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Study Neuroscience at Otago

Neuroscience is all about understanding how the brain and wider nervous system works, and is one of the fastest growing areas of science.

The University of Otago is the only New Zealand university to offer an undergraduate degree in Neuroscience.

Neuroscientists apply a wide range of scientific disciplines, including Anatomy, Biochemistry, Computer Science, Pharmacology, Physiology, Psychology, and Zoology. As an interdisciplinary programme, Neuroscience is taught by staff from many departments. Each teaches a separate “neuro” component, with the result being a coherent and integrated subject.

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Apply for the Master of Science (MSc) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) through the Dunedin campus in 2021

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Why study Neuroscience?

The brain is a final frontier… a last great unknown.

Neuroscientists are its explorers. They try to understand how the brain functions, how it deals with injury or damage, and how it develops and changes over time.

What they find helps neurologists, psychiatrists and clinical psychologists – and provides important models for high-level information processing and robotics.

Knowing how the brain perceives stimuli and controls movement helps those working on human performance from sports science to space medicine.

Background required

Taking chemistry and biology to Year 13 is recommended. Students without good marks in chemistry are strongly advised to enrol in the Bridging Chemistry paper during Summer School, prior to their first year of study.

How will I study?

Due to the interdisciplinary nature of the Neuroscience programme, teaching styles vary between papers. Many first- and second-year papers are taught through a combination of lectures and laboratory sessions, while third-year papers will have group projects and discussions. Assessments are varied and include written examinations and laboratory reports.

Neuroscience research

Neuroscientists at the University of Otago are involved in a range of exciting research. Neuroscience students learn about this (and other) research as undergraduates, and can work in the lab with Otago’s neuroscientists as postgraduates.

For example:

  • Professor Cliff Abraham is interested in the neural mechanisms of memory. His lab is also investigating biomarkers and therapeutic agents for Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Associate Professor Mike Paulin is investigating how animals use sensory information to move quickly, accurately, and efficiently.
  • Professor John Reynolds is interested in how we learn and remember skills, with a focus on Parkinson’s disease and stroke.
  • Professor Colin Brown investigates how the brain controls reproduction and cardiovascular function.
  • Associate Professor Christine Jasoni is researching how a mother’s health during pregnancy affects the formation of the foetal brain to elevate risk of mental illness.
  • Associate Professor Liana Machado is interested in cognitive functions and how they are affected by ageing, brain disease, and lifestyle choices.
  • Dr Paul Szyszka investigates olfactory search behavior in insects – what are their perceptual limits in olfaction, and what patterns of neural activities are behaviourally relevant?

Postgraduate options

Students who do particularly well can apply for entry to the Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) programme after completing their Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Neuroscience. This elite course offers ideal preparation for those interested in a career in neuroscience research.

Students can also enrol in a one-year postgraduate diploma or a two-year Master of Science (MSc).

Career opportunities

To become a neuroscientist, you would complete postgraduate studies following your BSc. With a BSc(Hons), postgraduate diploma, or master’s degree you could have an exciting research career in a university, research institute, or in the pharmaceutical industry. With a PhD, you could be a leader in new research and combine this with teaching at a university or in a research institution.

Neuroscience also provides a convenient first degree for those proceeding to postgraduate specialisation in professional or applied fields. For example, law, medicine, pharmacy, physiotherapy, audiology, and bioengineering.

Graduates with a BSc in Neuroscience possess valuable skills that are widely sought after by employers, including technical expertise in areas where there is a worldwide shortage of skilled workers.

Qualifications

Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Neuroscience

Level Papers Points
100-level

CELS 191  Cell and Molecular Biology

HUBS 191  Human Body Systems 1

PSYC 111  Brain and Behaviour

either CHEM 191 or PHSI 191

one further paper from BIOC 192, BIOL 112, or HUBS 192, CHEM 191, PHSI 191

Note: CELS 191, HUBS 191, and CHEM 191 and/or PHSI 191 should be taken in the first year of study to ensure unimpeded progress through the major subject requirements.

