Message from the Chair


Bita headshotBehavioral neuroscience has emerged as one of the most exciting and fastest growing disciplines within the biomedical sciences. Behavioral neuroscientists are rapidly unlocking the mysteries of both normal and abnormal behavior. The importance of this work is clear. Consider that many of our most disabling and costly diseases are diseases of the mind and include schizophrenia, depression, alcohol and drug abuse and Alzheimer's disease. Understanding the detailed pathology of these disorders will naturally lead to new therapeutic strategies. Key to this process has been the ability to model in laboratory animals various aspects of human behavior. These models can be used to determine the relevant brain circuits and neurotransmitter systems, the mechanisms by which behaviors are learned and unlearned and the role of the environment on behavioral outcomes. Frequently, the models are put into a genetic context which has allowed the dissection of behavior using both the tools of quantitative genetics and the many tools of structural and functional genomics. Importantly, many of the advances learned at the bench can now be quickly adapted for human research. Tools such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) make it possible to test hypotheses about circuits relevant to particular behaviors.

The Department of Behavioral Neuroscience has a long tradition of research excellence with particular strengths in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse, drug reinforcement and reward and cognitive neuroscience, particularly emphasizing learning and memory. A variety of research strategies are used to investigate these areas and range from behavioral, quantitative and molecular genetics to neuroimaging. I invite prospective students and fellows, to learn more about our research programs not only by browsing the Web site but also by directly contacting specific members of the faculty. Details of the training opportunities are provided on our Web-site and students with questions about admission to the graduate program are especially encouraged to contact the Director of the Graduate Program, Dr. Garet Lahvis at The Department also has a long tradition of outreach activities including participation in Brain Awareness Week, science education outreach to local primary, middle and high schools and a number of community based outreach programs. If you are interested in these or related activities, please contact Kris Thomason via email at

Finally, if you are interested in having a member of the faculty speak to your community group, school or other organization, please contact the faculty member directly. If you are unsure about who to contact, please contact Jeanne Sutter at and she will be glad to direct your query.