Neurobiology

Website with Track Requirements: Undergraduate Education in the Life Sciences

Advising and Assistance: Prof. Venkatesh Murthy, Neurobiology Head Tutor (fall term); Dr. Ryan Draft, Neurobiology Concentration Advisor; and Dr. Laura Magnotti, Neurobiology Concentration Advisor

The Intellectual Basis: Neurobiology is concerned with uncovering the biological mechanisms by which nervous systems mediate behavior. Over the past half century, much of neurobiology has focused on the cells of the nervous system. The structure and physiology of nerve cells (neurons) and supporting glial cells has been elucidated in considerable detail as well as the functional contacts (synapses) made between neurons. How individual nerve and receptor cells generate, carry, and transmit electrical and chemical signals is now well under-stood, and many substances that are used by neurons to communicate information have been identified. More recently, molecular biological approaches are revealing the molecules involved in carrying out neural activities, and we are rapidly gaining glimpses of how these molecules function.

As we move into the 21st century, increasing attention is being given to integrative or systems neurobiology -- the study of aggregates of neurons and functional circuits. How do assemblies of neurons give rise to the behaviors we associate with higher brain functions, from perception and control of movement to learning and memory? Increasingly, studies on both invertebrate and vertebrate nervous systems are asking such questions. A particularly intriguing problem is how nervous systems develop and establish their complex circuitry.

The MBB Track in Neurobiology is intended to provide students with the tools to study nervous systems biologically -- from molecules to behavior. This tracks is necessarily broad, requiring students to study chemistry, physics, and mathematics as well as cellular, molecular, and behavioral biology. Students electing one of these tracks will be well prepared for graduate programs in biology or neurobiology as well as for medical school.