Unless you have two or three publications, a perfect undergraduate
record, and perfect GRE or MCAT scores, you should rule out MD/PhD
programs. I don't mean to discourage you if you actually have these
qualifications, but if you don't you shouldn't consider applying to
an MSTP program.
If you are primarily interested in research, you should consider a
PhD program in an interdisciplinary Neuroscience division or in
a Neurobiology program. The earlier is more diverse, tends to have more
money and better access to faculty, but some schools have not organized
such a program.
PhD students in this field are almost always fully funded (like MD/PHDs),
so for this reason you may not want to consider an outright MD - you
will not get trained to do research, and will go severely into debt
to pay for school - a debt you cannot repay on a researcher's salary
(but can pay if you go into clinical practice).
In any case, at present there is little cellar basis for high level
functions as you seek. Basic neuroscience (i.e., molecular) is only
now entering the realm of psychology, and this is at the level
of simple learning processes (even this link is tenuous). As far
as consciousness and neuropsychopathology (ie, Schizophrenia and
depression) are concerned, consciousness is unexplored and
neuropsychopathology is done at the gross anatomical or gross
neurochemical level rather than at the cellular or molecular level.
In any case, I am sure you can find something interesting in a large
Typically, the faculty you are interested in will fall in depts of
Biology (or Neurobiology), Physiological Sciences, Psychology (behavioral
or cognitive neuroscience), and most will have cross-appointments in
Neuroscience programs. As such, a Neuroscience program is usually your
best bet. Moreover, you are typically not commited to a single faculty
member (and in fact, are usually required to do rotations the first year),
which is not the case in individual departments, where you are often
tied to a single faculty member due to funding.
So, your plan of action should be to write to various universities,
contacting both their Neuroscience programs and individual departments.
Look at the faculty lists, and then do medline searches on people who
sound interesting to you.
Here are some of the best Neuroscience programs to consider:
(not in any order)
UCLA Interdisciplinary Neuroscience
UCSD Interdisciplinary Neuroscience
Washington University (St. Louis)
University of Washington (Washington)
NYU (Neural Science program)
Many others. (Anyone who feels slighted, add your university here)
The above typically pay $10,000-$14,000 per year plus
tuition and fees fellowship for a couple of years then require that you
get a TA or RA ship. Admission requirements are (average),
3 really good letters, lots of good research, GPA at least 3.2 (ave=3.6),
GRE's in the 700s. If your research is really good, grades don't matter.
Other programs have easier requirements. Shop around. Some places
a biology degree is better, some places psychology is better, so this
may also play into admission.
Stephan at psych.ucla.edu