Program Requirements and Curriculum

The following serves as a guide for students to complete the Behavioral Neuroscience Doctoral Program successfully.

Students tailor their education to fit their own interests and professional goals through the selection of appropriate elective courses and research projects in conjunction with their advisor. The program serves to facilitate these goals by maintaining productive and high-quality research programs, and by providing a stimulating and motivating educational environment for the graduate students in the program. Students are also expected to join the UB Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience as well as participate in relevant activities offered by the UB Interdisciplinary Program in Medical Neuroscience

Requirements for Degree Completion

  • A minimum of 72 credit hours, including core behavioral neuroscience coursework, electives and departmental breadth requirements.
  • Attendance at weekly brown bag meetings where students and faculty present and discuss their research, or contemporary research articles within the behavioral neuroscience field. After the first year, each PhD student is required to present in our brown bag meeting once per year. In addition to presentations by members and visitors on relevant experimental and theoretical issues, there are two sessions each semester devoted to ethics (e.g., academic ethics, scientific and research ethics, ethics of animal use).
  • Successful completion of the preliminary exam. Preliminary exams are traditionally completed during the third fall semester in the program. The student is expected to meet with the prelim committee (the advisor and three other behavioral neuroscience faculty members) to define the scope and format of the exam. Although the exam format is determined by the committee, all preliminary exams include a written and an oral component. The most common format includes a mock grant application on the student’s area of expertise, and closed book written questions on topics assigned by committee members.
  • After completion of the preliminary exam, students generate and defend a dissertation proposal, and ultimately complete and defend the dissertation.

Course Work

PSY 513 (Biological Bases of Behavior)
This course serves as a basic introductory course to bring our area students up to the same minimum degree of knowledge prior to (and is a prerequisite for) more advanced coursework (all other BN courses except PSY634). BN students are expected to take this course during their first Fall semester, and pass with a grade of B or better.  

Neuroanatomy (self-paced learning) 
An electronic learning module has been established to provide basic neuroanatomical knowledge for students in the area. This learning module must be completed before the start of the second year of study. A faculty member, currently Prof. Daniels, will coordinate distribution of the module and will be available to answer questions about the module (and material within). Students are required to notify the neuroanatomy coordinator when they have completed the module.

Departmental Course Requirements
Students are required to complete certain departmental course requirements and receive a grade of B- or better:

  • Statistics (PSY 607 Regression and PSY 608 ANOVA)
  • One distribution course in each of 3 areas
    • Clinical Psychology
    • Cognitive Psychology
    • Social Psychology

Area Electives
Students are expected to take as many of these as offered starting in their second semester. The prerequisite for electives is earning a B- or better in PSY 513 Biological Bases of Behavior:

  • PSY 629 (Neural Mechanisms of Behavior)
  • PSY 634 (Animal Behavior)
  • PSY 714 (Recovery of Function after CNS Damage)
  • PSY 715 (Behavior Genetics)
  • PSY 744 (Biological Rhythms in Behavior)
  • PSY 749 (Biopsychology of Stress)
  • PSY 757 (Neurochemistry)
  • PSY 813 (Hormones and Behavior)
  • PSY 814 (Limbic System of the Brain)
  • PSY 877 (Psychopharmacology) 

Special Topics Courses (Also require a B- or better in PSY 513)
The area also offers occasional specialized courses relevant to a variety of topics in the neuroscience field. These include graduate seminars in the following areas: 

  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Molecular Basis of Mental Disorders
  • Molecular Neuroscience
  • Methods Psychobiology of Reproduction
  • Psychobiology of Addiction
  • Psychobiology of Motivation
  • Topics in Neuroethology
  • Theories of Learning 
  • Pain & Analgesia
  • Biopsychology of Ingestion
  • Homeostasis and Behavior
  • Animal Models of Human Psychopathology  

In addition to the courses listed, occasionally students participate in the two-semester Interdisciplinary Introduction to Neuroscience course taught by a team of faculty derived from a variety of departments. Students also may wish to obtain specialized training through enrollment in graduate level courses offered by other departments (e.g., Biomedical Science, Pharmacology, Biology, Physiology, Anatomy, Communicative Disorders and Sciences).


All required coursework must be completed with a minimum grade of 3.0. Failure to meet this minimum grade requirement will result in the student being placed on probation for the following semester. If performance does not improve during the probation period, the area faculty will recommend dismissal of that student from the training program.

Faculty Mentorship and Supervision

Our program uses a mentorship model to train students. Students are accepted into the program with an identified faculty advisor. Continuation of the relationship with that mentor is arranged by mutual consent, in the sense that both the student and the faculty member must agree that the relationship will be mutually productive. Students are required to have a major advisor at all times, and to work closely with the mentor in developing their professional training. They are expected to meet regularly with him or her to discuss progress, problems and educational plans. In addition, students are required to submit annual Progress Reports to the Area Head, which are then discussed by all area faculty at the yearly graduate student evaluation meeting. Although no formal basis for lab rotation training exists, students are encouraged to develop intellectual and collaborative relationships with other faculty members, as well as with students from other laboratories in the Behavioral Neuroscience Program. 

Comprehensive Exams

In the students’ fifth or sixth semester, they are expected to take preliminary exams. This testing procedure consists of three days of written answers (3-4 hrs/day) on one question focused on their research area of interest and (Day 1) and six questions deemed relevant by the members of the prelim committee and the Area Head (Days 2 and 3). One week later, each student is questioned by that student’s prelim committee on the written answers and on areas related to those questions. Three outcomes are possible: (a) the student passes; (b) the student fails but can retake prelims in six months; or (c) the student fails and is not offered an opportunity to retake prelims (the student is dismissed from the program with a Master’s degree).

Completion Timeline

The program is designed with a five-year time frame in mind, but students often require more time to finish the program requirements. Please review a timeline of expected progress:

First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year and Beyond

Students generally complete preliminary exams during the first semester of the third year. The third year is also a time of more intense focus on research that will lay the foundation for the dissertation proposal. Students should assemble a dissertation committee and begin focusing on the dissertation proposal.