Academic Program - Neuroscience - Colgate University Skip Navigation


(For 2014–2015 academic year)

Coordinator B. Hansen 

Neuroscience is the study of brain-behavior relationships. The Neuroscience Program at Colgate is one of the first two established at undergraduate institutions in the U.S. While a growing number of institutions now offer an undergraduate major in neuroscience, a distinctive feature of Colgate’s neuroscience program is its interdisciplinary faculty having appointments in the Department of Psychology, which includes a cell biologist/neurochemist, a zoologist/neurophysiologist, a physiological psychologist, a vision scientist, and a cognitive neuroscientist. Majors also take courses in the fields of chemistry, biology, physics, and psychology. In addition to a broad education, the program offers students the opportunity to focus their research interests on a variety of levels of nervous system functioning, ranging from the activity of single neurons to the behavior of complex organisms.

Major Program

Students should achieve a C– in NEUR 170 (crosslisted as PSYC 170) in order to enter the major. Students not meeting this expectation must consult with the coordinator of the program before continuing in the major. Students may elect one of two routes to a major in neuroscience: behavioral neuroscience or cellular neuroscience. 

Behavioral neuroscience examines the relationship of the brain to complex behaviors of the organism, and cellular neuroscience focuses on the structure and function of cells and molecules in the nervous system. Although emphasizing different levels of the nervous system, the two areas of study have a common core curriculum consisting of the following eight requirements: 
1. NEUR 170, Introduction to Brain and Behavior
2. CHEM 101, General Chemistry I
3. CHEM 102, General Chemistry II
4. PSYC 309, Quantitative Methods 
or BIOL 320, Biostatistics
5. NEUR 373, Brain, Physiology, and Behavior,
or NEUR 376, Neural Development and Functional Neuroanatomy, or NEUR 377, Psychopharmacology
6. NEUR 375, Cognitive Neuroscience,
or NEUR 353, Visual Perception and Cognition, or PSYC 355, Language and Thought
7. NEUR 379, Fundamentals of Neurochemistry/Neuropharmacology, or NEUR 384, Fundamentals of Neurophysiology,
or BIOL 385/385L, Neuroethology, NEUR 389, Molecular Neurobiology
8. NEUR 498, Senior Thesis 

In addition to the preceding eight requirements, students must take three additional courses to fulfill requirements for each area of study.

Behavioral Neuroscience
1. PSYC 200, Research Methods
2. One course chosen from PSYC 250–259 or 350–359 (any single course from this range of courses in cognitive psychology)
3. One elective chosen from the following: 
a. Any 200-level or 300-level biology course
b. NEUR 379 or NEUR 384.

Cellular Neuroscience
1. BIOL 182, Molecules, Cells, and Genes (formerly BIOL 212)
2. CHEM 263, Organic Chemistry I
3. One elective chosen from the following:
a. NEUR 373, 375, 376, 377, 379, or 384
b. BIOL/PHYS 350, Biophysics 

c. Any 300-level biology course.

Senior Thesis

NEUR 498, Senior Thesis (one term) must be taken in the fall or spring of the senior year. During the spring term of the junior year students identify several areas of interest for their senior-year research experience. Students are then assigned to faculty research supervisors and assigned to the fall or spring semester sections based upon students’ interests and the availability of resources. On the rare occasions when PSYC 450 or PSYC 470 may be offered, students may substitute that seminar for NEUR 498.

Students planning honors research are required to enroll in NEUR 498 in the fall of the senior year, followed by NEUR 499 in the spring of the senior year. On occasion, students who are not pursuing honors or high honors may complete two semesters of senior research by taking NEUR 498 in the fall and NEUR 491 in the spring.

The minimum grade requirement to complete the major is a 2.00 average calculated for all courses counting toward the neuroscience major. A passing grade must be received for a course to satisfy a major requirement.

