Neuroscience and Education | Biobehavioral Sciences

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Neuroscience and Education

Department of Biobehavioral Sciences

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Program Description

The Masters Program in Neuroscience and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University was the first graduate program in the country to focus on the educational and clinical implications of recent advances in understanding brain-behavior relationships. 

Our program is aimed at bridging the gap between research into the neural underpinnings of cognition and behavior, and the problems encountered in schools and other applied settings. We provide rigorous training and relevant experiences that allow students to further their knowledge and make links between neuroscience, cognition, education, and clinical practice. Program graduates follow diverse career paths: some continue as dually-prepared specialists in their respective areas of professional expertise, while others develop careers in research settings or industry; still others go on to medical or research doctoral programs for further study.

The core competencies addressed in the program are as follows: 

  1. Foundational knowledge of neuroscience at several different levels of analysis: cellular and molecular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, and cognitive / psychological neuroscience. 

  2. Training in the scientific method, and an understanding of the scientific foundations that underpin educational applications of neuroscience research. You will become familiar with the critical evaluation of the primary literature in neuroscience and will develop the skills to understand and critically evaluate experimental research. 

  3. Professional development, and what it means to be a responsible steward of science and a member of the field. You will receive instruction and training in the ways in which scientific research is disseminated in different arenas of engagement, from journal articles to conference presentations and outreach activities.

  4. Applications of neuroscientific research in different professional domains. As multidisciplinary practitioners, our students come from a variety of different backgrounds and move into a wide range of fields. The program offers individualized approaches to tailor your training to your goals, through electives and breadth courses as well as through the Thesis experience.


  • Master of Science

    • Points/Credits: 32

      Entry Terms: Spring/Summer/Fall

      Degree Requirements

      The program of study for the M.S. in Neuroscience and Education offers a systematic sequence of courses within the neurosciences.

      • The Foundations sequence and the Core Courses provide a thorough introduction to the neural bases of behavior and relating neuroscience to educational and clinical fields

      • Courses in research and methods orient students to scientific reasoning and practical skills needed in in behavioral and brain-based research 

      • Advanced electives and breadth courses explore implications of brain-behavior research for educational and clinical practice

      • Supervised independent study / practicum experiences enable students to engage in ongoing research projects in neuroscience-related fields 

      • Students finish their studies by developing an integrative project as a formal thesis


      1. College Requirements: 

      • 32 graduate degree credits must be taken at Columbia University for the MS degree, a minimum of 20 of which must be taken at Teachers College; 

      • At least 6 breadth credits must come from within Teachers College, but outside your home program; 

      • Provided these requirements are met, other courses may be completed outside of Teachers College at other locations in the university such as Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), Columbia Medical School (College of Physicians and Surgeons), etc. There are some restrictions: 

      • Such courses must be registered through TC, but require permission of the instructor; 

      • Columbia College undergraduate courses at the entry level (1000, 2000 level) cannot be used to fulfill graduate degree requirements. Advanced undergrad courses (3000 level) can be petitioned for program course credit with the Registrar, but approval is not automatic. Graduate courses (4000 and above) can count for credit in the program. 

      • If you are considering enrolling in advanced graduate courses in neuroscience, biology, etc. outside of TC, please be sure that you have the sufficient prerequisites and background training to handle the content. Many of these courses are very rigorous, requiring a solid preparation in the area of study. If in doubt, be sure to consult with the instructor and with your academic advisor.

      2. Program Requirements: The Program requires a minimum of 20 credits in Neurosciences, as detailed below. 

      REQUIRED CORE COURSES: Foundations of Neuroscience I: Anatomy and Physiology* (BBSN 4001); Foundations II: Systems Neuroscience* (BBSN 4002); Neuroscience Research Methods* (BBSN 4005); Neuroscience Applications to Education (BBSN 5007). [*indicates that a grade of B or higher is required in these courses to maintain good standing in the program.]

