Cognition, and Neuroscience

May 30, 2017

Cognition and Neuroscience

The PhD program in cognition and neuroscience offers a distinctive blend of research initiatives and doctoral study in the neural processes underlying sensation, perception, memory, learning, language and executive function throughout the lifespan.

The faculty is dedicated to guiding students in the development of research skills, and students will actively participate in research throughout their time in the program. A low student/faculty ratio facilitates this emphasis.

Major research areas and core strengths within the program include:

Degree Program

Students average five years for completion of the program, although it is possible to meet all the requirements in four years. Most students focus their studies on neuroscience or cognitive science, which includes both behavioral cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience work. The University requires a minimum of 75 hours of coursework.

The specific program requirements include: three credit hours of a doctoral proseminar that will acquaint students with the breadth of faculty research programs, six hours of core research methods courses, six hours of core courses in cognition and neuroscience, and nine hours in the student's major area of study (neuroscience or cognitive science). The remaining graduate courses are advanced electives tailored to meet each student's needs and interests.

Each student works closely with the faculty in completing an empirical research project and an integrated literature review (or grant proposal) during the first two years of the program. In the third year, students advance to PhD candidacy by preparing a dissertation research proposal. The dissertation consists of an independent and original research project conducted under faculty supervision. Successful public defense of the completed dissertation is the final step in attaining the PhD.

About Our School

The cognition and neuroscience program is a part of the UT Dallas School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, which offers exceptional research facilities, including modern laboratories equipped with state-of-the-art computers and equipment for experiments with both human and animal subjects, and UNIX workstations for modeling and advanced mathematical analysis of complex data sets.

Our behavioral and perceptual facilities support videography and audiography, as well as neuropsychological and advanced cognitive testing. Neuroimaging, neuroanatomical and neurochemical facilities are available and widely used. Neurophysiological methods ranging from acute and chronic in vivo techniques to advanced in vivo slice recording techniques are used extensively.

Many of the cognition and neuroscience faculty work collaboratively across our doctoral programs in psychological sciences, communication sciences and disorders, and audiology. The doctoral programs are complemented by four research centers: the Center for BrainHealth, the Callier Center, the Center for Children and Families, the Center for Systems Neuroscience and the Center for Vital Longevity.

Additional resources are available through cooperative programs with various departments at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Research Areas

The core faculty in the Cognition and Neuroscience PhD program specializes in cognitive-neuroscience, cognitive psychology and neuroscience.

Human Perception, Memory and Cognition

Encompasses all aspects of the cognitive processes by which we create and process mental representations of the world, reason, make decisions, and manage social interactions. One significant area of strength is that of perception and memory for complex patterns of information in the environment, including faces, speech and language, music and text. Another is that of reasoning, decision-making, executive function, and disorders of these processes linked to brain damage, addiction and other psychopathological conditions.

Aging and Cognition

The effect of aging on information processing has profound personal and societal consequences. Diverse effects of aging, ranging from isolated memory loss for specific items to global dementia, are studied using both psychological and neurobehavioral approaches. The School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences has unique clinical resources in the Center for BrainHealth, the Callier Center, the Center for Vital Longevity, and close collaborative associations with the Advanced Imaging Research Center and other facilities at UT Southwestern Medical Center. This aids innovative approaches to the study of information processing and memory in late adulthood.

Artificial Neural Networks

Abstract mathematical models of brain structures and functions, referred to as "connectionist systems, " "neurocomputers, " or "parallel distributed processing models" are used to simulate computational processes in the brain, and the solutions can be compared with empirical data.

Cellular and Molecular Plasticity

The ability of individual neurons to respond to changes in their synaptic inputs over time scales ranging from nanoseconds to the entire lifespan is a key and fundamental area of study in the basic neurosciences. Combining expertise in neurophysiological, cell biological and molecular biological fields, our multidisciplinary scientists conduct research elucidating basic mechanisms of brain plasticity.

Pain Plasticity

Pain is the primary reason people seek medical attention and the societal cost of chronic pain is more than diabetes, cancer and heart disease combined. More importantly, chronic pain affects as much as a third of the population of the United States creating tremendous suffering and disability in our population. Despite these facts, very little is known about how pain becomes chronic and current treatments are often ineffective. The goal of pain research at UT Dallas is to alleviate the burden of chronic pain through basic research, therapeutic discovery and education.

Neuroplasticity in Learning and Memory

Neuronal networks are constantly reorganizing to adapt to the circumstances of life. The relationship between this underlying plasticity and behavioral change is a critical area of research in the neurosciences. Strengths in our program include human neuroimaging, EEG, and ERP, as well as state-of-the-art in vivo and in vitro interrogation of cellular and molecular responses to learning and neuronal stimulation.

Issues related to aging, addiction, recovery of function, stress and fear, arousal, attention and cortical sensory processing are all active areas of investigation in model systems.


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