Coursework and Requirements

Brown University Graduate School requires students to complete 24 course credits before graduation. Most of these credits are earned within the first three years of study through a combination of core classes, seminars and elective courses. To satisfy any course requirement (core classes), students must earn a grade of B or higher. Students receiving grades of C or No-Credit (C and NC) must meet with their First Year Advisory or Thesis Committee to discuss required remedial action.

Advanced Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology I

Focuses on molecular and cellular approaches used to study the CNS at the level of single molecules, individual cells and single synapses by concentrating on fundamental mechanisms of CNS information transfer, integration, and storage. Topics include biophysics of single channels, neural transmission and synaptic function. Taken in Fall of the 1st year.

Advanced Systems Neuroscience

Focuses on systems approaches to study nervous system function. Lectures and discussions focus on neurophysiology, neuroimaging and lesion analysis in mammals, including humans. Cognitive neuroscience approaches are integrated into the material and the course is integrated with Neuroanatomy (see below). Topics include the major sensory, regulatory, and motor systems.  Taken in Fall of the 1st year.

Advanced Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology II

This course continues the investigation of molecular and cellular approaches used to study the CNS from the level of individual genes to the control of behavior. Topics include patterning of the nervous system, generation of neuronal diversity, axonal guidance, synapse formation, the control of behavior by specific neural circuits and neurodegenerative diseases.  Taken in Spring of the 1st year.

Advanced Systems Neuroscience II

Focuses on cognitive approaches to study nervous system function. Lectures and discussions focus on neurophysiology, neuroimaging, and lesion analysis in mammals, including humans. Computational approaches are integrated into the material. Topics include the major cognitive systems, including perception, decisions, learning and memory, emotion and reward, language, and higher cortical function. Taken in Spring of the 1st year.

Comprehensive Exams

Comprehensive exams take place at the end of the Fall and Spring semesters and are designed to ensure that students have attained an understanding of the core neuroscience concepts taught during the semester. Exams may assess students' factual knowledge, as well as their ability to design rigorous experiments using common neuroscience laboratory techniques. Students may access old comprehensive exams in the Information for Students drive.

Responsible Conduct in Research

The overall goal of this course is to review and discuss what research or scientific misconduct is and the impact unethical conduct can cause within and outside of the research community. Topics to be covered include: Animal research; Human subject research; Proper representation of data; Original presentation of data/ plagiarism; Authorship; Mentorship; Conflict of interest; Confidentiality; ‘Whistle-blowing’; Copyright; Intellectual Property; Data Management and Sharing Plan; Individual Development Plan; Rigor & Reproducibility; Collaborative Science between Academia and Outside Researchers.  Taken in Fall of the 1st year, and again every 4 years (as a refresher course in either the Fall or the Spring).


Combined lecture and laboratory course on the anatomy of the central nervous system. Lectures survey the circuitry of the major neural systems for sensation, movement, cognition, and emotion. Laboratory exercises include brain dissections, microscopy of neural tissue, and discussion of clinical cases. This class is usually concurrent and integrated with Advanced Systems Neuroscience in the Fall of 1st year.


Every winter, the entire first year cohort heads to the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts for a week-long, intensive course in lab techniques. Students rotate through different modules to learn essential techniques for electrophysiology, molecular biology, imaging, and behavioral analysis, taught by postdocs and faculty who are experts in the field. Each module combines a brief theoretical introduction and significant hands-on-experience with a given technique. A subset of third and fourth year students will return to Neuropracticum as teaching assistants for modules closely associated with their research. Other advanced students run independent experiments at MBL during Neuropracticum, further refining their skills in experimental design. This outing also serves as a remarkable bonding and community building opportunity between the students and faculty.

Second year students and beyond may select from a large number of courses and seminars offered by the major departments in the program including Neuroscience, Cognitive, Linguistic and Psychological Sciences, Applied Mathematics, Engineering, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry, and Molecular Pharmacology, Physiology and Biotechnology. These courses are chosen to enhance students’ laboratory research experience, and can be taken either for a grade or Pass/Fail.  Some examples of elective courses include Neural Dynamics (NEUR 1440), Statistical Neuroscience (NEUR 2110), and Machine Learning (CSCI 1420). Elective courses must be approved in advance by thesis mentor and the Program Director.

In order for new graduate students to choose a research area and thesis mentor, and expand their understanding of neuroscience techniques, all students are required to conduct laboratory rotations with approved NSGP Trainers. A lab rotation usually consists of a one-semester research project under the supervision of an NSGP Trainer. Students should rotate with Trainers who may be their thesis advisor, in order to get a sense of the lab environment, expectations and scientific approach. Students should contact possible rotation labs in the summer before the first year and rotations should be underway by the first semester of first year. Students are required to complete two lab rotations.  A third rotation is sometimes undertaken during the summer after first year. The program also offers summer rotations for incoming students. All rotations must be approved in advance by the Neuroscience Graduate Program Director.

Students wishing to rotate in labs outside of the Neuroscience Graduate Program must contact the Program Director who will review the request in consultation with program leadership. Only faculty approved by the Neuroscience Graduate Program Steering Committee can serve as thesis advisors.

Student Laboratory Rotation Report  Laboratory Advisor Rotation Report

In-House Seminar

Second year students and beyond are required to present their laboratory research annually as part of the In-House Seminar Series. Presentations are roughly 30 minutes long, with time for questions, and are attended by neuroscience students, postdocs and faculty.  All first year students are required to attend In-House Seminars.

