instructor. May be taken concurrently with NBIO 140b.

Focuses on the ionic and molecular basis of action and synaptic potentials. Students examine the Hodgkin-Huxley experiments on axonal action potentials and the propagation of action potentials in the dendrites of CNS neurons. Students also examine ionotropic glutamate receptors including their electrical and molecular properties, interaction with other proteins, and their involvement in synaptic plasticity. Usually offered every year.

Ms. Turrigiano

NPSY 154a Human Memory

[ cl1 cl19 sn ss ]

Prerequisite: NPSY 22b or NBIO 140b. Signature of the instructor required.

Presents a systematic analysis of current memory research and theory with an emphasis on list learning experiments and neural network models. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Kahana

NPSY 159a Advanced Topics in Episodic Memory

[ cl1 ss ]

Prerequisite: NBIO 140b or NPSY 154a, and permission of the instructor. Signature of the instructor required.

Deals with current topics in the study of episodic memory. Discussions and readings on topics such as memory for temporal order, category learning, associative symmetry, item versus associative recognition, theories of search in free recall, and the memory systems controversy. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Kahana

NPSY 174b Visual Cognition

[ ss sn ]

Prerequisite: NPSY 12a.

Higher-order processes in vision. Visual impact of cognitive and other top-down influences, including attention, expectation, and prior knowledge. Focus on higher-order processes in visual recognition, contour formation, segmentation, temporal binding, face and object perception. Studies of visual perception in brain-damaged individuals. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Sekuler

NPSY 175b The Neuroscience of Vision

[ sn ss ]

Prerequisite: PSYC 12a or permission of the instructor.

Examines the neural basis of human vision from several complementary perspectives. Relates visual capacities of human observers to the structure and function of the visual system. Considers computational approaches to vision, the results of brain-imaging studies, and the consequences of damage to the human visual system. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Sekuler

NPSY 196b Advanced Topics in Cognition

[ sn ss ]

Prerequisite: NPSY 159a or permission of the instructor. Signature of the instructor required.

This seminar covers current issues and research in memory, speech perception, and processing resource limitations. Emphasis will be placed on the current literature in the field. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Wingfield

NPSY 199a Neuropsychology

[ cl1 cl19 sn ss ]

Prerequisite: NPSY 22b or BIBC 22a, or permission of the instructor.

Designed as an introduction to human neuropsychology. Topics include cerebral dominance, neuroanatomical mapping, and localization of function, with special reference to language, memory, and related cognitive function. Usually offered every spring.

Mr. Wingfield

(200 and above) Primarily for Graduate Students

NPSY 207b Seminar in Perception

(Formerly PSYC 207b)

Examines the various aspects of visual information by which objects and events in three-dimensional space are perceived by human observers. Current research in psychology and in artificial intelligence is considered. Usually offered in even years.

Mr. Lackner

NEUR 298a and b Readings in Neuroscience

Usually offered every year.


NEUR 299a and b Master's Research Project

Usually offered every year.


NEUR 300a and b Laboratory Rotations


NBIO 306d Topics in Neurobiology

Usually offered every year.

Ms. Turrigiano

NBIO 340d Computational and Systems Neurosciences

Usually offered every year.

Mr. Abbott

NPHY 341b Neural Computation

An advanced graduate seminar on current theoretical issues dealing with the dynamics and information processing of neural systems. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Wang

NEUR 401d Dissertation Research

Independent research for the Ph.D. degree. Specific sections for individual faculty members as requested.


CONT 300b Ethical Practice in Health-Related Sciences

Required of all first-year graduate students in health-related science programs. Not for credit.

Scientists are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of addressing ethical issues and values associated with scientific research. This course, taught by University faculty from several graduate disciplines, will cover major ethical issues germane to the broader scientific enterprise, including areas or applications from a number of fields of study. Lectures and relevant case studies will be complemented by two public lectures during the course. Usually offered every year.

Mr. Fulton

Cross-Listed Courses

BIOL 149b

Molecular Pharmacology