Do I need chemistry for Neuroscience?

Do you want to study neuroscience but are not sure what basic knowledge you need? You wonder how much chemistry neuroscientists study?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’Do I need chemistry for Neuroscience?’’ We will analyze the neuroscientist study plan and what level of training you need to become one.

Do I need chemistry for Neuroscience?

Yes, you need chemistry for Neuroscience (or Neuroscience needs chemistry?). You will need basic chemistry concepts in order to become a neuroscientist, as the brain structure contains many chemical substances and processes.

Our brain defines us, processes the world around us, and determines how we respond to stimuli. In the brain, processes such as falling in love with someone, being able to recognize yourself, or having a smell remind you of a place take place.

But it also has dysfunctions caused by diseases, injuries or developmental deficiencies that affect the organ that even make us lose the sense of proprioception or our ability to communicate. All these processes have to do with neuroscience

Neurosciences study the structure and chemical function, pharmacology and pathology of the nervous system and how the different elements of the nervous system interact and give rise to behavior.

The biological study of the brain is a multidisciplinary area that encompasses many levels of study, from the purely molecular to the specifically behavioral and cognitive, through the cellular level (individual neurons), small networks of neurons (such as cortical columns) and large assemblages (such as those of visual perception) including systems such as the cerebral cortex or the cerebellum.

What is neuroscience for?

Being multidisciplinary in nature, neuroscience provides important knowledge related to the processes of our body. Some of the topics that neuroscience investigates are detailed below.

  •  Neurotransmitters and their participation in the formation of behavior.
  •  Biological mechanisms related to learning.
  • Functioning and structure of elements linked to memory and perception.
  • Structure and functioning of consciousness.
  • Genetic aspects of neuronal development from the moment of conception.
  • Neural networks and their scope.

Areas of neuroscience

Neuroscience is made up of various branches, which provide specific knowledge, such as:

Developmental neuroscience describes how the brain grows and changes.

Cognitive neuroscience is about how the brain creates and controls thinking, language, problem solving, and memory.

Molecular and cellular neuroscience explores the genes, proteins, and other molecules that guide the functioning of neurons.

Neurogenetics focuses on inherited changes in neurons, including studies of certain genetic diseases, such as Huntington’s disease and Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Behavioral neuroscience examines the areas and processes of the brain that underlie animal and human behavior.

Clinical neuroscience explores how to treat and avoid neurological disorders and how to rehabilitate patients whose nervous systems have been damaged.

Neurophysiology describes the study of the nervous system itself and how it works.

Sensory neuroscience examines the characteristics of the body’s sensory systems and how the nervous system interprets and processes sensory information.

What do I need to get into Neuroscience?

Undergraduate degree

To get into college, there are two admissions tests known as the SAT and the ACT. Most institutions accept the two exams equally, so the student can choose which one is better based on their abilities.

SAT Exam

The SAT measures a student’s reading, writing, and math skills. It consists of two sections that begin with reading and writing, and ends with the mathematics section. Students can score between 200 and 800 for each section and the total possible score is 1600 points. The duration of the exam is 3 hours without counting the breaks between sections.

ACT Exam

The ACT contains four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. A score between 1 and 36 can be obtained for each section and the final score is calculated by taking the average of the four sections. The total duration of the test is 2 hours and 55 minutes without counting the breaks between sections. All ACT questions are multiple choice.

Major in neuroscience

Neuroscience majors study a combination of subjects, including psychology and chemistry, to deepen their understanding of the brain and the nervous system.

The number of courses required to specialize may vary depending on the university. Typically, you need 128 credits, which is roughly 15-17 courses offered in the Biology, Psychology, Mathematics, and Computer departments. Your grade cannot be lower than C.

Being interdisciplinary neuroscience, neuroscience students are spoiled for choice: more than 30 electives, including laboratory and seminars. A large number of courses are offered in universities, supported by different apartments such as Chemistry, Mathematics, Statistics, Physics, Psychology and Health Sciences.

To obtain the Neuroscience Major, the subjects Biology I, Biology II, Chemistry I and Chemistry II are essential. You will need more than a C to pass.

However, remember that you can opt for a PhD in neuroscience with any major, it can be in Biology or Psychology. In fact, what you study in your undergraduate degree will influence the area of interest in which you want to specialize later.

Graduate programs

GRE (Graduate Record Examination) General Test

The GRE test measures the cultural level and basic skills in the Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative and Analytical Writing sections, which are developed throughout the academic life and are essential qualities to complete a Postgraduate degree.

The GRE General evaluates these capacities in general subjects and not in specific areas of knowledge.

Actually, as we mentioned above, you don’t need a specific academic training to enter Neuroscience. According to the Society for Neuroscience report, among the degrees of students who enroll in doctoral programs are majors in neuroscience, biology or psychology, as well as chemistry and mathematics.

If you take a graduate program, during the first year you will have courses in the basic principles of neuroscience.

With topics of neurophysiology, cellular neurobiology, neuroanatomy, neuropharmacology, etc. And your GPA (Grand Point Average) must be a minimum of 3.00.

When you are finishing the program, you will have to present a doctoral thesis, with guidance from the thesis advisor and the committee.

What’s next?