Bench to Bedside

This seminar series focuses on the translation of basic research to the clinic.  Presentations are coordinated between medical doctors and scientists, and include a discussion of a major clinical problem (eg. epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, bipolar disorder), and how basic science and model systems are being used to study the problem or develop treatments.  Frequently, seminars include interviews and examinations of a patient.

Previous Topics and Speakers
Brain Tumors Steven Toms, MD; Nikolaos Tapinos, MD, PhD
Epileptic Seizures: Neuronal dynamics and therapeutic interventions Daniel Thengone, PhD; Gina Deck, MD
Targeting Familial ALS Katharine Nicholson, PhD; Kristin Wharton, PhD
Neurorehabilitative strategies to improve treatment outcomes in Bipolar Disorder Krisen Ellard, PhD
Early Life Stress: Aging and the brain Kevin Bath, PhD; Audrey Tyrka, PhD; Stephanie Parade, PhD
Tourette Syndrome and OCD: Genetics of two model neuropsychiatric circuit disorders Jeremiah Scharf, PhD

Graduate Proseminar in Neuroscience (NEUR 2010)

This seminar series invites researchers from outside of Brown to present their work, and is intended to expose graduate students to the latest advances in key fields of neuroscience. Seminars are held weekly at 4 PM on Thursdays. Students are required to attend, and seminars are open to all neuroscience researchers.  An informal social with the invited speaker follows the seminar and students are strongly encouraged to attend.

Most of the speakers are usually invited by faculty; however, students invite two speakers each academic year.  Names are submitted to a selection committee in the preceding spring. The chosen speaker is introduced before the talk by the student who nominated him or her.

Past Proseminar Speakers

Jennifer Li, PhD & Drew Robson, PhD (Harvard University)
Dorit Ron, PhD (University of California, San Francisco)
Bruno Averbeck, PhD (National Institute of Mental Health, NIH)
Patricia Janak, PhD (Johns Hopkins University)
Yimin Zou, PhD (University of California, San Diego)
Daniel Dombeck, PhD (Northwestern University)
Christelle Anaclet, PhD (University of Massachusetts Medical School)
Daryl Bosco, PhD (University of Massachusetts Medical School)
Kristin Baldwin, PhD (Scripps Research Institute)
Richard Huganir, PhD (Johns Hopkins University)
Jonathan Pillow, PhD (Princeton University)
Andreas Tolias, PhD (Baylor College of Medicine)
David Lewis, MD (University of Pittsburgh)
Bernardo Rudy, MD, PhD (New York University School of Medicine)
Steven Burden, PhD (New York University)
Chinfei Chen, MD, PhD (Harvard University)
Adam Kohn, PhD (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Albert Lee, PhD (Janelia Research, HHMI)
Karen Zito, PhD (University of California, Davis)
Elizabeth Glater, PhD (Pomona College)
Laura Colgin, PhD (University of Texas, Austin)
Trent Watkins, PhD (Baylor College of Medicine)

Recorded Virtual Seminars - Spring 2021







Recorded (link)


Paola Arlotta, PhD

Harvard University

Alex Fleischmann

Understanding Cortical Development and Disease: From Embryos to Brain Organoids



Wilsaan Joiner, PhD

University of California, Davis

Joo-Hyun Song

Dynamic sonomyographic imaging provides potential control signals for upper-extremity prosthetics



Gaia Tavosanis, PhD

German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE),


Kate O'Connor-Giles

Sparse and plastic: information coding in the mushroom body calyx of Drosophila



Daniel Wolpert, PhD

Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University

Amitai Shenhav

Computational principles underlying the learning of sensorimotor repertoires


Recorded Virtual Seminars - Fall 2020








Recorded (link)


4:00 PM

Danielle Bassett

Univ. of Pennsylvania

Theresa Desrochers

State transitions in matter and mind



4:00 PM

Mara Mather

Univ. of Southern California

Matthew Nassar

How glutamate-norepinephrine ‘hot spots’ allow emotional arousal 

to flexibly enhance processing of whatever has highest priority at that moment





4:00 PM

Stefanie Hampel and Andrew Seeds

Univ. of Puerto Rico

Karla Kaun/ Alexander Jaworski

Exploring how the nervous system produces movement sequences



12:00 PM

Avraham Yaron

Weizmann Institute, Israel

Alexander Jaworski

Mechanisms of neuronal wiring



4:00 PM

Kareem Zaghloul


Wael Asaad

Neural mechanisms of human episodic memory formation



4:00 PM

Zhigang He

Harvard Univ.

Rachel McLaughlin (student)

Axon regeneration and function recovery after spinal cord injury




12:00 PM

Manuel Zimmer

Univ. of Vienna IMP, Austria

Anne Hart

From connectome to function: connectivity features underlying neuronal population dynamics in the nematode C. elegans




NSGP students serve as teaching assistants for one semester in their second year. This teaching requirement ensures that students understand the importance of, and challenges associated with teaching in the academic setting. As a TA, students may conduct discussion sections, lead laboratory sections or give lectures, in addition to helping with course grading and administration. During the summer between first and second year, students are given a list of eligible Fall and Spring courses that require TAs and asked for their top three choices. Students are encouraged to ask older students in the department about their experiences to get an idea of the expectations of TAs in each course. The Graduate Program assigns students to courses appropriately.  Courses that typically require graduate student TAs include Principles of Neurobiology (NEUR 1020), Neural Systems (NEUR 1030), Neuroanatomy (NEUR 1650), and others.

GPP students do not have a teaching requirement, though they can explore teaching opportunities with the NIH-GPP office.