Honors and High Honors

The requirements for achieving honors and high honors in neuroscience are as follows:
1. Overall GPA of 3.30 or better
2. Major GPA of 3.50 or better, calculated across all major courses at the 200 level and above except NEUR 291 and 391
3. A two-semester independent research project of high quality
4. Satisfactory oral examination performance on the subject matter of the senior thesis and related fields.
High Honors
1. Overall GPA of 3.50 or better
2. Major GPA of 3.70 or better, calculated across all major courses at the 200 level and above except NEUR 291 and 391
3. A two-semester independent research project of very high quality
4. An oral examination performance that demonstrates mastery of the senior thesis and related fields.


See “Honors and Awards: Neuroscience” in Chapter VI

Transfer Credit

Transfer of major credit from other institutions for students already matriculated at Colgate requires prior written permission from the registrar and the coordinator of the neuroscience program.

Study Group

Majors may spend a semester at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, to carry out biomedical research and take courses. See “Off-Campus Study” in Chapter VI. In addition, Colgate sponsors a study-abroad program in the natural sciences and mathematics at Cardiff University in Wales, and at the University of Wollongong near Sydney, Australia. See “Off-Campus Study” in Chapter VI.

Course Offerings

NEUR courses count toward the Natural Sciences and Mathematics area of inquiry requirement, unless otherwise noted.

170 Introduction to Brain and Behavior
Relationships between brain and behavior are examined at a variety of levels, including neurochemical, neurophysiological, physiological, and cognitive functioning. Psychology majors should complete this course by the end of the junior year. Because this course is a prerequisite for all other neuroscience courses, neuroscience majors should complete it by the end of the sophomore year. Open to first-year students, sophomores, and juniors; open to seniors by permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270). 

353 Visual Perception and Cognition
B. Hansen, D. Johnson
This course focuses on the visual sensory and cognitive processes that enable humans to elaborate a mental model of the physical world. The course examines the ways humans internally represent external objects and how events in turn influence their perceptions. Readings are from journal articles that focus on the behavioral and neurophysiological aspects of low-level vision and face recognition, visual awareness and attention, and mental imagery. PSYC 200 is recommended. Prerequisite: PSYC 250 or 251, or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 353.

373 Brain, Physiology, and Behavior
S. Kraly
What is the relationship among brain, physiology, and behavior in humans and animals? What can we learn about the relationship of brain and behavior that can be useful for understanding and treatment of psychological and behavioral disorders in humans? This course uses readings in the published literature to examine a wide variety of research strategies used in the contemporary study of brain, physiology, and behavior. Prerequisite: NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270), or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 373.

375 Cognitive Neuroscience 
S. Kelly
Cognitive neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field — drawing from chemistry, biology, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy — that explores the relationship between the mind and the brain. Like the field of cognitive neuroscience, the scope of this course is broad, focusing on brain mechanisms for such diverse processes as sensation and perception, attention, memory, emotion, language, and even consciousness. Students read primary journal articles on case studies from the clinical literature of patients with localized brain damage and reports from the experimental and neuroimaging literature on the effects of invasive and noninvasive manipulations in normal subjects. Mind-brain relationships are considered in the context of cognitive theories, evolutionary comparisons, and human development. PSYC 200 is recommended. Prerequisite: NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270) or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 375.

376 Functional Neuroanatomy and Neural Development
J. Yoshino
The first quarter of the course focuses on mechanisms of neural development including proliferation of stem cells, migration, differentiation, and synapse formation. The latter portion of the class examines the function of neuroanatomical regions and their relationship to the variety of symptoms associated with schizophrenia. As the more overt symptoms of schizophrenia do not appear until late adolescence, knowing how and when various regions of the brain develop is essential for understanding the emergence of various neurological deficits in this disease. Prerequisite: NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270) and BIOL 182 (formerly BIOL 212), or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 376.

