What is neuroscience?
Neuroscience is the scientific study of the brain and the broader nervous system to better understand its structure and its relation to behavior, cognition, emotion, consciousness and experience. Neuroscience is also used to study numerous disorders of the brain and nervous system.
Studying neuroscience can be an appealing choice for students with an aptitude for the sciences and a natural curiosity about what science has yet to discover. As a major in a scientific field, your neuroscience online courses will draw on your skills in natural sciences such as biology and chemistry as well as math and statistics. Neuroscience degree programs also include courses in psychology to help define the relationship between the brain and the mind.
The brain: Science's great frontier
Just as space is considered the greatest opportunity for many engineers and astrophysicists, the brain is often considered the great frontier of the natural and health sciences.
Researchers have made great strides in neuroscience in recent years, particularly with the rise of improved imaging tools allowing scientists to see brain function. But there is still much to learn.
"We know very little about the brain," Stanford University neurobiologist Dr. Chen said in 2016. "We know about connections, but we don't know how information is processed."
Neuroscience is a field in which researchers still hope to make numerous important discoveries. As an undergraduate student studying neuroscience, you’ll be part of a field that is always growing and changing.
What to expect in an online neuroscience online
Your online neuroscience degree program will involve a variety of classes. You’ll first take foundational courses, including classes such as biology, calculus, chemistry, psychology and statistics. These introductory courses provide you with the mathematical and scientific background you'll need in your upper-division neuroscience courses.
After you've taken your introductory and foundational courses, you'll take upper-division neuroscience courses. Since neuroscience applies to the animal brain as well as the human brain, you'll learn about both human and animal biology and physiology. You'll also take upper-level mathematics, including courses geared toward engineers.
Additionally, you'll have the opportunity to take electives related to your neuroscience major. At Arizona State University, these electives include classes such as Animal Behavior and Your Brain On Drugs. Which electives you choose, along with which neuroscience courses you enjoy the most, can help you determine what kind of career you want to pursue once you've completed your degree.
Your foundational and specialized courses will include a combination of lectures, group work, small-group discussions and, in the case of many of the science courses, lab work and field studies. You'll have the opportunity to collaborate with your fellow students on projects with dynamic, real-world implications, in addition to taking traditional courses with lectures and set exams.
The four levels of analysis in neuroscience
In a bachelor's in neuroscience online degree, you'll study neuroscience from four different levels of analysis and learn how each of those levels relates to the other, providing you with a broad understanding of the brain and nervous system.
- Cellular and molecular neuroscience
Cellular and molecular neuroscience looks at the brain and the nervous system through the lens of biology. In your study of cellular and molecular neuroscience, you'll learn about the physiology of the brain. This includes what types of cells make up a brain and how the different cells in the nervous system combine to make a functioning nervous system in a human or animal.
Cellular and molecular neuroscience is considered a multidisciplinary field of study and is related to several scientific fields, including biology and chemistry, as well as mathematics, particularly statistics. In your cellular and molecular neuroscience courses, you will also learn about the anatomy and physiology of the physical brain.
- Systems neuroscience
Systems neuroscience also looks at the brain through the lens of biology and chemistry, but it focuses on the structure and function of neural systems.
A single brain holds billions of neurons. Systems neuroscience considers how they all work together to form a functioning brain. In recent years, systems neuroscience has made great advances, largely due to the development and increased availability of brain imaging technology, such as positron emission tomography scanners — commonly known as PET scanners.
- Cognitive neuroscience
Closely related to psychology, cognitive neuroscience is the study of how brain activity underlies our thoughts and emotions. Unlike the other aspects of neuroscience, cognitive neuroscientists almost always study humans, rather than animals. In general, animal cognitive activity can be very difficult to identify and measure.
Cognitive neuroscience has some relation to chemistry (particularly concerning the study and observation of neurons) and to brain physiology, including where in the brain different types of thoughts and emotions reside. There is much to still be discovered in the area of cognitive neuroscience, especially with regard to higher-level, abstract thought.
- Behavioral neuroscience
Behavioral neuroscience relates to our actions — that is, how the brain controls human and animal behavior. Behavioral neuroscience has many practical applications, including in the fields of medicine, psychology and animal training. Its findings can even be applied in commercial fields such as advertising. Behavioral neuroscience relates to biology and psychology, and can overlap with genetics and brain development as well.
In the field of medicine, behavioral neuroscience can be especially valuable as a diagnostic tool for certain medical/psychological conditions, including sleep disorders and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It also has applications in addressing complex conditions such as dementia and in developing new medical treatments for behavior-related conditions. These treatments can be pharmacological or non-pharmaceutical, and include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and meditation.
Earn a neuroscience degree online with Arizona State University
In addition to positioning you to enter a field where new discoveries are constantly being made, majoring in neuroscience can also provide you with a highly diverse, multidisciplinary course of study.
ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in neuroscience introduces you to the four levels of analysis of neuroscience and offers courses in overlapping fields. Pursuing a neuroscience degree with ASU Online means not only learning about neuroscience itself, but you’ll also study biology, calculus, chemistry, psychology and statistics.
This bachelor’s in neuroscience prepares you for jobs in health and research through exposure to the cutting-edge technology involved in brain imaging and the broader study of neuroscience. Skills in computer programming, experimental design, behavioral understanding and data science make graduates of this program marketable for future STEM professions.