From Synapse to Circuits to Self

Neuroscience examines the bidirectional relations between the nervous system and behavior and includes perspectives from biology, psychology, chemistry, and philosophy. As an inherently interdisciplinary field, neuroscience applies various methodologies to study the molecular, cellular, developmental, evolutionary, structural, functional, computational, and pathophysiological aspects of the nervous system. The neuroscience curriculum at Bates is structured so that students appreciate how multiple levels of analysis are needed to understand the complexities of human and non-human animal behavior. At the cellular and molecular level, students engage with invertebrate animal models to learn how individual neurons process and produce electrochemical signals to support inter-cell communication. Using rodent models at the systems level, students learn how neurons interact to form circuits through which animals take in sensory information from the environment and produce motor behavior and other output that is adaptive for the animal in its environment. At the cognitive level, students study human thought, emotion, and behavior by looking at the structure and function of human brains in normal and diseased states.

The neuroscience program fosters an active, learning-by-doing approach, as students conduct meaningful and innovative research at several points in their academic career, beginning in laboratory sections as supplementation to classroom learning and culminating with rigorous, independent research during the senior thesis.  The neuroscience major at Bates provides an excellent foundation for a variety of post-graduate careers. After graduation, many of our students work in high-profile research laboratories around the country or continue their studies in doctorate programs in neuroscience, clinical psychology, pharmacology, and public health, in medical and veterinary schools, or in nurse practitioner and other nursing programs.

While progressing through the neuroscience curriculum at Bates, students can expect to achieve the following learning goals:

  • Understand core concepts in biology, psychology, and chemistry that are foundational to scientific study of the nervous system and serve as starting points for discovery
  • Appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of neuroscience by participating in classroom and research experiences that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries and levels of analysis
  • Value the role of broad, liberal arts training in order to evaluate neuroscience critically within a larger cultural, sociohistorical, and/or ethical framework
  • Develop a high level of scientific literacy and analytical skill so as to competently judge the scientific merit of original research and its representation by popular media
  • Apply critical thinking skills to formulate novel scientific questions and incorporate the appropriate analytical research methodologies to address them
  • Communicate effectively about neuroscience in written and oral form to both specialized and broad audiences
  • Develop personally-meaningful professional direction for post-graduate life through experiences within the major