18

18

18

18

18

200-level

ANAT 242  Neurobiology

PHSL 231  Neurophysiology

PSYC 211  Brain and Cognition

18

18

18

300-level

Four of:
ANAT 332, ANAT 335, ANAT 336, ANAT 337, NEUR 302, NEUR 303, PHAL 303, PHSL 341, PHSL 342, PSYC 313, PSYC 317, PSYC 319, PSYC 323, PSYC 330, ZOOL 314,

72
Plus

144 further points; must include 36 points at 200-level or above

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science

Notes:
(i) No more than three 300-level papers with the same subject code (other than NEUR) may count towards the major subject requirements.
(ii) A list of recommended complementary papers can be found on the Neuroscience Programme Undergraduate Study webpage.
(iii) Prerequisites for all papers are recorded on the paper information pages. Note that the prerequisite for PHAL 303 is PHAL211, the prerequisites for PHAL 211 are BIOC 192 and CHEM191, and for neuroscience students the prerequisite for PSYC211 is PSYC111.

144
Total   360

Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Neuroscience

Papers

Prerequisites:
At least five of ANAT 332, ANAT 335, ANAT 336, ANAT 337, NEUR 301, NEUR 302, NEUR 303, PHAL 303, PHSL 341, PHSL 342, PSYC 313, PSYC 317, PSYC 319, PSYC 323, PSYC 330, ZOOL 314

Note: With approval from the Programme Director, another 300-level paper may be substituted for one of the papers listed.

Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) in Neuroscience

Papers

Or

Notes:
(i)Papers with PSYC codes are worth 10 points each and all other papers are worth 20 points each.
(ii)PHSL 474 may be taken only by students supervised in the Department of Physiology.
(iii)With approval from the Neuroscience Programme Director, one of the listed papers may be replaced by another 400-level paper.
(iv)PSYC 432 may count toward these subject requirements if taken during years during which it was offered as Special Topic: Social and Affective Neuroscience.

Master of Science (MSc) in Neuroscience

Papers and Thesis

Notes:
(i)Papers with PSYC codes are worth 10 points each and all other papers are worth 20 points each,
(ii)PHSL 474 may be taken only by students supervised in the Department of Physiology.
(iii)With approval from the Neuroscience Programme Director, one of the listed papers may be replaced by another 400-level paper.
(iv)PSYC 432 may count toward these subject requirements if taken during years during which it was offered as Special Topic: Social and Affective Neuroscience.

Minor subject requirements

Neuroscience as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Level Papers Points
100-level

See below

Prerequisites for 200-level papers are listed in the paper pages

 
200-level 54
300-level

Two of ANAT 332, ANAT 335, ANAT 336, NEUR 302, NEUR 303, PHAL 303, PHSL 341, PHSL 342, PSYC 313, PSYC 317, PSYC 319, PSYC 323, PSYC 330, ZOOL 314

36

Notes:
(i) No more than one 300-level paper with the same subject code (other than NEUR) may count towards the minor subject requirements.
(ii) Prerequisites for all papers are recorded on the paper information pages. Note that the prerequisite for PHAL 303 is PHAL211, the prerequisites for PHAL 211 are BIOC 192 and CHEM191, and for neuroscience students the prerequisite for PSYC211 is PSYC111.

Total   90

Papers

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a selection of on-campus papers will be made available via distance and online learning for eligible students.
Find out which papers are available and how to apply on our COVID-19 website

Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
NEUR301 2021 Current Topics in Neuroscience 18 points First Semester
NEUR302 2021 Special Topic 18 points Not offered in 2021
NEUR303 2021 Neuroendocrinology 18 points First Semester
NEUR452 2021 Neurodegenerative Disorders 20 points Not offered in 2021
NEUR453 2021 Applied Human Neuroscience 20 points First Semester
NEUR455 2021 Sleep 20 points Full Year
NEUR459 2021 Neuroendocrinology 20 points Full Year
NEUR461 2021 Clinical Neurology 20 points Not offered, expected to be offered in 2022
NEUR462 2021 Topics in Neuroscience 20 points Full Year
NEUR463 2021 Topics in Neuroscience 20 points First Semester, Second Semester
NEUR471 2021 Special Topic: 20 points Not offered in 2021
NEUR472 2021 Special Topic: Computational Neural Modelling 20 points First Semester
NEUR480 2021 Research Project 40 points Full Year
NEUR490 2021 Dissertation 60 points Full Year, 1st Non standard period
NEUR495 2021 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 points Full Year

Key information for future students

Contact us

Neuroscience Programme
School of Biomedical Sciences
Tel +64 3 479 4205
Email neuroscience@otago.ac.nz
Web otago.ac.nz/neuroscience