Undergrad seeking advice

Richard S. Norman rnorman at umich.edu
Tue Sep 10 08:04:53 EST 2002

On 10 Sep 2002 02:15:58 -0700, phanbran at yahoo.com (Brandon Field)

>Hi, I am an undergrad biological chemistry major (will soon transfer
>to Grinnell College) and plan to go into neuroscience after I get my
>B.S. My interest in neuroscience comes from the idea that we may be
>able to understand the brain processes at the highest level, for
>example, being able to examine a brain and know what it is thinking by
>decoding the brainss signals. This would be benificial because we
>could learn exactly how the mind works, and also could comunicate
>directly with brains with direct signals, for example, learning how
>the brain encodes visual images, then changing the electric signal of
>video into the brains ode, which may one day allow blind people to
>What I'm wondering is which branch of neuroscience should I study to
>learn these things?

First, you should get some background in biology.  A good intro course
plus some background in cell biology and physiology and an intro neuro
course will really help you decide.  It will also show you that your
ideas that seem so appropriate and logical to you now are hopelessly
naive given the true complexity of neurons and nervous systems.  Also,
once you get a good introduction in how to understand the primary
reseach literature, you will be in a far better position to decide.

I would strongly suggest you stay with the biochemical/molecular
biology/cellular side of neuro, not the cognitive/physiological psych
side.  I say that simply because you are already in biochemistry and
will have the proper tools and background for the one, but not the

Since you are already getting a good background in biochem, it would
be logical for you to go into some aspect of cell signaling.
Plasticity of synaptic transmission is the key to unravelling memory
and learning.  Gene regulation and control is another area heavily
involved in learning and memory but also in development and
regeneration.  There are a lot of untapped fields at the
molecular/cellular level to explore!

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