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The Job

Neuroscientists study the cellular, molecular, behavioral, functional, medical, and computational aspects of the human nervous system. Some call the human nervous system one of the “last great frontiers of human scientific research” due to its complex interaction with other bodily systems, as well as its impact on behavior, memory, and cognitive functions.

Some neuroscientists conduct research. For example, a neuroscientist might study the brain activity of Alzheimer’s patients using MRI scans and computerized 3–D modeling and experiment on tissue samples to try to better understand and develop treatments and medications for this debilitating illness. Others study the human brain and how it regulates the body and behavior. According to the School of Medical Sciences at the University of New South Wales, “neuroscientists use tools such as antibodies and gene probes to identify proteins responsible for brain function; fluorescent dyes to mark neurons and synapses with specific characteristics; microelectrode arrays to study the activity of living neurons in real-time; behavioral methods to study the processes underlying behavior in humans and in animals; and computational models of neurons and their connections in the brain.”

There are more than 15 major branches of modern neuroscience, and neuroscientists usually work in several branches at the same time. Here are a few of the specialties. You can access a longer list by visiting, or by conducting a keyword search on the Internet.

  • behavioral neuroscience: the study of how the brain affects behavior
  • cellular and molecular neuroscience: the study of the biological aspects of neural function and development
  • clinical neuroscience: the study of disorders of the nervous system
  • cognitive neuroscience: the use of linguistics, neuroscience, cognitive science, and psychology to study (via behavioral/experimental methods or computational/modeling) of higher cognitive functions in humans, and their underlying neural bases
  • developmental neuroscience: the study of how the nervous system develops on a cellular basis
  • neurolinguistics: the study of the neural mechanisms in the brain that control the acquisition, comprehension, and oral presentation of language

Other specialties include affective neuroscience, computational neuroscience, cultural neuroscience, neuroengineering, neuroimaging, neuroinformatics, neurophysiology, paleoneurology, social neuroscience, and systems neuroscience.

Some neuroscientists work as physicians and treat people who have injuries and illnesses of the nervous system, including:

  • vascular disorders (stroke, transient ischemic attack, subdural hemorrhage and hematoma, etc.)
  • infections (encephalitis, meningitis, polio, etc.)
  • structural disorders (Bell's palsy, cervical spondylosis, brain or spinal cord tumors, Guillain-Barré syndrome, brain or spinal cord injury, etc.)
  • functional disorders (headache, dizziness, epilepsy, etc.)
  • degeneration (multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer disease, such as Parkinson disease, etc.)

These physicians examine and treat patients in offices, hospitals, and other medical settings, and some may perform surgery.

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