The Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Program (BCN) is an interdisciplinary research and training area within the Department of Psychology. The BCN area prepares students for positions in research and teaching in many areas of neuroscience, including functional cognitive imaging, neural physiology, behavioral pharmacology, and neurobehavioral teratology. Training is provided via foundation courses, specialized seminars, and intensive participation in research. Students are mentored in one-to-one working collaborations with the faculty. Our program prepares students for post-doctoral training and employment in academic and non-academic settings, including colleges and universities, industry and government..

It is an exciting time to be a neuroscientist. The study of the brain and behavior is one of the last great frontiers for human investigation. Neuroscientists are discovering how billions of neurons and thousands of chemical and electrical signals result in perceptions of the world around us, memories about our experiences, emotional reactions to the subtle and profound events in our lives, and the dynamics of our behavioral reactions to all these happenings. In understanding how the brain works we can come to understand some part of ourselves. Knowledge of these functions in the normal brain provides a foundation for investigations of the abnormal brain and the psychopathological states that trouble human existence. In this way, behavioral neuroscientists can develop strategies to alleviate these disorders.

It is an especially exciting time for the Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Program (BCN) at Wayne State University. We are a dynamic collaboration of faculty and students who are investigating a broad array of neural and biobehavioral phenomena. These investigations range from studies of cognitive and neurochemical processes associated with aging, drug addiction and neurological disorders to studies of the neural circuits that underlie learning, emotion, and weight regulation, to research on the life-long developmental plasticity of the neurobiological processes of behavior. Graduate study in behavioral and cognitive neurosciences at Wayne State means, learning about behavioral neuroscience at many levels of analysis and having the opportunity to study these phenomena in state-of-the-art laboratories using modern neurobiological techniques.

 

Curriculum

In addition to the basic Departmental Core, all students take a BCN Core sequence of courses that provides solid fundamentals about the brain and behavior. Core courses include Functional Neuroanatomy, Neurophysiology and Neural Plasticity, Cognitive Neuroscience, Psychopharmacology, and Theories of Learning. These courses form a strong foundation for all other courses that follow in each student’s area of concentration, as well as for their individual research, which begins in their first year. Student training will be complemented by Concentration Coursework selected in consultation with each student's Advisor. Concentration Courses provide flexibility in individual training by offering educational opportunities in areas most relevant to a student’s interests and research. Concentrations include, but are not limited to: Lifespan and Cognitive Neuroscience, Pharmacology and Substance Abuse, Motivated Behaviors, Developmental Psychobiology and Teratology, behavioral and Cellular Mechanisms of Learning, Health Psychology, and Evolutionary Psychobiology.

For a detailed description of the BCN curriculum, please click here.

 

Research Training

Current students in the Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Program (BCN) conduct research in such areas as neural, behavioral and developmental pharmacology and toxicology; food intake and body weight regulation; neurochemistry; molecular processes underlying learning and synaptic plasticity; biological bases of memory and emotion; substance use and abuse; functional brain imaging of cognitive processes associated with aging; and neurobehavioral teratology. Through these opportunities and experiences, BCN students learn diverse skills and methodologies used in cutting-edge academic and industrial laboratory settings.

Our students can tap into the extensive research facilities in many parts of the large Wayne State University neuroscience community. More than 60 faculty members from the College of Science and the School of Medicine currently participate in neuroscience research. The BCN area has strong ties with the Cellular and Clinical Neurobiology program (CCN) in the School of Medicine that fosters interactions between students and faculty, and provides additional avenues for coursework and research seminars. The Department of Psychology also has long-standing collaborations, with a number of excellent research departments, laboratories and hospitals throughout Wayne State University and the metropolitan Detroit area. In recent years, BCN faculty ahve had active research collaborations and /or BCN graduate students have conducted neuroscience research with scientists at Wayne State University's departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Nutrition and Food Science, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, Physiology, Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, at various research centers such as the Karmanos Cancer Institute, the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development, Brain Imaging Research Division and the Center for Behavioral Medicine, as well as the Henry Ford Hopsital's Sleep Disorders Laboratory and Health Psychology Laboratory.

