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Neuroscience

Program Course Requirements

  • GS14 1214 Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (Fall) Minimum passing grade:B
  • GS14 1024 Systems Neuroscience (Spring) Minimum passing grade:B
  • GS14 1612 Biostatistics for the Life Sciences (Spring) Not required if opting out of the fast track
    Graduate Neuroanatomy (Part of Systems Spring 2024)


    Two advanced course electives (taken in years 2 and 3) at least one of which should be within Neuroscience. Current Neuroscience electives are:

    GS14 1183 Biology of Neurological Diseases (Fall)
    GS14 1173 Cognitive Neuroscience (Spring - odd years)
    GS14 1223 Neurocircuits and Behavior (Spring - even years)

    Combine two courses to count as one elective:
    GS14 1131 Neurobiology of Mental Health Disorders (Spring)
    GS14 1151 Cancer Neuroscience (Spring)
    GS14 1141 Neuroimmunology (Spring)

    Elective courses not counted towards requirements:
    GS14 1611 Current Topics in Neuroscience (Fall)
    GS14 1213 Visual Neuroscience (Fall)
    GS14 1021 Current Topics in Neurobiology of Disease (Fall)
    GS14 1071 Translational Neuroscience (Summer)
    ECE 583 (Rice Course) Electromagnetism and the Brain (Spring)

Incoming students who are certain that they want to affiliate with the Neuroscience Program (“Fast track”) begin taking Neuroscience classes in the fall semester. Students who are interested in Neuroscience but want to keep their options open (“Traditional track”) take the GSBS core course, GS21 1017 Foundations of Biomedical Research in the fall semester,  before starting to take classes of the Neuroscience curriculum in the spring semester.

Course requirements for students who declare a Secondary Area of Concentration in Neuroscience

  • One of either GS14 1214 (Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience) or GS14 1024 (Systems Neuroscience)
  • One advanced course elective in Neuroscience (see above list)

Course requirements for MD/PhD students

MD/PhD students that join the Neuroscience Program will be required to take one of the two Neuroscience Program core courses (GS14 1214 Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience or GS14 1024 Systems Neuroscience) and two advanced electives, at least one of which should be within Neuroscience (see list above).

Course requirements for MS students

GSBS Neuroscience Graduate Program Academic Requirements 

Course Descriptions

  • Biology of Neurological Diseases
    Course Detail

    GS14 1183 (3 credits)
    Fall

    This course will focus on the etiologies underlying major neural diseases. Led by GSBS faculty with related expertise, the course will review representative neural diseases and discuss seminal research papers in the respective fields, with emphasis on the current understanding of these diseases at molecular, cellular, and system levels. By completing this course, students should grasp the knowledge of fundamental biology of major neural diseases, appreciate the common and distinctive mechanisms underlying these diseases, learn the existing hypotheses and experimental paradigms as well as outstanding questions and main challenges in the field, and hone the ability to develop novel strategies for scientific and translational discoveries for this unique group of diseases. Auditing this course is permitted with course directors' consent. 

  • Biostatistics for Life Scientists
    Course Detail

    GS14 1612 (2 credits)
    Spring

    Liu, Yin. Two semester hours. Spring, annually. Grading System: Letter Grade. Prerequisite: None.

    This is an entry-to-intermediate level course of biostatistics aimed at scientists in the life sciences. During the first half of the semester, the course will introduce students to the basic concepts and statistical tests that are routinely encountered in analyzing scientific data in designed experiments, as opposed to the analysis of clinical or epidemiological type data. Following an introduction to probability, students will learn what statistical tests are appropriate and how to run them. Emphasis is on intelligent usage rather than mathematical formality. Standard tests such as t, z, chi squared, ANOVA and regression analyses will be learned, as well as how power analyses and calculating sample size is performed. During the second half of the semester, advanced topics in life sciences, including Poisson distributions, clustering methods and multidimensional analyses will be covered. Another goal of this course will be to build familiarity with the basic R toolkit for statistical analysis and graphics.

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
    Course Detail

    GS14 1173 (3 credits)
    Spring

    This course is an introductory graduate level overview of cognitive neuroscience. The course will cover basics in history, neuroanatomy, methods of cognitive neuroscience, sensation and perception, control of action, learning and memory, emotion, language, attention, drugs and cognition, impulsivity, cognitive control, social cognition, and neurobiology of disease. The intent is to provide students with fundamental knowledge of how the brain relates to cognitive functions and how this may help in understanding and treatment of human diseases that affect the central nervous system.

  • Current Topics in Neurobiology of Disease
    Course Detail

    GS14 1021 (1 credits)
    Fall

    This course is an integrated approach to neurological diseases, which includes background information as well as the diagnosis, treatment, and biological mechanisms of the diseases under study. The topic for Fall 2023 will explore the rapidly growing field of “Neuromodulation and Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCI).”  This course will provide students with a broad understanding and appreciation for invasive (e.g., electrocorticography (ECoG), stere-electroencephalography (sEEG), local field potential (LFP), deep brain stimulation (DBS) and non-invasive (surface EEG, transcranial magnetic stimulation, transcranial current stimulation) recording and stimulation modalities as they relate to brain mapping, neurological/psychiatric diseases and disorders (e.g., stroke, epilepsy, depression, PTSD) as well as the augmentation and/or restoration of certain functions. Importantly, a discussion of ethical implications as well as the future of these emerging technologies will be threaded throughout and specifically addressed.  Lectures will be given by leading experts in the field from UTHealth Houston, Rice University, and Baylor College of Medicine.

