What is Neuroscience?
To become a neuroscientist, one must first understand the meaning of neuroscience and the different sub-disciplines in the field. Neuroscience is a term used to describe the branch of study that aims to explain how cells and molecules in the body function to produce mental activity. Neuroscience seeks to understand how neural circuits assembled during development perceive the world around them, how they behave, how they retrieve perceptions from memory, and, once retrieved, contribute to the memory of perceptions.
To become a neuroscientist, students should aim to comprehend the biological underpinnings of people’s emotional life, how emotions influence people’s thoughts, and why diseases like depression, mania, schizophrenia, and other conditions arise when the regulation of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors is distorted. These are incredibly difficult issues, more difficult than anyone has ever encountered in any other area of biology.
The second half of the 20th century saw a considerable expansion in scientific study of the nervous system, particularly as a result of developments in molecular biology, electrophysiology, and computational neuroscience. This makes it possible for neuroscientists to investigate every part of the nervous system, including how it grows, functions, changes over time, and how it is constructed.
According to the topic, scope, and examination system, as well as various experimental or course approaches, contemporary neuroscience education and research activities can be loosely classified into the following primary branches. However, individual neuroscientists often study problems that span several different subfields.
What are the different subfields I can choose when I become a neuroscientist:
Affective Neuroscience – the study of the neural mechanisms involved in emotion
Behavioral neuroscience – the discipline that applies biological principles to the study of the genetic, physiological, and developmental mechanisms of behavior in humans and nonhuman animals.
Cellular neuroscience – the study of the morphological and physiological properties of neurons at the cellular level.
Clinical Neuroscience – the scientific study of the biological mechanisms of nervous system disorders and diseases.
Cognitive neuroscience – the study of the biological mechanisms of cognition.
What should you study to become a Neuroscientist?
For students who want to become a neuroscientist, they primarily study the fundamental ideas of neuroscience, acquire training in basic research and applied basic research, and have a strong scientific literacy as well as specific teaching and scientific research skills.
To become a neuroscientist, the biology course requirements are more stringent for the neuroscience major. Students with an interest in biology and the natural sciences might consider this major. Students need to possess the capacity to plan experiments, establish the circumstances for experiments, compile, organize, and analyze experimental results, publish articles, and take part in academic discussions.
Skills needed to become a neuroscientist:
- Master the fundamental concepts of mathematics, physics and chemistry.
- Master the basic theories, basic knowledge and basic experimental skills of cell biology, genetics, developmental biology, neurobiology, molecular biology and ecology.
- Understand the general principles and knowledge of similar majors
- Understand the national science and technology policy, intellectual property rights and other relevant policies and regulations
- Understand the theoretical frontiers, application prospects and latest developments of biological sciences
- Master the basic methods of data query, literature retrieval and the use of modern information technology to obtain relevant information
Common misconceptions about Neuroscience
1. What is the relationship between neuroscience and psychology?
Neuroscience and psychology are two different disciplines. Psychology is mainly concerned with the study of human behavior (“Why do I think and do this?”) and development (“Why do I do it this way when I was a child, and do it another way when I’m an adult?”). In short, psychology is the study of “mind”. Although neuroscience also studies human behavior, the angle of research is different. Neuroscientists are more concerned about “what causes this behavior” and analyze it from the aspects of genes, cells, tissues, systems, and cognition.
Furthermore, it must be highlighted that, at least for the time being, not all recent advances in neuroscience can be used to explain psychological phenomena. It would be like trying to cure all tumors with one treatment if you tried to replace the psychological level with the neurological level naively.
2. What is the relationship between neuroscience and cognitive science?
They are both interdisciplinary fields of study.
The research object of neuroscience is the nervous system, which ranges from genes and cells to high systems and cognition. To become a neuroscientist, you must learn research methodologies such as electrophysiology, psychophysics, brain imaging, and others and encompasses the disciplines of biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, anatomy, and psychology.
The research object of cognitive science is cognition and its processes. It is an interdisciplinary field that investigates how the brain creates information and how transcription works. It spans majors in psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, anthropology, artificial intelligence, and linguistics.
Universities that offer Neuroscience degrees
One of the first steps to take to become a neuroscientist is to get a relevant degree. Here are some neuroscience degrees offered by selective universities that will ensure you get a good start.
- Harvard University – Program in Neuroscience
- Stanford University – Department of Neurobiology
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
- California Institute of Technology (Caltech) – Division of Biology and Biological Engineering
- Columbia University – Department of Neuroscience
- University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) – Neuroscience Graduate Program
- Johns Hopkins University – Department of Neuroscience
- University of California, Berkeley – Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute
- Princeton University – Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
- University of Oxford – Department of Experimental Psychology
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