 

Laboratory Facilities

A broad spectrum of equipment housed in the Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Program laboratories enhances graduate training and research.

General purpose equipment such as oscilloscopes, infusion pumps, analytical balances, and many computers equipped with software packages for word processing, statistical analysis of data, and graphical representation of data are available to students. Surgical laboratories include stereotaxic instruments, autoclaves, electrolytic and radio frequency lesion makers, and equipment for producing neurotoxic lesions. Histology laboratories are equipped with cryostats, freezing microtomes, compound microscopes, and computer-based imaging equipment for the 3-dimentional analyses of individual neurons or brain sections. Behavioral laboratories are equipped to conduct a variety of experiments.

Specific specialized laboratories, listed alphabetically, include:

Behavioral Pharmacology and Toxicology Laboratory (Dr. Scott Bowen): Behavioral test appratuses include operant chambers, activity monitors, various mazes (Morris and Plus), and various motor funciton tests are used to investigate the neurobehavioral mechanisms underlying inhalant tolerance and dependence, and the developmental effects of prenatal inhalant exposure. A state-of-the art gas chromatograph allow sensitive assessment of tissue levels of drugs.

 Brain Connectivity and Aging Laboratory (Dr. Jessica Damoiseaux): the main focus of the lab is to investigate age-related changes in brain function, brain structure and cognition. The aim is to better understand normal age-related brain changes and to detect early signs of abnormal aging, such as Alzheimer’s disease. The techniques used to study brain changes, in particular the changes in connections between brain regions (brain connectivity), are resting state functional MRI and diffusion imaging. The lab is located in the Knapp building, in the Institute of Gerontology, and we use the MRI facilities at Harper Hospital to collect our brain imaging data.

Cognitive and Brain Development Lab (Dr. Noa Ofen).  Located in the Knapp Building, in the Institute of Gerontology, the Cognitive and Brain Development Laboratory houses the research program studying of neural underpinnings of cognitive and brain development. We incorporate behavioral and neuroimaging methods and are using the MRI research facilities at Harper Hospital for data collection. We also collaborate with the Department of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at Wayne State School of Medicine and other national and international collaborators.

Concepts and Cognition Lab (Dr. Lara Jones):  The major focus of research in our lab, which is located in the Simons Bldg., is on relational representation in language. Specifically, we use a variety of computerized and paper/pencil tasks to investigate the underlying processes of inferring relations between concepts (e.g., an ISLAND HOUSE is a house located on an island). We investigate the processing of this relational information in lexical priming and verbal analogy tasks.

Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging Lab (Dr. Naftali Raz). Located in the Skillman Building, next to the Institute of Gerontology, Cognitive Neuroscience of Aging Laboratory houses the research program dedicated to exploration of neural underpinnings of cognitive aging, as well its positive and negative modifiers. Currently, we are engaged in the following projects funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging: A longitudinal study of differential age-related changes in brain structure, longitudinal predictors of episodic memory, age-related differences in executive functions and their neural correlates, hypertension as a modifier of cognitive and brain aging. For non-invasive brain imaging we use MRI facilities at Harper Hospital and Children's Hospital of Michigan, the affiliates of Wayne State Unviersity. We also collaborate with the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) on a study of protective effects of exercise and aerobic fitness on the aging brain and cognition.

Developmental Psychobiology Laboratory (Dr. Susanne Brummelte)  The main focus of research in the lab is on the effects of early adverse life experiences on brain development and the subsequent behavioural outcome. The lab is located in the Biological Sciences Building and equipped with behavioral testing apparatuses for rodents as well as histological, neurochemical and molecular equipment to investigate the effects of early stress such as prenatal anti-depressant exposure on the maturation of the nervous system of male and female offspring.

Molecular Mechanisms of Learning Laboratory (Dr. Thomas Fischer): This laboratory utilizes advanced neurophysiological techniques (such as current and voltage clamp) in conjunction with behavioral and computational techniques to study molecular and synaptic processes associated with learning.

