Only the doctoral program is offered (no master’s degree). ┬áThe Program is not designed to meet requirements for accreditation as to clinical competence in psychology nor in any discipline which has a certification procedure. It does, however, accept students in the M.D./Ph.D. Program at Boston University School of Medicine, or other students enrolled elsewhere in related programs (including the Master of Arts in Medical Sciences Program), to take some or all of the offerings. Boston University School of Medicine is an accredited institution. Behavioral Neuroscience is a degree-granting Program having the same representation as other Ph.D.-granting Departments in the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences.

Entering students are expected to have completed requirements for admission to the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, and also the following courses (or their equivalents): Introductory Psychology (one year); Experimental Psychology (one year); Physiological Psychology or Neuropsychology (one semester); Abnormal Psychology (one semester); and Statistics (one semester). Prerequisite courses not completed before registration may be completed while the candidate is in residence as a graduate student, but may not be presented for graduate credit. The Program is not, by itself, designed to meet requirements for certification as to clinical competence in Psychology nor in any discipline having a certification procedure. However, we will accept students enrolled elsewhere in clinical programs to take some or all of the offerings.


In addition to the general requirements of the Graduate School and of the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, each candidate shall fulfill the minimum requirements corresponding to the major area of specialization: Human Neuropsychology Seminars I and II; Neuropsychological Assessment; Basic Neurosciences; Statistics; Neuroanatomy; and Research in Behavioral Neuroscience. Students with primary interests in Aphasia will be required to take an additional course in Linguistics, and students with primary interest in Psychopharmacology will be required to take additional courses in Pharmacology. The student, working with an advisor, will develop a plan of course work tailored to the student’s background experience and ultimate career goals. The intent of the course requirements is to provide students with a firm foundation in basic principles and methods of Experimental Neuropsychology. Students will also display in-depth preparation by passing written and oral parts of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination in at least five areas, of which the following are examples:

Language disorders
Disorders of purposeful movement
Dementias Pathology of learning and memory
Affective disorders
Visuospatial and other perceptual problems
Developmental disorders
Neuropsychology of alcoholism
Behavioral pharmacology
Frontal brain systems
Cerebral dominance


The program of study for the Ph.D. degree includes the equivalent of a minimum of sixteen semester courses (64 credits) at the graduate level, of which half may be satisfied by the MA degree or its equivalent and half of which must come from the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience and other graduate course offerings at the School of Medicine (including GMS BN 991, 992 Research in Behavioral Neuroscience). Candidates with a master’s degree or its equivalent in psychology are required to complete the equivalent of a minimum of eight graduate-level semester courses (32 credits). If a student’s background requires more than the minimum of eight courses, the student may transfer the number of courses corresponding to that required in excess of the eight. Normally no more than four courses may be taken concurrently, and students register for at least one course each semester until completion of all departmental course requirements unless granted an authorized leave of absence. Specific course requirements are determined on an individual basis by the student’s faculty advisor with the approval of the Behavioral Neuroscience Doctoral Committee administering the Program.


As one of the requirements for admission to degree candidacy, the student, upon nearing completion of coursework, must satisfactorily pass a written and an oral examination demonstrating proficiency in basic principles and methods of human experimental neuropsychology and in five areas such as those listed above. The examination is prepared by five faculty members (each representing one of the five required areas). At least three of the faculty giving questions in the qualifying examination must be from the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Both parts of the qualifying examination must be completed no later than a student’s third year in the Program.


Before embarking on his/her dissertation research (usually in the third year), the student must develop a dissertation proposal outlining clearly and distinctly the nature of the research to be undertaken. The dissertation proposal should include a background and introduction, brief review of the pertinent literature, specific aims, methods of procedure, and an assessment of the importance of the research when completed.

The student proposes a principal dissertation advisor and may suggest possible readers for the dissertation (the principal dissertation advisor may be the same or different from the student’s academic advisor). The dissertation proposal is reviewed by the Behavioral Neuroscience Doctoral Committee, and an oral defense of the proposal is required. When the proposed research involves human participants, the proposal also is submitted to the Institutional Review Boards of all cooperating institutions for their approval. The principal advisor and two (or more) readers become the student’s dissertation committee.


The dissertation must, in general, provide documentation of a student’s creative scholarship and ability to design, conduct, and report on independent research in behavioral neuroscience. The completed dissertation will approximate (and may be substituted in part by) research papers meeting current standards of publication in refereed journals (e.g., Neuropsychologia, Cortex, Neuropsychology, Brain and Cognition, Archives of Neurology, and Behavioral Neuroscience). The dissertation research involves collection, processing, and analyses of original data.


Subsequent to approval of the dissertation by the student’s dissertation committee, the student must present an oral defense of the dissertation to the Behavioral Neuroscience Doctoral Committee in accordance with the rules of the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. The student’s oral defense committee must consist of the dissertation advisor, the two readers, and two additional persons to be appointed by the Behavioral Neuroscience Doctoral Committee.

The purpose of the final oral defense is to demonstrate the student’s abilities: to design and execute an original research project, the results of which must signal progress in a significant area of behavioral neuroscience; to describe this dissertation research clearly and succinctly in oral and written contexts; to exercise mastery of methods in defending the methodological approaches employed; and to place in perspective the advance in knowledge achieved by the dissertation research. As a final goal, the defense of the dissertation and the dissertation itself serve as an indicator of the student’s ability to embark on a career as an experimental neuropsychologist and behavioral neuroscientist.


Applicants must submit results of the GRE or similar tests such as the MCAT, taken in the previous four years. Applicants already enrolled in the Boston University School of Medicine may be eligible for admission to the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences for joint degrees, without submitting GRE scores, if progress to date has been judged satisfactory. Applicants from countries where English is not the language of instruction must submit TOEFL scores as well.

Primary teaching affiliate
of BU School of Medicine