Neuroscience is the study of the structure and function of neurons and how they are assembled to produce behaviors.

Neuroscience was implemented as a new interdisciplinary major in 1999, replacing the Psychobiology Program and providing a strong foundation in neuroscience and related courses.

Our students benefit from small classes and investigative labs in their introductory and advanced courses.

Our majors graduate with a liberal arts background and a strong foundation in neuroscience which allows them to proceed to medical school or attend top-ranked graduate neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychology Ph.D. programs, including UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, Duke, and Northwestern.

The best proof of the success of the Neuroscience Program:

  • 60 percent of our graduates proceed to medical school;
  • 20 percent of our graduates continue on with graduate work in neuroscience, psychology, or neuropsychology;
  • 10 percent of our graduates pursue careers that intersect with neuroscience—for example, patent law or work in the biotech industry.

Faculty Research Discoveries

 

Deborah Bauer

Glial glutamate transporters quickly clear synaptic glutamate and are responsible for ensuring that synaptic glutamate concentrations remain low, but this process is associated with a significant energetic cost. GLAST is the predominant glutamate transporter in the cerebellum and contributes substantially to glutamate transport in forebrain.  Dr. Bauer found that, in rat brain, GLAST with co-immunoprecipitates with mitochondria and the sodium potassium pump. This could have functional relevance since mitochondria can provide ATP to power the sodium/potassium pump, the pump can provide the necessary sodium gradient to drive glutamate transport, and transported glutamate can be metabolized in mitochondria to ATP and CO2. Dr. Bauer found that in cultured astrocytes, within 15 min, 9% of transported glutamate was indeed converted to CO2, supporting a model in which GLAST exists in a macromolecular complex that allows transported glutamate to be metabolized in mitochondria to support energy production.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22306776

Bevil Conway

In this study, Conway's lab documents striking individual differences in color perception of #TheDress photograph in over 1400 subjects. The work provides insight into the underlying mechanisms responsible for color perception. In particular, both descriptive reports and color-matching data support the idea that the brain resolves the colors of the dress into one of three stable percepts, providing the first evidence that color perception can be multistable.

"Striking individual differences in color preception uncovered by 'the dress' photograph"

 

Sharon Gobes

Dr. Gobes has discovered that motor regions play a role in the acquisition of vocalizations (Nature Neuroscience). Most recently, she showed that left hemispheric dominance for auditory memories in a Wernicke-like area of the songbird brain develops with experience (PNAS and Scientific Reports).

Photo by Ivar Pel

Ginny Quinan

This summer I have had the opportunity to work on a collaborative research project between the Beltz and Tetel labs.  For this project, I am looking at hypothalamic neurogenic activity in mice.  This work has been very exciting for for me, as it has allowed me to connect my background and skills of working with mice to the current studies conducted in the Beltz lab exploring the relationship between the immune system and neurogenesis in crayfish.'

Mike Wiest

Wiest recent work (bold font indicates undergraduate author)

Bohon, K, Wiest, MC (2014).  Role of medio-dorsal frontal and posterior parietal neurons during auditory detection performance in rats. PLoS ONE 9(12): e114064. Doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114064.

 

Though neuroscience is over a hundred years old, the basic brain mechanisms that underlie perception remain poorly understood.  In this study we analyzed action potential responses of neurons in frontal and parietal cortex of rats performing a self-paced two-choice auditory detection task, in order to identify neurons whose responses were consistent with signaling the rat’s perception of the target tone.  We used a “choice probability analysis” to quantify the degree to which single-trial firing rates predict the rat’s performance on each trial.  By comparing neural information about different trial types (hits, misses, correct rejections, false alarms), we were able to address a potentially confounding interpretation of the responses we observed, in terms of different body movements in the different trial types.  This (to our knowledge) novel approach allowed us to identify for the first time candidate spiking correlates of auditory perception in the frontal and parietal cortex of rats.  This report represents a successful step toward my long-term goal to characterize correlates and mechanisms of perception in behaving animals.