    This course is open to graduate students, medical students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows.

  • Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience
    Course Detail

    GS14 1214 (4 credits)
    Fall

    This course is a graduate level treatment of molecular and cellular neuroscience. It is designed for first-year graduate students and will introduce basic concepts of molecular, electrical and chemical signaling in individual neurons, synapses, and local neuronal circuits.  Topics covered include the functional properties of membranes, receptors, and channels, intracellular signaling cascades, synaptic transmission, short- and long-term forms of synaptic plasticity, and information processing in neuronal dendrites and local circuits.

    >> Curriculum Committee Commended Course for Academic Year 2020-2021 <<

  • Neurobiology of Mental Health Disorders
    Course Detail

    GS14 1131 (1 credits)
    Spring

    This course will cover the current understanding of the biological basis of mental health disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance use disorders. The course will include discussions on challenges that are unique to mental health disorders, and how knowledge of biological underpinnings can be translated to clinical treatments. The presentations will be led by researchers with expertise in the specific disorder and will focus on recent publications on the topic, to facilitate an interactive discussion with students.

    Upon successful completion of this course, students will understand the current knowledge of the biological basis of psychiatric disorders, including underlying molecular, cellular, and systems mechanisms. Students will appreciate how challenges unique to mental health disorders are being approached, what challenges remain, and future directions. Auditing this course is permitted with course instructor's consent. 

  • Neurocircuits and Behavior
    Course Detail

    GS14 1223 (3 credits)
    Spring

    This is an advanced course aimed at students interested in the general field of Systems Neuroscience. The course will introduce new technological advances, as well as their application to examine the functional role of specific neural circuits in vivo. This course will employ a combination of  introductory lectures and extensive in-class discussions of primary literature. In addition, students will be introduced to the manuscript peer review process, by selecting manuscripts from a preprint server, and identifying their conceptual and technical strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Systems Neuroscience
    Course Detail

    GS14 1024 (4 credits)
    Spring

    This course covers the key concepts in systems neuroscience that allow students to understand how individual neurons and circuits process information and how they modulate behavior. Emphasis is placed on the basic structure and function of cells and networks residing in the nervous system. The course covers the major available techniques to examine the operation of neurons and networks in vivo. The principles of functional neuroanatomy are presented by highlighting the main types of neuronal circuits that constitute the building blocks of systems neuroscience. The neural development section is intended to offer students insight into the early 'shaping' of neuronal circuits as computational units. An important concept in systems neuroscience is the fact that information is processed in a hierarchical manner. Covering this issue will allow students to learn about the different stages of cortical processing that constitute the foundations of cognition. Finally, a fundamental property of neurons and circuits, i.e., the capacity to adapt, is discussed in the context of short and long-term plasticity, adaptation, and learning. The overall goal of this course is to provide students with fundamental knowledge of the function, development, and plasticity of neuronal circuits by emphasizing how neural circuits analyze sensory information, form perceptions of the external worlds, make decisions, and execute movements.  

  • Visual Neuroscience
    Course Detail

    GS14 1213 (3 credits)
    Fall

    This is an advanced elective course aimed at students in the neurosciences. The course will introduce the students to the core concepts of the anatomy, physiology and function of the visual system, with an emphasis on retinal circuitry. The retina is arguably the most valuable model to study the CNS. Its accessibility and organization makes it a convenient research tool with which to link anatomy and functionality, and study processes and diseases similar to those in the brain and spinal cord.  The course will guide students to understand how image-forming and non-image forming functions of the retina are accomplished. Normal and dysregulated molecular events underlying developmental and physiological control of retinal function will also be covered. The course will alternate lectures and student presentations of significant articles in the field. Active involvement of the students in class is expected.

Candidacy Exam Description

Neuroscience Program students can either take an on- or an off-topic candidacy exam, following the GSBS guidelines for on-topic or off-topic exam, respectively. The candidacy exam is to be taken during the spring semester of the student’s second year, but not later than during the fall semester of their third year.  The exam is designed to meet two main objectives:

  • To evaluate the student’s ability to develop a novel hypothesis, write a proposal that tests that hypothesis, and defend an original research project.
  • To evaluate the breadth of the student’s overall neuroscience knowledge as gained from the Neuroscience Core Courses.

The research proposal should be broad in scope, and should incorporate several distinctly different experimental approaches. Although most breadth questions will be derived from the research proposal, the student will ultimately be responsible for all areas covered in the core curriculum. Development of the proposal should follow GSBS guidelines.

There are three phases to the candidacy exam:

  • Selection of a topic approved by the advisory committee and generation of a one-page abstract submitted to the program manager and the Academic Standards Committee
  • Writing a proposal in NIH pre-doctoral fellowship format
  • Taking an oral examination based on the submitted proposal, consisting of a 15-20 minute presentation followed by a period of open questioning by a five-member committee.

NGP candidacy exam - 8-10-2023-cover