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Neuroscience, complete newbie about it, one of my interests too (ironicly)

  1. Apr 17, 2009 #1
    Yes, I know I can easily google this... but forums is more fun :smile:

    Is the job title "Neuroscientist" a vague term, is it sorta like engineering? What type of engineer? How would I get started about researching the brain? Job prospects? Is it like psychology, that if you only had a bachelors, then you can't do "real" psychology work?

    I am a bit concerned though, and that is I have never studied biology. I am not sure how one would study this. I can't say it's simple rote memorization as I've seen someone mention here before that if you end up being able to rote memorize your way through a biology course, then the tests and assignments were poorly designed.

    Here is what I've noticed about myself.

    Primary interest as of now: Robotics. I definitely don't mind slugging hours spending time on math homework. Time flies. There is not enough time, as opposed to "this is taking too long". I like the stimulation I feel when I need to solve a word problem.

    Secondary interest: The brain. Mainly, about intelligence, brain capabilities (including all sorts of organisms), memory, processing, unlocking genius/creativity, learning disabilities, schizophrenia, EGG readings, sleep, depression (especially)stuff like that. I wouldn't mind working with patients or even students who want to optimize their brain for whatever purpose. I tend to read up more about the brain as opposed to random technology stuff. Both are interesting though. I am a bit confused on what career path to take about it. I know I am least interested in the field of Psychology. I am more curious about what is going on at the molecular level inside the brain when "things" get triggered. Furthermore, is it true that scientists barely know anything about the brain, even after decades of research? This is another motive; there's plenty of room for adventure.

    I also think it would be fun to perform research on numerous animals to see how their brains work. Watching a documentary on National Geography about the chimp/human comparison was very interesting, especially when they talked about the chimp's super short-term memory.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2009 #2
    A neuroscientist is an individual who studies the scientific field of neuroscience or any of its related sub-fields. Neuroscience as a distinct discipline separate from anatomy, neurology, physiology, psychology, or psychiatry is fairly recent, aided in large part by the advent of newer, faster computing methods and neuroimaging techniques. Neuroscientist is sometimes used synonymously with neurobiologist.

  4. Apr 18, 2009 #3
    Are you still in middle school or high school, university/college?

    Currently I am studying biology at my university and I have to tell you that the majority of questions in all my tests are a regurgitation of what you learned; all memorization. The tests and assignments are not poorly designed unless you have a bad professor, but it is just that there is no other way to test biology (thats what i believe) because everything that happens in biology is set in stone, there is no other answer but the one. It is also based on logic; for example, if A happens then B must happen...
    The problem I think is that most junior biology courses are very boring and it makes memorizing a big pain. But once you pass that, the interesting stuff comes, more hands-on stuff, anatomy and etc.
    But that is all the theoretical stuff you do in the course, there are labs that are more practical than just memorization, although sometimes it is boring, but then sometimes its cool.
    I can not really address your primary interest...engineering?
    As for your secondary interest, you should start taking basic biology courses so that you can have some knowledge and the prerequisites. Also some psychology courses too. Maintain high grades, roughly >85%. As for performing research on animals (nothing inhumane), you can do that if professors at your university/college required students for assistants for their tests.
    If you want to learn the brain at the molecular level, those are courses in second/third year university/college. So you have to do some work before doing anything you like...

    Scroll down and you will see the general course you will take for neuroscience.
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2009
  5. Apr 18, 2009 #4


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    I think one interesting bit of engineering that's advancing quickly is how to read people's minds (or teach people to control robots via a brain-robot interface) so that they can use those thoughts to move robots - would be helpful for people who can't move their limbs due to injury etc. http://donoghue.neuro.brown.edu/
  6. Apr 18, 2009 #5
    Now I'm confused. There are too many topics. I don't want to go into Psychiatry though, I want a different approach about learning about mental disorders -- not give out meds to people. Like I said earlier, I would be interested in what is going on at the molecular level and reading brain scans, EGG's, or any other brain measuring technology.

    I'm in a community college academic upgrading program (high school prerequisites). I'm actually finished the program so I can enter the Fall term, but I changed my mind. I'm going to get more pre-university high school credits at a different place. If I stick with engineering, I will be finished all the six 4U prerequisites in <10 months. If I need to put in biology, I'll be delayed by 1 semester.

