What is the concept of neuroscience?

This article will answer the question “what is the concept of neuroscience?” It will discuss what neuroscience is, the various fields under neuroscience and how you can become a neuroscientist. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.

What is the concept of neuroscience?

Neuroscience, sometimes also known as neural science, is the study of how the nervous system develops, how its structures are developed, and its various functions of the same. The concept of neuroscience is to understand the complexity of the brain and the spinal cord.

Neuroscience is the field that studies how cognitive processes help people and animals develop habits. Neuroscience is a vast field and many overlapping subfields have emerged from it as it has the same subject of interest- the human brain.

Cognitive psychology. Neuroscience relates most to cognitive psychology because this branch investigates the mental processes of the individual. It tries to understand how the brain engages in several mental activities.

Cognitive psychology understands how we learn, solve problems, memorise, and acquire language. It also looks into how we perceive the world, think about the world, communicate, and store information.

Cognitive psychology is closely related to the fields of neuroscience, philosophy and linguistics. It also tries to understand how people can improve their memory, increase their decision-making abilities, and boost learning.

The term “neuroscience”, stemming from the Greek word νεῦρον (neûron) means “string, nerve”. This probably is explained better by the fact that the neural pathway which builds the connections within the brain is a network of nerves attached like a string. 

This string bundle is then wrapped over and over in as many layers as would require to contain a staggering amount of 86 billion neurons.  

As mentioned above, there are a wide number of fields that have newly emerged from the singular field of neuroscience. Thanks to the advancement of modern technology and to the fact that we are living in the information age, we have been able to build computers and come up with state-of-the-art techniques to be able to study the brain. 

Not only do these techniques facilitate the process of studying the complex organ that is the brain, but it also helps us paint pictures and produce videos of the brain in its active phase. 

This is a huge leap from our days of having to wait for people to get injured through brain damage, get a stroke, or worse, die- so we could be able to extract their brain from their body after conducting an autopsy and then proceeding to study the brain and its structure.

One problem with the decades-old method of the autopsy was that the brain begins to heal almost as soon as it faces any injury. Research on brain plasticity proves just that. 

Moreover, it could only possibly tell us about the structure of the brain. Brain injury studies could tell us very slightly about the functions of the brain, however, these modern techniques of studying the brain have not only told us more about the functions and the building blocks of the brain, but they have also shed immense light on the ways in which our brain processes internal cognitive information, as well external behaviour and habits. 

Yes, you read that right!

If you’ve ever speculated that cognitive processes might help animals and humans develop habits, you were not incorrect in any capacity. In fact, there is a specific field for that very type of study. 

It may not be very difficult to guess its name, as we are talking about two very particular aspects of the study: habits and thought processes. Because we are talking about cognition and behaviour, the field of study that helps us develop these behaviours is behavioural neuroscience. 

How to Get into Neuroscience?

Education is the most important path to making a career in neuroscience. The following are the steps to complete in regards to education in order to become a neuroscientist:

  1. Get a bachelor’s degree: The very first step to becoming a neuroscientist is to earn your bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject related to neuroscience. This usually includes the subjects neuroscience and biology. 

Only some schools offer the subject of neuroscience to get an undergraduate degree, this subject focuses on the functions and the anatomy of the nervous system. The degree also includes the teaching of mathematical and research skills for undertaking research in the undergraduate major.

If the school you are applying to does not have the subject of Neuroscience, you can choose biology as well. This is because neuroscience is a sub-stream of biology and the program will entail learning about the nervous system and other disciplines of biology. 

Thus, depending on your school, you can major in biology with a special concentration in neurobiology as this will also allow you to study the nervous system and the cells involved in the nervous system. 

  1. Get a Master’s degree: After earning a bachelor’s degree, the next step is to work towards a Master’s degree. Many schools offer neuroscience majors including areas such as cognitive neuroscience, developmental neuroscience, etc. This is the time you have to consider what kind of neuroscientist you want to become. The course will cover data analysis, statistical models, as well as disorders of the brain and nervous system. 

Remember that it is essential for you to decide what area you want to specialize in. This will help in determining whether it is essential for you to do your PhD or MPhil. For instance, if you wish to become a clinical neuroscientist, you will have to get a PhD after your master’s in order to practice. 

  1. Do your PhD or M.D: In order to work as a clinical neuroscientist, it is necessary to achieve a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Along with this, it is also necessary for clinical neuroscientists to complete a medical residency and clear the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). 

This will enable them to treat and diagnose patients with disorders of the brain and the nervous system. Before clearing this exam, neuroscientists can engage in research work and gain experience with supervised clinical work.

If you wish to pursue advanced research or work only in certain specialities, you can also pursue a PhD in neuroscience. A PhD in Neuroscience takes around 5 to 6 years to complete and mostly comprises research and lab work that takes place independently. Generally, neuroscientists pursue their PhD while working as a neuroscientist simultaneously, and usually do a PhD to advance in their career.

Neuroscientists mostly choose to do a combined PhD and M.D. program in neuroscience. This helps in opening more opportunities to work with as they can diagnose and treat patients while also doing independent research. Enrolling in a joint degree is reasonable and can help you acquire a career in the medical field as well as in research.

Getting a combined PhD and M.D. in neuroscience typically takes 8 to 9 years to be completed. Students usually finish their studies by working on a thesis on a topic under neuroscience.

What are the areas of applied speciality for neuroscientists?

The various fields in which neuroscientists can do their majors, or specialise are as follows:

  • Developmental Neuroscience is a field that studies the development of the brain through different stages of life, and the changes that occur in the brain as a result of ageing.
  • Cognitive Neuroscience focuses on how the brain creates memories, language, and problem-solving abilities. It also focuses on understanding how the brain uses the same.
  • Molecular and Cellular neuroscience focuses on certain molecules and cells in the brain that determine the functioning of neurons.
  • Neurogenetics studies how the genes inherited by the individual affect the brain and the body by influencing changes in the neurons.
  • Clinical neuroscience deals with medical diagnoses and treatment of disorders of the brain and the nervous system. It also helps in the management f the same.
  • Neurophysiology focuses only on the nervous system and its functioning.
  • Sensory neuroscience studies how the nervous system processes and use sensory information received by the body.

Conclusion

This article answers the question “what is the concept of neuroscience?” It discusses what neuroscience is, the various fields under neuroscience and how you can become a neuroscientist. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions: What is the concept of neuroscience?

How did cognitive neuroscience emerge as a field?

Cognitive neuroscience is considered to be a new field in both neuroscience and psychology. In the 1970s, Michael Gazzaniga, who was a neuroscientist and George Miller, who was a cognitive psychologist, pioneered the way toward cognitive neuroscience.

What is Electroencephalography (EEG)?

First discovered about a century ago, EEG measures electrical activities of the brain from electrodes placed on the scalp. Usually, EEG is collected from tens to hundreds of electrodes positioned at different locations on the scalp. Most EEG systems used in cognitive neuroscience research today employ 64 to 256 electrodes.

What is fMRI?

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI )detects the amount of blood flow in each brain region and thus is an indicator of neural activity. Very clear and detailed pictures of brain structures can be produced via fMRI. Often, the images take the form of cross-sectional “slices” that are obtained as the magnetic field is passed across the brain. 

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2009). The cognitive neurosciences. MIT press.

Miller, G. A. (1989). George A. Miller. Stanford University Press.

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