A program that focuses on the scientific study of the structure and function of the central and peripheral nervous system in vertebrates and invertebrates as it relates to control of behavior. Includes instruction in neuronal systems and circuits, higher level studies of behavior and cognition, computational neurobiology, and behavioral manifestations of central nervous system diseases and disorders.

Neurobiologists study how the nervous system processes information and influences behavior.

The nervous system is composed of the brain, the spinal cord, cells called neurons, and long fibers. Together, these pieces receive and transmit electrical signals, which allows for the recognition of external sensory input. These Neurobiologists typically focus on either the anatomical or behavioral aspects of the field, though their work by nature contains elements of both. Anatomical neurobiology has to do with understanding the physical makeup of the nervous system and each of its individual components. Behavioral neurobiology is more concerned with understanding the cognitive effects of different biological triggers, like memory, learning, language acquisition, sensing, and emotions.

Using this knowledge, neurobiologists can develop treatments for neurological disorders and create new models for dealing with addiction or memory loss. These therapeutic models try to fix the source of the problem rather than attempting to treat its symptoms, and can involve selectively blocking input to certain neurological sensors. Since the brain is responsible for so many things, neurobiology can deal with topics as diverse as motor function and degenerative disease.

Work in neurobiology may include...

  • Conducting brain scans using specialized equipment
  • Observing the structure and activity of the nervous system
  • Identifying neurological functions and their corresponding roots
  • Developing treatment plans for patients
  • Educating others about neurobiology

Most neurobiologists work in medical research labs run by hospitals and universities. They are increasingly present in the biotechnology sector, with a lot of work aimed at interpreting brain signals in real time. Pharmaceutical development is another place where neurobiologists work, with the vast majority in research roles. Occasionally government research will make a foray into the field, and of course many neurobiologists are educators, clinical leaders, surgeons, technicians, or writers.

Neurobiology is a highly technical field that requires extensive training in biology. A Bachelor's of science is standard, with most students completing coursework in cell biology, anatomy, neuroscience, biochemistry, and physics. It's possible to find roles as lab technicians or research with this level of education, but many neurobiologists decide to pursue further study. There are a few options - a Master's program, a PhD program, or medical school. Some elect to do more than one advanced degree, meaning that becoming an expert neurobiologist can take a decade or more.

We are just starting to unlock the capacity of the brain and nervous system, and many believe neurobiology is the key. If you're interested in furthering the field, there might be a great career waiting for you there.

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