Neurobehavioral Teratology Laboratory (Dr. John Hannigan): Located in the C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth & Development, equipment is available for behavioral testing of rodents (various automated mazes and activity monitors), histological preparation (tissue imbedders, microtome, and microscopes, Neurolucida neural image analysis system), basic neurochemical and molecular biological assays, to assess the teratology of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs. The clinical research component of the lab, located in the University Health Center, assesses neural and behavioral and cognitive outcomes in children with fetal alcohol effects

Neurobiology of Emotion Laboratory (Dr. George Borszcz): The neural mechanisms that underlie emotion and studied using specialized audio equipment for the analysis of animal vocalizations, computer-controlled brain stimulators, and electro-physiological equipment for recording multiple- or single-unit neural activity from the brain. Changes in brain chemistry associated with emotional states are studied using in vivo microdialysis and high-performance liquid chromatography.

Psycholinguistics Lab (Dr. Lee Wurm): The main focus in this lab, which is located in the Simons Building, is on auditory word recognition. Current projects examine the roles of semantics, affective connotation, and morphological structure. Our primary behavioral response measure is reaction time, but we also record and analyze spoken responses and collect a wide range of untimed judgment data. We have collaborators in several countries in Europe and Asia, making available a wide range of languages for study.

 

Behavioral and Cognitive Neuroscience Faculty

George S. Borszcz, Associate Professor 
Ph.D. Dartmouth College, 1987
Interests: The neurobiology of learning and emotion.

Scott E. Bowen, Associate Professor and Area Chair
Ph.D. University of Mississippi, 1993
Interests: Behavioral pharmacology and toxicology, neurobehavioral effects of prenatal toluene exposure.

Susanne Brummelte, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., University of Bielefeld, Germany, 2007
Interests: Developmental Neuroscience, Stress, Maternal Depression, Early Adversity, Neurogenesis, Sex-differences

Thomas Fischer, Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of California, Riverside, 1990
Interests: Synaptic plasticity, neural mechanisms of learning.

John H. Hannigan, Professor
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Ph.D. State University of New York, Binghamton, 1983
Interests: Neurobehavioral effects of prenatal alcohol exposure.

Jessica Damoiseaux, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2008
Interests: Cognitive Neuroscience, neuroimaging, resting state fMRI, diffusion imaging, cognitive aging, early detection of Alzheimer's disease, neuropsychology, working memory.

Ty Partridge, Associate Professor
Ph.D., Wichita State University, 1998
Interests: Biology-behavioral relationships, child temperament, developmental systems theory, statistical and computational modeling.

Naftali Raz, Professor,
Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin, 1985
Interests: Cognitive Aging, Cognitive Neuroscience, Noninvasive Neuroimaging. (Primary appointment is Institute of Gerontology).

Pat Siple, Professor,
Ph.D., University of California at San Diego, 1975
Interests: Memory and language processing, cognition, sign language, deafness.

Noa Ofen, Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, 2004
Dr. Ofen's long-range research goal is to understand how learning and memory work in the human mind and brain. This includes memory for experiences and facts (declarative memory) and memory for skills (procedural memory).

Lara Jones, Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Georgia, 2007
Interests: Relational representation and inference in word pairs.

Lee Wurm, Professor
Ph.D., State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1996
Interests: Speech perception and psycholinguistics.

 

Faculty with primary appointments in other units

Ernest B. Abel, Professor
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Ph.D. University of Toronto, 1971
Interests: Prenatal determinants of abnormal behavior and reproductive toxicology; effects of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine on offspring behavior and on reproductive behavior of parents.

Mark K. Greenwald, Associate Professor
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences
Ph.D. University of Florida, 1992
Interests: Human neuropsychopharmacology of substance abuse, determinants and analysis of drug seeking behavior, brain imaging, therapeutics development.

Moriah Thomason, Assistant Proferssor
Merrill Palmer Institute
PhD. MIT 2006

General Doctoral Program Information

Doctoral Program Admission Requirements

Doctoral Program Application Procedure

Questions?  Contact Alia Allen at aallen@wayne.edu

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