Neurosciences Doctoral Program

Neuroscience is a dynamic and rapidly growing field devoted to study of the central and peripheral nervous systems in health and disease. During the past three decades, a group of eminent scientists with research interests in many areas of neuroscience has been assembled in the basic science and clinical departments of the Medical College of Wisconsin. These individuals, who have an impressive record of pre-doctoral training, research, and extramural funding in the neurosciences, form the core faculty for this training program. The research of the neuroscience faculty include functional, biochemical, cellular and molecular approaches to questions of fundamental importance.Medical College of Wisconsin Neurosciences Program

Students who plan a career in neuroscience research are encouraged to apply. The program offers a first-year core curriculum that includes graduate courses, research experiences in the laboratories of the neuroscience faculty, a neuroscience journal club for students and a seminar series. After completion of the first year, it is expected that students will be eligible to select a dissertation mentor and will transfer into the appropriate degree-granting program. During the subsequent years of study, emphasis will be placed on advanced training in selected areas of neuroscience in conjunction with dissertation research in a problem of current importance in the neurosciences. Throughout the course of study, students will interact with a large number of faculty, students and postdoctoral trainees engaged in high-quality research in the neurosciences.

Degrees Offered
This program prepares students for advanced study in one of the PhD degree-granting programs of the college.

Program Admissions Requirements
In addition to the general Graduate School admission requirements, this program has additional specific requirements.

Applicants should have completed undergraduate level courses in biology, chemistry through organic, and mathematics. The Neurosciences Doctoral Program Admissions Committee will review all applications and will assess the ability of the applicant to successfully meet the rigorous academic and scientific requirements of the program, and the applicant’s potential to perform high-quality, original research.

Fields of Research

Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology:

  • Central nervous system neuronal plasticity, molecular basis of circadian rhythms, molecular studies of learning and memory, protein and vesicular trafficking in the retina, laminar organization of the retina, studies of endocannabinoid regulation of synaptic plasticity.


  • CNS control of breathing, health effects of sleep deprivation, CNS control of blood pressure, what makes consciousness, transduction of painful stimuli.


  • Studies of cannabinoids and nicotine in humans, role of endocannabinoids in the regulation of stress responses, cannabinoid receptor signaling.

Neuropathology and Toxicology:

  • Neuroimmunology and neurodegenerative disease, cellular effects of spaceflight and vibration, biomechanics of neurotrauma, cellular effects of neurotrauma.

Sensation, Cognition and Perception:

  • Biological basis of visual perception, vestibular efferent function, auditory neuroscience, the vestibular system, the human visual system, human cognition.


16202 Biochemistry of the Cell. 4 credits. (See listing within Interdisciplinary Program in Biomedical Sciences (IDP))

12206 Integrated Graduate Neuroscience. 4 credits.
This course follows a multidisciplinary approach to current knowledge about the structural and functional properties of the nervous system. The mechanisms of the nervous system are described at the molecular, cellular, and multi-cellular levels. The course includes both lectures and laboratory sessions.

12210 Fundamentals of Neuroscience. 4 credits
This course follows a multidisciplinary approach to current knowledge about the structural and functional properties of the nervous system.  The mechanisms of the nervous system are described at the molecular, cellular, and multi-cellular levels.  The course includes both lectures and laboratory sessions. The purpose of this course is to introduce Ph.D. students to the anatomy and function of the human nervous system.

12221 Advanced Systems Neuroscience. 3 credits. Prerequisite: 12206 or consent of the course director.
This course covers seven selected areas in systems neuroscience, including: neuronal information processing and control systems, cerebral hemodynamics, metabolism and neuronal activity, sensory systems, motor systems, attentional systems, learning and memory and motivational systems. Some lectures introducing fundamental concepts and current research topics are presented but learning occurs primarily through readings and discussions.

12237 Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology. 3 credits. Prerequisite: 12206 or consent of the course director.
Readings and discussion in cellular, molecular, and developmental neurobiology. Among the topics covered in this course are ion channels and the ionic basis of potentials; mechanisms of synaptic transmission; neurotransmitter receptors and their receptors; sensory signal transduction and neural development.

12298 Journal Club. 1 credit.
Weekly readings will be selected from both contemporary and historical literature in neuroscience. Informal discussions will include participation from both neuroscience faculty and students.

Suggested Electives from other departmental offerings
There are several courses offered by other departments at the Medical College of Wisconsin that can be taken by students in the Interdisciplinary Neurosciences Program depending upon their research interests. The goal is to provide each student with the basics of modern neuroscience and then allow him to customize a program of course work that best meets his needs.

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Page Updated 12/29/2014