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Alicia Grandey

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please contact Sherri Gilliland
(814) 863-1721


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Department of Psychology 
125 Moore Building 
The Pennsylvania State University 
University Park, PA 16802-3106

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You are here: Home / Graduate / Program Areas / Cross-Cutting Program Initiatives / Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience / Specialization in Neuroscience Graduate Curriculum Requirements

Specialization in Neuroscience Graduate Curriculum Requirements

The goal of the Specialization in Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN) is to prepare students for neuroscience-related careers. Toward that end, students will be required to complete several courses and participate in neuroscience-related research, as described below. Meeting the SCAN requirements automatically meets the Department’s breadth/minor requirement; if the two semesters of SCAN-related research are conducted with someone other than the student's primary advisor, then this Department-level requirement is also met. Also, SCAN requirements can overlap with requirements in other core areas of the department.

Course Requirements

The student should complete, by the end of the second year, the following core courses:

  • Foundations of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (Psychology 511, 3 credits): This course examines the basics of human behavioral neuroscience including evolution and development of the nervous system, emotionality, fear and stress, perception, action, social and cognitive processes, and disorder and disease. It is typically taught by Rick Gilmore in the fall semester. Fall 2017 website.
  • Methods of Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (aka SCAN Methods; Psychology 511, 3 credits): The course provides the theoretical background for functional brain imaging approaches (broadly defined) with focus on functional MRI designs and methods during the first 8 weeks of the course. During the second 8 weeks of the course, students engage in hands-on data analysis using available statistical software. The goal is to prepare graduate students to think critically about how to implement brain imaging methods in their own research including both the advantages and pitfalls with fMRI methods.

Students are also required to take at least two additional SCAN-related courses. Some options include: 

Seminar in Cognitive Psychology (PSY 525, 3 per semester, maximum of 12): An advanced seminar in a topical or research area in the field of cognitive psychology. Prerequisite: graduate standing in the psychology department. Sections covering topics in Cognitive Neuroscience are regularly offered for SCAN students.
Seminar in Child Development (PSY 529, HDFS, 1-6 credits): Readings and reports on recent findings in child development. Prerequisites: 6 graduate credits in child development, child psychology, or educational psychology, plus 3 in statistics. Sections covering topics in Developmental Neuroscience are regularly offered for SCAN students.
Seminar in Social Psychology (PSY 571, 3-9 credits): Historical development of theory and methods; determinants and principles of complex social or interactional behavior; contemporary problems and research. Sections covering topics in Social and Affective Neuroscience are regularly offered for SCAN students.
Neuropsychological Assessment (PSY 556, 3 credits): Provides intensive experience involving neuropsychological assessment that includes both didactic and applied elements. In addition to providing an overview of the historical and theoretical underpinnings of neuropsychological assessment, the course is designed to assist students in developing a thorough understanding of the different strategies used in neuropsychological assessment. An important focus of the course is learning neuropsychological assessment techniques and interpreting test results.
Comparative Neuroanatomy (NEURO 512), 4 credits): Provides instruction on the functional and structural organization of the vertebrate central nervous system. In addition to lectures, students attend laboratory sessions devoted to human brain dissections, histologic sections of various vertebrate brains, and non-invasive magnetic resonance images.
Systems Neuroscience (NEURO 521), 3 credits): A proseminar that covers the mechanisms of specific neural systems and their relationship to behavior and cognition. The course is subdivided into blocks (2-3 weeks) that are devoted to a variety of topics such as motor control, cortical processing, and depression and anxiety, among others. Discussion of each topic is led by a faculty member who has expertise on that topic.

This is just a subset of possible courses that can meet the two additional SCAN courses requirement. Students may suggest alternatives to be approved by the SCAN coordinator.

Research and Comps Requirements

The student must complete a minimum of two semesters of SCAN-related research with someone other than the primary advisor. Completing this requirement can also overlap with students’ completion of their departmental breadth/minor requirement, as noted above.

A member of the SCAN psychology faculty should be on the student's comprehensive committee and on the student's dissertation committee.

Other Activities

Students are expected to attend at least two neuroscience-related talks each year. These could be talks offered as part of the Neuroscience Speaker Series, other neuroscience-related talks in the Psychology Department or elsewhere on campus.

Application Process

Students who wish to participate in SCAN should file an application (available from the Psychology Graduate Office in 125A Moore or as a downloadable .pdf file). The application should be approved by the student's advisor and then submitted to the SCAN Coordinator.

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