The doctoral program curriculum consists of core and elective courses and research in neuropsychology within the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Candidates may also enroll in directed studies or graduate courses offered in other Boston University departments, including the Departments of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Psychology, and course offerings of the Graduate Program for Neuroscience.
The curriculum for the doctoral program in Behavioral Neuroscience consists of coursework, lab rotations and research components.
PhD degree candidates must complete the equivalent of a minimum of sixteen semester courses (64 credits) at the graduate level. Half of these credits may be satisfied by the MA degree or its equivalent and half must be completed between the Department of Behavioral Neuroscience and other graduate course offerings at the School of Medicine.
Candidates with a Master’s degree or its equivalent in psychology or a related field are required to complete the equivalent of a minimum of eight graduate-level semester courses (32 credits).
Students typically register for four courses per semester and must register for at least one course per semester until all departmental course requirements are completed (unless granted an authorized leave of absence). Specific course requirements are determined on an individual basis by the student’s faculty adviser with the approval of the Behavioral Neuroscience Director.
Core and Elective Courses
Together with their adviser, students develop a course plan tailored to their personal background, academic interests and ultimate career goals. The required core courses are intended to provide students with a firm foundation in basic principles and methods of Experimental Neuropsychology. Each candidate must fulfill minimum core requirements as well as corresponding courses relevant to their major area of specialization.
Directed Study and Research
Students complete laboratory rotations during their first year. Laboratory rotations are an essential feature of graduate training at Boston University. Faculty in the Behavioral Neuroscience department of the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences currently receiving research funding will help students refine their own research skills throughout the first year of graduate studies. Upon completing first-year laboratory rotations, students typically affiliate with a specific faculty member and his/her research laboratory. This faculty member will serve as the student’s primary research adviser and supervisor and provide future financial support.
A core component of the doctoral program is a research apprenticeship with a Behavioral Neuroscience faculty member, intended to prepare students for independent research careers. Course credits for the Research Apprenticeship are offered as Research in Behavioral Neuroscience. Students also have the opportunity to assist resident and staff neurologists/psychiatrists in providing consultative services, participate in rounds and attend didactic seminars and hospital lectures at Boston University School of Medicine and the VA Boston Healthcare System.
Upon nearing completion of coursework, candidates must satisfactorily pass a written and oral Qualifying Examination demonstrating proficiency both in basic principles and methods of human experimental neuropsychology in five subject areas, such as those listed below. The examination is given by five faculty members (each representing one of the five subject areas). At least three of the faculty members constituting the Qualifying Exam Committee must have faculty appointments in the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Both the oral and written portion of the Qualifying Examination is to be completed no later than a student’s third year in the Program.
Example Subject Areas:
Disorders of purposeful movement
Frontal brain systems
Neuropsychology of alcoholism
Pathology of learning and memory
Visuospatial and other perceptual problem
Dissertation and Defense
Prior to embarking on his/her dissertation research (usually in the third year), students develop a dissertation proposal, which clearly outlines the nature of the research to be undertaken. Dissertation proposals include a background and introduction with a brief review of the pertinent literature, specific aims, methods of procedure and an assessment of research importance when completed.
Students propose a principal dissertation adviser and may suggest possible dissertation readers (the principal dissertation adviser may be either the same or different from the student’s academic adviser). The Behavioral Neuroscience Doctoral Committee (the principal adviser and two or more readers form the student’s dissertation committee), as well as the Director of the program, reviews both the written and oral defense of the proposal. Proposed research involving human participants must be submitted for approval to the Institutional Review Boards of all cooperating institutions.
Dissertation research involves collecting, processing and analyzing original data. The final dissertation must document the 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) 2-3 research papers meeting current standards of publication in refereed journals (e.g., Neuropsychologia, Cortex, Neuropsychology, Brain and Cognition, Archives of Neurology, and Human Brain Mapping).
Prior to receiving dissertation approval from 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 student’s dissertation committee (dissertation adviser and at least two readers) and two additional persons.
The final oral defense is intended to demonstrate the student’s abilities to: design and execute an original research project, the results of which must signify progress in a significant area of behavioral neuroscience; describe the dissertation research clearly and succinctly in oral and written contexts; exercise mastery of methods in defending the methodological approaches employed, and; place the advancement of knowledge achieved by the dissertation research in perspective. Ultimately, the written dissertation and defense serve as indicators of the student’s ability to embark on a career as an experimental neuropsychologist and behavioral neuroscientist.