You won’t be considered a neuroscientist with just a bachelor’s degree. You will need a lot more academic training. Actually, there is an extensive list of options in neuroscience. It all depends on your interest.

If you imagine yourself working with injured patients, maybe your thing is medicine. If you are more focused on discovering drugs or investigating more neurodegenerative diseases, take a doctoral program and be a researcher. If you would like to expand your knowledge, you can be a professor or a popular researcher.

Choose a university depending on what you want, study the quality of teachers and laboratories. If you have colleagues in the area much better, this will help you establish contacts and practical experience.

Neuroscience. Study program

A large number of universities, especially in the United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia offer undergraduate programs in Neurosciences, granting the degree of “Bachelor of Sciences, Major in Neurosciences”.

In the UK, there are undergraduate programs in Neuroscience at King’s College of London, and at the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Sussex, Dundee, Cardiff and Leeds. Similarly, degrees in Neuroscience are awarded by Leithbridge and McGill Universities in Canada and the University of Melbourne in Australia.

The analysis of the programs of these universities shows that they are made up of basic subjects such as mathematics, chemistry and physics, a group of subjects with a biological orientation and the rest formed by a wide range of neuroscience subjects, including neurobiology, neurochemistry and neuropsychology.

The study plan of Boston University exemplifies the type of curricular organization common to most of the universities in the United States of America, consisting of offering the student a number of subjects in basic areas:

  • Chemistry 
  • Mathematics
  • Physical
  • Biostatistic 
  • Cell and Molecular Biology 
  • Genetics and evolution

The students organize their own semester and submit it to the advisor and / or technical committee of the area for approval.

Best universities to study neuroscience

We detail, below, a global classification of the best universities and academic divisions that have neuroscience programs, both undergraduate and graduate:

  • Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology / Harvard Medical School: Harvard University (1).
  • Stanford School of Medicine: Stanford University (2).
  • Department of Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology: University College London (3).
  • Department of Neuroscience: Columbia University (6), Oxford University (7), University of Pennsylvania (8), Washington University (9), Johns Hopkins University (10), University of Texas and Yale University.
  • Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department: MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) (5)
  • Department of Psychology and Neuroscience: Duke University, Baylor University, and University of Colorado Boulder.

See the numbers for a ranking of academic excellence in neuroscience research (Top 10 Global Universities for Neuroscience. U. S. News).

How is chemistry and neuroscience related? Brain chemistry

Various chemicals act as transmitters of signals between one neuron and another. This network of chemical systems, superimposed on that of neural circuits in the brain, adds a new dimension to brain function.

In the nervous system, information is transmitted mainly through nerve impulses (form of nerve action potentials) that pass one after another through a series of neurons through interneuronal junctions called synapses.

There are two kinds of synapses:

Electrical synapse: Where electrical impulses are transmitted through direct channels from one cell to the next.

Chemical synapse: Where the first neuron secretes a chemical called a neurotransmitter, and this, in turn, acts on the membrane receptor proteins of the next neuron to excite, inhibit or modify its sensitivity in some way.

The identified neurotransmitters can be divided into broad categories based on their chemical structure, some are amines, some are amino acids, and many are polypeptides. Some are purines, and NO (nitrogen monoxide) and CO (carbon monoxide) are gases.

Given the role of information transmission in the nervous system for neuroendocrine regulation and maintenance of homeostasis, and with the knowledge that transmission at most synaptic junctions is chemical in nature, one can easily understand the importance of having basic knowledge about chemistry.

And this is just a cursory check. Of course you do not need an A in chemistry to enter Neurosciences, in the same career they will be in charge of teaching you the chemistry you need (Chemistry I and Chemistry II), but it is important to have a notion of it not only at the beginning, but also to manage the subject perfectly-, especially if you want to develop as a researcher.

FAQS: Do I need chemistry for Neuroscience?

How is chemistry related to neuroscience?

Chemistry is in charge of studying structures at the molecular level, and in this case, the structure of the brain, rich in chemical compounds, is the object of neuroscience study.

What subjects do you need for Neuroscience?

To enter a Neuroscience program, in your undergraduate degree you must have seen subjects such as biology, chemistry and physiology.

What is the goal of neuroscience?

The goal of neuroscience is to achieve a full understanding of the structure of the nervous system. To understand behavior and cognitive processes. As well as developing strategies to combat neurological diseases.

What would neuroscience fall under?

You could say that neurosciences are part of biology, in fact, it was previously considered a subdivision of it. But currently, it actually encompasses various areas of study such as mathematics, engineering, chemistry, psychology, and medicine.

Is dopamine a neurochemical?

Yes, dopamine is a neurochemical. Called monoamine neurotransmitter. And it has a fundamental role in the functioning of the limbic system.

In this brief guide we answered the question ‘’Do I need chemistry for Neuroscience?’’ and analyzed the neuroscientist study plan and what level of training you need to become one.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know!


The Undergraduate Program in Neuroscience | Neuroscience. (2020). Retrieved October 4, 2020, from website:

Squire, L., Berg, D., Bloom, F. E., Du Lac, S., Ghosh, A., & Spitzer, N. C. (Eds.). (2012). Fundamental neuroscience. Academic Press.

Bear, M., Connors, B., & Paradiso, M. A. (2020). Neuroscience: Exploring the brain. Jones & Bartlett Learning, LLC.