The interdisciplinary field of social neuroscience studies how developmental, social, genetic, neural, and hormonal factors interact in shaping the everyday life of people. Social neuroscientists might look into important questions such as the development of empathy, social isolation, drug abuse, and behavioral abnormalities. Read on to learn more about graduate degrees that might be pursued in this quickly-evolving field, as well as some common classes that graduate students in this discipline might encounter.
Degree Options in Social Neuroscience
Master of Arts in Behavioral Neuroscience
Those who wish to enter the field with a master's degree could look into Master of Arts (M.A.) programs in behavioral neuroscience. Students can often complete these programs in two years of study. Those with an M.A. may enter doctoral programs or seek positions as research assistants in laboratories. Students typically complete coursework as well as a research-based capstone or thesis. Applicants should expect to submit transcripts, GRE scores, recommendations, and a personal statement. Undergraduate coursework in neuroscience, statistics, and psychology is helpful in admissions.
Doctor of Philosophy in Brain Science
Another option for those interested in studying social neuroscience might be to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in psychological and brain science or cognitive and brain science. This degree differs from a clinical psychology degree in that it focuses on researching and understanding the biological and brain-based reasons for behavior. A Ph.D. program in brain science will typically take four to five years to complete, including coursework and a dissertation. Those entering this type of program will typically hold a bachelor's degree and provide transcripts, recommendations, a resume indicating previous research experience, and goal statement. Some programs may require GRE scores as well.
Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy Dual Degree Programs
Those wishing to study social neuroscience could also choose to enter a dual Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Ph.D. program that covers both psychology and neuroscience. These intensive graduate programs are designed to train physician researchers and may take seven to eight years to complete. Students will often begin their training at medical school, while completing clinical rotations and seminars within their Ph.D. program group. Subsequently, they may focus upon Ph.D. coursework and a research dissertation while engaging in some clinical experiences. Students often complete their course of study with clinical medical coursework.
Candidates typically apply through the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS), with a supplemental application sent to the university. Students should expect to provide MCAT scores, transcripts, letters of evaluation, a resume, and descriptions of coursework. Some programs may require GRE scores through the supplemental application or interviews as well.
Social Neuroscience Program Details
Those participating in a graduate program focused on social neuroscience will have the opportunity to engage in independent research which will guide their program. Courses such as statistics, methods, and ethics will likely be a part of a graduate program as well. Read on to learn more about some specific courses which would be highlighted in the study of social neuroscience.
A course in computational neuroscience examines neural network models of the brain and brain circuit approaches to understanding brain behavior. Specific topics may include neural maps, visual discrimination, and higher brain function. Some experience with computer science may be required.
This course may focus on understanding how behavior arises from brain activity and how to understand neural processes by studying behavior. The major systems of the brain, including the sensory, motor, and limbic systems, could be highlighted throughout the course. Tests of animal brains may provide for hands-on research activity.
Neuroscience of Memory
Within this course, students might be introduced to learning and memory. Specific topics could be working memory, skill learning, and semantic memory. Memory disorders, their diagnostic criteria, and treatment may be reviewed. Students might be introduced to imaging techniques that are utilized in diagnosis.
A cognitive neuroscience course is likely to examine higher mental functions of humans. Major areas including attention and language, and disorders associated with these areas such as ADHD and autism may be major components of this course. Methods used in research could be discussed.
Hormones and the Brain
A course considering hormones and the brain may begin by studying the endocrine system. Students may then move into examining how this system interacts with regions of the brain, both those regions related to reproduction and those that influence other behaviors. The role hormones play in anxiety, stress, and memory could be considered.
A graduate degree in areas of behavioral neuroscience and brain science can be a way to enter the field of social neurology. These degrees require core coursework and research focused upon an area of interest.