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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 GS21 1017 was taken

    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

In addition to the general GSBS requirements listed here, 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)

    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)

    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)

    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)

    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. 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)

    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)

    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)

    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. 

    >> Curriculum Committee Commended Course for Academic Year 2022-2023 <<

  • Systems Neuroscience
    Course Detail

    GS14 1024 (4 credits)

    This course cover the key concepts in systems neuroscience that allow students to understand how individual neurons and circuits process information and modulate behavior. The central idea behind this course is to illuminate the connection between physiology and function. In order to do this, we will concentrate on several key brain systems, and for each of these systems, we will interrogate how the structure and physiology of distinct brain circuits account for their function.

    The aim is to understand fundamental principles, not to survey the entire brain. We chose several different systems that are qualitatively different to illustrate the basic principles of systems neuroscience. The course will provide students with fundamental knowledge about the function, connectivity, and plasticity of neuronal circuits.  We will do this by exploring how selected brain systems form perceptions of the external world, execute movements, make decisions, represent space, and form memories.  In addition, we will examine how stress, fear, and reward are encoded and regulated, how the brain controls internal metabolic needs such as food intake, energy expenditure, temperature regulation and sleep, and how pain sensation is initiated peripherally and perceived centrally. We will emphasize unifying principles, including how the brain processes information, how different cell types contribute to the function of circuits, and how the brain is modified during learning and experience.

    An integral part of the course is a neuroanatomy lab that will relate the functional view presented during the lectures with the anatomical structures in which these functions are implemented. The course will also include article presentations in which each student has the opportunity to present a scientific paper related to the course material, discuss the findings, and ask questions.

  • Visual Neuroscience
    Course Detail

    GS14 1213 (3 credits)

    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.