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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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.
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.
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.
- Professor Cliff Abraham is interested in the neural mechanisms of memory. His lab is also investigating biomarkers and therapeutic agents for Alzheimer’s disease.
- Dr Olivia Harrison’s research is focussed on mental health and its relationship to interoception (how we perceive our body), with a particular focus on breathing.
- Associate Professor Yusuf Cakmak’s research focuses on non-invasive peripheral neuromodulation, wearable sensors and mobile health applications.
- 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 Beulah Leitch is interested in the changes that occur at synapses (the contacts between brain cells that allow them to communicate with each other) during ageing and various brain disorders including epilepsy and Alzheimer’s disease.
- 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?
- Dr Rosie Brown investigates the neural circuitry underlying parenting behaviour, and how hormones alter mood and behaviour in mothers.
- Associate Professor Stephanie Hughes studies how lysosomes, the waste disposal system in cells, contribute to neurodegenerative diseases including childhood Batten disease, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.
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).
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.
Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.
- Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc)
- Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc)
- Bachelor of Science (BSc)
- Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons))
- Diploma for Graduates (DipGrad)
- Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci)
- Master of Science (MSc)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Bachelor of Science (BSc) majoring in Neuroscience
CELS 191 Cell and Molecular Biology
HUBS 191 Human Body Systems 1
PSYC 111 Brain and Behaviour
Note: All of the 100-level required papers, except PSYC 111, should be taken in the first year of study to ensure unimpeded progress through the major subject requirements.
ANAT 242 Neurobiology
PHSL 231 Neurophysiology
PSYC 211 Brain and Cognition
Note: For students with a major or minor in Neuroscience, the prerequisite for PSYC 211 is PSYC 111. It is common for Neuroscience students to enrol in PSYC 111 in semester one of their second year.
Note: No more than three 300-level papers with the same subject code (other than NEUR) may count towards the major subject requirements.
144 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above
Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Science
Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)) in Neuroscience
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
Master of Science (MSc) in Neuroscience
|Papers and Thesis|
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
Prerequisites for 200-level papers are listed in the paper pages
No more than one 300-level paper with the same subject code (other than NEUR) may count towards the minor subject requirements.
Note: 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.
|Paper code||Year||Title||Points||Teaching period|
|NEUR301||2023||Current Topics in Neuroscience||18 points||Semester 1|
|NEUR302||2023||Special Topic||18 points||Not offered in 2023|
|NEUR303||2023||Neuroendocrinology||18 points||Semester 1|
|NEUR452||2023||Neurodegenerative Disorders||20 points||Full Year|
|NEUR453||2023||Applied Human Neuroscience||20 points||Semester 1|
|NEUR455||2023||Sleep||20 points||Full Year|
|NEUR459||2023||Neuroendocrinology||20 points||Not offered in 2023|
|NEUR461||2023||Clinical Neurology||20 points||Not offered in 2023|
|NEUR471||2023||Special Topic: Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Neuroscience||20 points||Semester 2|
|NEUR473||2023||Special Topic: Sensory Neuroscience||20 points||Semester 1|
|NEUR480||2023||Research Project||40 points||Full Year|
|NEUR490||2023||Dissertation||60 points||Full Year, 1st Non standard period|
|NEUR495||2023||Master's Thesis Preparation||40 points||Full Year|