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Center for Neural Circuits and Behavior
Mail Code 0634

All courses, faculty listings, and curricular and degree requirements described herein are subject to change or deletion without notice.

The Graduate Program

The Neurosciences Graduate Program accepts candidates for the PhD degree who have undergraduate majors in such disciplines as biology, chemistry, engineering, microbiology, mathematics, physics, psychology, and zoology. A desire and competence to understand how the nervous system functions are more important than previous background and training.

Doctoral Degree Program

The Neurosciences Graduate Program is an interdisciplinary program that provides course work and research training leading to a degree of doctor of philosophy in all areas related to the development and function of the nervous system. During the first two years, all students in the program are required to take seven core courses, take at least one ethics course, fulfill elective requirements, attend research rounds for two years, complete three research rotations the first year, and serve as a teaching assistant for at least one quarter. Additional course work is required for the students in the Computational Neuroscience Specialization (see below). Students must advance to candidacy by the end of their fourth year and complete their dissertation by the end of their sixth year.

Core Courses

NEU 200A-B-C

NEU 225

NEU 241

NEU 257

NEU 276

NEU 280

Specialization in Computational Neuroscience

The Neurosciences Graduate Program, Department of Physics, and Department of Bioengineering offer a specialization in computational neuroscience. Students from these departments/programs that pursue the computational neuroscience specialization are trained in the broad range of scientific and technical skills essential to understand the computational and theoretical basis of neural systems. Students in this specialization will be required to fulfill all of the academic requirements for a PhD in their home department/program, and must successfully complete a set of three core computational courses, any other course work as directed by the computational neuroscience committee, and successfully defend a thesis on an approved topic.

Computational Neurosciences Specialization Courses

BENG 234

BGGN 260

COGS 260

PHYS 278

Course Work

By the end of the second year, students are expected to demonstrate competence in the basics of neuroscience by taking five quarters of mandatory course work—three quarters of Basic Neuroscience (NEU 200 A-B-C), and one quarter each of Neuroanatomy Lab (NEU 257), Statistical Methods and Experimental Design (NEU 225), and Minor Proposition (NEU 280). In addition, students choose among various core elective courses, such as Advanced Topics in Neuroscience (NEU 221), Tools for Experimental Data Analysis (NEU 231), Mechanisms of Pain (NEU 265), Neurobiology of Disease (NEU 270A and NEU 270B), and approved courses from other graduate departments. Students are also permitted to substitute previous courses that are similar to the neurosciences core courses. Such a substitution would require approval of the chair of the curriculum committee or the director of the Graduate Program.


During the third year, students are expected to propose and initiate work on a dissertation problem under the guidance of a faculty adviser. The group in neurosciences faculty at UC San Diego currently conducts animal research and clinical studies in the fields of neuroanatomy, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology, neurophysiology, comparative neurology, physiology of excitable membranes, synaptic transmission, neuronal integration and coding, nervous system tissue culture, neuroimmunology, brain function, sensory physiology, motor mechanism, and systems analysis as applied to neurological problems.

Qualifying Examination

This examination, a university requirement, focuses on the proposed research that the student will undertake for his or her dissertation. This examination is conducted by the approved doctoral committee.

Dissertation Examination

The required formalities listed in the Instruction for Preparation and Submission of Doctoral Dissertations issued by the Graduate Division to students should be followed closely. The final examination includes both a public presentation followed by a closed defense of the dissertation with members of the committee.


All students are required to perform as a teaching assistant for at least one quarter during their graduate career. To this end, opportunities to lecture and assist in laboratory exercises and demonstrations are available through a number of departments, including neurosciences, biology, cognitive science, and psychology.

PhD Time Limit Policies

Students must advance to candidacy by the end of four years. Total university support cannot exceed six years. Total registered time at UC San Diego cannot exceed seven years.