What Is Cognitive Neuroscience?
Have you ever wondered why we do the things we do? What makes us tick?
Human beings are utterly complicated animals, with utterly complicated thought processes. Ultimately, however, we are controlled by chemicals and electrical impulses. This, of course, is an overly simple explanation, and the actual processes that the brain goes through in order to produce certain reactions or thoughts are very complicated.
The enigma of what makes us tick can partly be explained by cognitive neuroscience, a very specific area of neuroscience. Cognitive neuroscience is the study of human cognition, or thought, as it relates to neuroscience, or the biological functions of the brain and nervous system. Basically, the goal of this type of neuroscience is to help psychologists understand how the physical and biological parts of the brain influence or create the less tangible parts, like thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and memories.
Cognitive neuroscience is a relatively new field, and the coining of this term actually has a very short, yet interesting, history. In the 1970's, a small group of scientists and psychologists planned a dinner. Besides good food and banter, these dinner plans also included discussing how the brain enables the mind. Two attendants made a fateful decision to share a taxi to get to the dinner. It just so happens that these two gentlemen, Michael Gazzaniga and George Miller, were a neuroscientist and a cognitive psychologist.
Actually, it would be more appropriate to say "The Beginning". The beginning of modern cognitive neuroscience, that is.
Why Do We Need Cognitive Neuroscientists?
As mentioned above, cognitive neuroscientists play an important role in understanding the human mind. By better understanding how the mind works in relation to the physical aspects of the brain, scientists are often able to devise more effective treatment methods for certain disorders.
Not all mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders are able to be treated with counseling and psychotherapy alone. Some more severe disorders may need to be treated with medication as well. These medications alter how the brain functions, enabling it to work more efficiently or - in theory - how it is supposed to.
Some disorders that may benefit from medication include:
- Learning disabilities
- Bipolar disorder
What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Cognitive Neuroscientist?Below is the complete educational path for the Psychologists:
Because cognitive neuroscience is a vast mixture of several different disciplines, individuals interested in becoming cognitive neuroscientists may pursue a few different educational paths. A four year bachelor's degree is often the starting point for a cognitive neuroscientist. In fact, some cognitive neuroscientists may even have more than one bachelor's degree to start with.
Psychology, neurology, neuropsychology, or psychiatry degrees are all good places to start. Pursuing a cognitive neuroscience career also usually requires advanced degrees as well. For instance, most will go on to earn their master's degrees and doctoral degrees. To find schools that are available in your area for these programs visit our Find a School section.
Besides a number of biology and psychology courses, future cognitive neuroscientists will also usually take several courses in mathematics and research methods.
What Does a Cognitive Neuroscientist Do?
A cognitive neuroscientist is primarily a researcher, on a quest to find out how our brains contribute to our cognitive function. These professionals might conduct research a few different ways.