What Kind of Science is Neuroscience?

This article answers the question “what kind of science is neuroscience?” It also will cover what neuroscience is in detail, what is cognitive neuroscience, the subspecialties of neuroscience, and how to get into neuroscience.

What Kind of Science is Neuroscience?

Traditionally, neuroscience has been considered a subdivision of biology. However, now it is considered to be an interdisciplinary science which works closely with other disciplines as well. 

These disciplines include mathematics, linguistics, computer science, engineering, psychology, medicine, chemistry, and sometimes even philosophy. 

Neuroscience is also known as ‘Natural science’ because it is the study of the nervous system, how it develops, what are the structures of the nervous system, and what the nervous system does. 

Researchers usually think of neuroscience as being the same as neurobiology. However, this is not true. Neurobiology only looks at the biology of the nervous system. 

Whereas, neuroscience refers to the entire nervous system and deals with anything to do with the nervous system. Today, neuroscientists are more involved in many fields than before. They study the cellular, functional, computational, medical, molecular, and evolutionary aspects of the nervous system.

Neuroscientists are known as medical research scientists who tend to study the nervous system. The nervous system is comprised of the brain, spinal cord and nerve cells in the body. Neuroscience is considered to be a complex field of science which includes studying molecular and developmental biology, physiology, and anatomy along with other subjects.

Neuroscientists use this knowledge to study the nervous system and understand the ways to better the functioning of the brain in terms of its effectiveness. 

Since neuroscience is a diverse and large field, neuroscientists choose to focus on specialising in certain areas of study. This enables them to narrow in on the research in areas that interest them. For instance, if they choose to become a neurologist, they can work with patients who have conditions of epilepsy, strokes, and multiple sclerosis (MS).

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 Is Cognitive Neuroscience?

If you’ve ever wondered why we tend to do the things that we do and what makes us angry, happy, or sad, and why it happens, then these answers are the main focus of Cognitive Neuroscience. 

Humans are complicated animals who possess an even more complicated thought process. Humans are influenced by chemicals as well as electrical impulses. However, this is a simple explanation, and the processes that influence us are more complicated. 

Cognitive neuroscience studies human cognition and thought processes because it relates to neuroscience and the biological functions of the brain as well as the nervous system. 

Here, the goal of cognitive neuroscientists is to help psychologists to better understand the processes that influence the physiology and biology of the brain. They help psychologists to understand the thought processes, emotions, behaviours, and memories of humans.

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. Here is a brief history of 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.

Frequently Asked Questions: What Kind of Science is Neuroscience?

What is Clinical Neuroscience?

Clinical neuroscience studies the disorders of the nervous system.

How do you pronounce neuroscience?

Neu·ro·sci·ence or ˌn(y)o͝orōˈsīəns/ is the correct pronunciation 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.

Do neurosurgeons have subspecialties?

Neuroscience is a vast and diverse field. The functions of the brain and the nervous system are complicated, and it will be difficult for neurosurgeons to have advanced knowledge of all the related aspects of the brain and the nervous system. Thus, it is common for neurosurgeons to have limited scope in their practice. They limit themselves to either specific populations to work with (children, geriatric, or young adults) or specific areas of the nervous system.

References

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

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

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