    Yes! We're going bionic. In a way, I may be at a win-win situation here. Assuming all things go well, if I get a Mechatronics degree then the possibility of working with neuroscientists is out there. I have an interest in video games too, so I can see BRI applications going on in that field.

    Jeez, imagine 30 years in the future we could just attach a 5gb storage this on our scalp to upload 5 years of knowledge? :eek:
  7. Apr 18, 2009 #6
    Psychiatry is branch of medicine where you have to have to go through medical school for that. The site I gave you is a B.Sc in neuroscience and when you graduate, you are a neuroscientist...your not going to give out meds, only medical doctors can.
    The reason why there are so many topics is because that everything is tied in together. Understanding how the brain works at the molecular level, you have to understand how chemicals (hormones and medication) would work at the molecular level since everything regulating the brain is mostly due to chemicals - chemistry and pharmacology. Understand how the brain affects the body - physiology.
    In my first year of biology, I thought I was going to be studying cells, environment and everything that is biology, BUT you have to understand the chemistry and physics...
    Science in general is an integration of biology, chemistry and physics; you cannot go on without the other. Scientists would have at least a general background knowledge of everything. In my opinion, if you want to be a neuroscientist, you will have to go through most of what is on that site.
  8. Apr 19, 2009 #7


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    It shouldn't be all memorization and regurgitation. There is no reason not to ask second order questions that make you think and apply concepts on a biology exam. It's also not set in stone, so if you've gotten that impression so far, get it out of your head.

    You may have redeemed yourself to say anatomy is the more interesting stuff. :wink: But, even though anatomy is what I teach, I will readily admit that anatomy has far more memorization than other areas of biology.

    To the OP, neuroscience encompasses a large range of topics, all focused on the nervous system. It includes anatomy, physiology, molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, computation, etc. Most good neuroscientists use approaches from several of those fields to address their research questions.

    A good approach is to simply start out with a standard biology major (make sure it includes physiology, some anatomy, and molecular biology), the usual suspects in chemistry (general chemistry and organic chemistry), and make sure you take a calculus-based physics course (not all bio departments require this, but you'll need it for for some areas of neuroscience research and better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it), and supplement this with a general psychology course followed by a biopsychology course if one is offered. Of course, if you are offered an undergraduate neurobiology course, take it (not every school offers this, and it's not a big disadvantage not to have it before starting grad school).

    There are other ways to get into neuroscience research too. Some people get into it later, after getting their initial training in other biological fields, like physiology or pharmacology. Others, especially those working on things like neuroimaging come from engineering backgrounds and supplement those with some bio and neuro courses.
  9. Apr 20, 2009 #8
    Well there are the few application questions, but just not enough. Thats the problem! I would have to say that about 70% of the questions on my exams are memorization...thats why I keep thinking things are set in stone. :confused:That means I still have a long way to go!

    :smile: I cannot wait for my human anatomy class this fall!
  10. Apr 20, 2009 #9
    For research work, I'd need a PhD, right? Or maybe a master's is enough? I got a lot of researching to do; and everytime I e-mail universities they never respond!!!. If I still have trouble making a decision, I'm going to have to explore around and see which career has better job outlook and which one is least stressful. If one beats the other in one area and then vice versa... I'mma pull some hair out :rofl:
  11. Apr 20, 2009 #10
    Well, at my university, usually second, third or fourth year students can take on a small research project with supervision or help out researchers in their experiment. They are very picky about, only 2-5 spots are avaliable, you must have some university prerequisites for most of the positions and at least a B average GPA. I do not think they will hire a student that is not at the university, mostly because you many not have the laboratory skills for it and those positions can be given to students going to the university. (But if they do; what am I doing at home!?!?) Once you are enrolled at a university, you have the option of doing the research at your own university or abroad. The pay is very handsome from the students perspective! Go and ask the universities about this.
    But if you want to do your own research and have all these fancy equipment, you will need a PhD. I forgot what master's do, a thesis paper and something else...
    All jobs are stressful, but you just got to find something you really like, and will see yourself still in that area in another 20 years?
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