377 Psychopharmacology
S. Kraly
In this seminar, students and the instructor discuss the effects of drugs upon psychological processes and behavior in humans. Readings in the textbook treat the mechanisms of action (physiological and neurochemical) of various classes of drugs used in therapy or “on the street.” Readings in professional journals illustrate the experimental study of drug effects in humans and in animals. Prerequisite: NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270) and PSYC 200, or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 377.

378 Topics in Neuroscience
Courses in specific neuroscience topics offered by various staff members. Inquiries about the topics offered any given term should be directed to the coordinator of the Neuroscience Program.

379 Fundamentals of Neurochemistry/Neuropharmacology
J. Yoshino
The class focuses on two diseases: relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and idiopathic Alzheimer’s disease. The initial portion of the course examines the various methods neurochemists utilize to answer questions about these two diseases. The remainder of the course focuses on the epidemiological, neuroanatomical, cellular, biochemical, and molecular aspects of the two diseases. Multiple sclerosis is a more intercellular question examining the interaction of immune cells and the glia of the nervous system whereas Alzheimer’s disease tends to focus more on intracellular mechanisms leading to the synthesis of beta-amyloid and the formation of neurofibrillary tangles, the two hallmarks of this disease. Prerequisites: NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270), BIOL 182 (formerly BIOL 212), and CHEM 263. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 379.

384 Fundamentals of Neurophysiology
A.J. Tierney
This seminar and laboratory course examines the physiology of the nervous system. Lecture and class discussion topics include ion channel structure and function, synaptic transmission, second messenger systems, neuromodulation, the neurophysiological basis of behavior in “simple” animals, the evolution of neural circuits, the cellular basis of learning and memory, and the cellular basis of selected human nervous system diseases. Laboratory exercises teach dissection and electrophysiological recording techniques. Prerequisite: BIOL 182 (formerly BIOL 212) or NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270), or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as BIOL 384 and PSYC 384.

385/385L Neuroethology
A.J. Tierney
Neuroethology is a subfield of neuroscience focused on the study of the neural basis of natural behavior. Many types of behavior and a wide array of animals are studied, and the approach is often comparative and evolutionary. In this course, students delve into the neuroethological literature, examining the neural basis of animal communication, navigation, movement, sensory processing, feeding, aggression, and learning. Laboratory exercises teach methods of behavioral analysis and electrophysiological recording techniques. The 0.25 credit-bearing laboratory course NEUR 385L must be taken concurrently with NEUR 385 and may not be taken as a stand-alone course. PSYC 309 or BIOL 320 (formerly BIOL 220) is recommended. Prerequisite: NEUR/PSYC 170 (formerly PSYC 270) or BIOL 182 (formerly BIOL 212) or permission of instructor. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 385/385L and BIOL 385/385L.

389 Molecular Neurobiology
This course is crosslisted as BIOL 389. For course description, see"Biology: Course Offerings,”;

470 Research Seminar in Physiological Psychology and Neuroscience
S. Kelly, S. Kraly, A.J. Tierney, J. Yoshino
This seminar focuses on a specific research topic in the areas related to the neurological, neurochemical, and/or physiological bases of behavior. The topic varies from term to term. Students are expected to study a topic in depth and to participate in original empirical work in this area. This course is open to junior and senior psychology and neuroscience majors and to others by permission. Prerequisite: a course from NEUR/PSYC 370–389. This course is crosslisted as PSYC 470.

291, 391, 491 Independent Study
Advanced independent studies may be arranged in consultation with individual instructors.

498, 499 Senior Thesis
Neuroscience majors plan and carry out one-term experimental research projects under the guidance of faculty members in the neuroscience program. For students who wish to be considered for honors, two-term thesis projects are required; such students enroll in NEUR 498 in the fall and NEUR 499 in the spring. On occasion, students who are not pursuing honors or high honors may complete two semesters of senior research by taking NEUR 498 in the fall and NEUR 491 in the spring. With permission,NEUR/PSYC 470 or PSYC 450, when appropriate, may be substituted for 498.