University of Sydney Handbooks - 2020 Archive

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Neuroscience is an interdisciplinary program and major offered by the School of Medical Sciences in the Faculty of Medicine and Health and the School of Psychology in the Faculty of Science. Units of study in this major are available at standard and advanced level.

About the program

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. Neuroscientists are interested in the structure and function of the molecules, cells, pathways and systems found in the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system. They study the nervous system at the microscopic and macroscopic levels as well as at the level of the developing and mature individual. Neuroscientists aim to understand how the brain controls and regulates our activities and experiences in both health and disease. Which could include for example, trying to understand the bases of sensation and movement, learning and memory, emotions and personality. It is one of the largest and fastest growing research endeavours in the biological sciences, and the study of neuroscience now embraces the fields of engineering, artificial intelligence, mathematics and computer science, economics. The strong multidisciplinary history of neuroscience is reflected in the many disciplines that contribute to its teaching at the University of Sydney.

The program and major comprise units of study from the School of Psychology and the School of Medical Sciences (Anatomy and Histology; Physiology and Pharmacology). Neuroscience is identified as one of the research strengths of the University. The neurosciences are taught and actively researched at many locations in the University and the program and major offers opportunities for unique learning opportunities and research electives with our active research groups.

Requirements for completion

A program in Neuroscience requires 60 credit points, including:

(i) A 48 credit point major in Neuroscience
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level program units according to the following rules:
(a) 12 credit points of 2000-level program core units, or
(b) 12 credit points of 2000-level program alternative core units for students in the Medical Science stream

A major in Neuroscience requires 48 credit points, including:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units according to the following rules:
(a) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units or
(b) 12 credit points of 2000-level alternative core units for students in the Medical Science stream
(iii) 18 credit points of 3000-level major core units
(iv) 6 credit points of 3000-level interdisciplinary project units

A minor in Neuroscience requires 36 credit points, including:

(i) 12 credit points of 1000-level core units
(ii) 12 credit points of 2000-level units according to the following rules:
(a) 12 credit points of 2000-level core units or
(b) 12 credit points 2000-level alternative core units for students in the Medical Science stream
(iii) 12 credit points of 3000-level minor core units

First year

Core to major: CHEM1XX1 Chemistry 1A, PSYC1002 Psychology 1002

The program in Neuroscience begins in first year with an introduction to psychology and an introduction to chemistry, each provides key foundational knowledge in understanding brain structure and function.

Second year

Core to major: PSYC2X15 Brain and Behavioural Psychology, ANAT2X10 Concepts of Neuroanatomy (students enrolled in the Medical Science stream take MEDS2005).
Core to program: PCOL2021 Key Concepts in Pharmacology (students enrolled in the Medical Science stream take MEDS2002), PHSI2X07 Key Concepts in Physiology (students enrolled in the Medical Science stream take MEDS2001).

The program in Neuroscience continues in second year with units that focus on the structure and organisation of the central nervous system, the physiological actions of its component cells, their neurochemistry and functional relations. We consider also the behavioural and cognitive processes that are possible through these different levels of functional organisation.

Third year

The third-year units in the program provide greater breadth and depth in understanding brain structure and function:

Core: NEUR3X05 Functional Neuroanatomy, NEUR3X06 Neural Information Processing, PCOL3X22 Neuropharmacology, PSYC3X14 Behavioural and Cognitive Neuroscience.

These units focus on:
(i) gaining advanced understanding of functional neuroanatomy and systems neuroscience.
(ii) understanding the complex physiological mechanisms by which neurons and their circuits are activated and regulated throughout the central and peripheral nervous systems.
(iii) understanding the neuropharmacology of the major neurotransmitters and their role in neuropsychiatric diseases, together with the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, movement disorders, stroke, depression, anxiety, epilepsy, pain and schizophrenia; and
(iv) considering the approaches to studying neurosciences and focussing on molecular, pre-clinical and clinical models of brain function.

In your third year you must take at least one designated project unit.

Fourth year

The fourth year is only offered within the Bachelor of Advanced Studies course.

Advanced Coursework
The Bachelor of Advanced Studies advanced coursework option consists of 48 credit points, with a minimum of 24 credit points at 4000-level or above. Of these 24 credit points, you must complete a project unit of study worth at least 12 credit points.

Meritorious students may apply for admission to Honours within a subject area of the Bachelor of Advanced Studies. Admission to Honours requires the prior completion of all requirements of the Bachelor's degree, including Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. If you are considering applying for admission to Honours, ensure your degree planning takes into account the completion of a second major and all OLE requirements prior to Honours commencement.

Unit of study requirements for Honours in the area of Neuroscience: completion of 36 credit points of project work and 12 credit points of coursework.

Contact and further information

School of Medical Sciences
Anderson Stuart Building F13
University of Sydney NSW 2006


School of Psychology
Griffith Taylor Building (A19)
University of Sydney NSW 2006

Dr Karen Cullen
T +61 2 9351 2696

Associate Professor Elena Bagley
T +61 2 9351 4132

Associate Professor Ian Johnston
T +61 2 9351 4353

Associate Professor Kevin Keay
T +61 2 9351 4132

Learning Outcomes

Students who graduate from Neuroscience will be able to:

  1. Exhibit a broad and coherent body of knowledge of the organisation of the brain and nervous system, from its gross structure to the cellular, intracellular and molecular levels.
  2. Exhibit a deep and integrated knowledge of the properties of molecular, intracellular, cellular, circuit and systems components of the brain and nervous system.
  3. Describe how neuroscience methodologies have changed throughout history and discuss how emerging techniques and technologies can lead to changes in neuroscience.
  4. Search, identify, discuss, critique and evaluate relevant primary scientific literature in the field of the neurosciences.
  5. Collate, analyse, illustrate, describe, and present primary research data in neuroscience.
  6. Communicate concepts and findings in neuroscience through a range of modes for a variety of purposes and audiences, using evidence-based arguments that are robust to critique.
  7. Relate the structural organisation and functional properties of the nervous system to observable behaviours and processes of cognition and discuss the relevance to other biomedical and biological disciplines.
  8. Formulate hypotheses, design research plans and specify experiments that address and test hypotheses in neuroscience.
  9. Develop creative and innovative approaches to problem solving in the field of neuroscience research and work effectively, responsibly and safely in individual and collaborative contexts.
  10. Address authentic problems in neuroscience, working professionally and ethically within collaborative, interdisciplinary teams.
  11. Articulate the place of neuroscience in community and society, its medical, educational, social and global importance, as well as its uses and potential abuses.