      • Foundations I and II are offered in the fall term only, meeting twice a week; Foundations I is offered for the first half of the semester while Foundations II is offered for the second half. Students with very strong preparation in neuroscience (e.g., neuroscience undergraduate majors) may test out of the Foundations courses (please contact the instructor); however it is expected that most students will take this sequence regardless of their training. 

      • Neuroscience Research Methods is offered in the fall semester only and is typically online. Students may petition to pass out of this course if they already took a suitable similar course and achieved a grade of B or higher (please provide a syllabus and grade to the instructor for a decision).

      • Neuroscience Applications to Education is offered in both spring and fall semesters. 

      COGNITIVE AND PSYCHOLOGICAL NEUROSCIENCE CLUSTER. At least 3 credits (one course) must be taken from the following group of courses: Cognitive Neuroscience (BBSN 5003), Affective Neuroscience (BBSN 5080), Social Neuroscience (BBSN 5199), Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (BBSN 5070), Evaluation of Neuropsychological Instruments for Research (BBSN 5005).

      ELECTIVE COURSES. At least 6 credits of in-program elective courses are required. Our current elective offerings are listed below; these may change from time to time. Also note that any of the courses in the Cognitive/Psychological Cluster above could count as in-program electives, too.

      BREADTH COURSES. At least 6 credits of breadth courses outside of BBSN. For students who do not have substantial background in psychology, statistics or data handling, we recommend that the breadth courses are taken in those areas. In practice almost any course outside of the BBSN listings can satisfy this requirement (including Biobehavioral Sciences courses with prefixes BBS, BBSQ (Communication Sciences & Disorders), or BBSR (Movement Science)). Some courses are limited to students in clinical course progressions and may not be open to all applicants.

      THE THESIS. The Thesis is required for graduation. It constitutes a summative assessment, and should be an APA-formatted document in one of the following forms: 

      • a comprehensive thematic literature review of a topic in neuroscience research; OR

      • an empirical paper detailing an original experimental study in which the student was directly involved; OR

      • a detailed proposal for a neuroscientific research study. 

      Detailed requirements for the thesis are provided in the separate document Guide to the Thesis (provided during program advisement), and in the Thesis and Professional Development course (BBSN 5500, 2 credits) which must be taken by every student in their last regular (fall or spring) semester before graduation.

      EXCLUDED COURSES: Undergraduate courses generally cannot count toward the graduate degree (as noted above). Courses that do not fulfill the program aims of connecting neuroscience to a content area may not count toward the degree. Also, courses that offer non-traditional or alternative approaches to neuroscience may not be allowed to count toward your degree if they are not considered by program faculty to be scientifically rigorous. Students should consult with their advisor if in doubt.


  • Faculty

    • Karen Froud Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education
    • Andrew Michael Gordon Professor of Movement Sciences
    • Peter Gordon Associate Professor of Neuroscience and Education
    • Kimberly G Noble Professor of Neuroscience and Education
  • Lecturers

    • Lisa Merideth Levinson Lecturer
  • Adjunct Faculty

    • Anlys Olivera Adjunct Associate Professor
    • Stephen Alan Sands Adjunct Associate Professor


  • BBS 5069 - Brain and behavior II: Perception, emotion, memory and cognition
    An introduction to brain processes associated with perception, emotion, memory and cognition. Consequences of damage to these neurobehavioral processes are examined through reading and discussion of clinical case studies.
  • BBSN 4001 - Foundations in Neuroscience I: Anatomy & Physiology
    This course provides an introduction to the mammalian nervous system, with emphasis on the structure and function of the human brain. It provides foundational knowledge for students with little or no background in neuroscience and a basic review for students with limited course work in neuroscience. Topics to be covered include the history of neuroscience, function of brain cells, intra- and intercellular communication, and the anatomy of the human nervous system.
  • BBSN 4002 - Foundations in Neuroscience II: Systems Neuroscience
    This course provides an introduction to the systems of the mammalian brain, with emphasis on the structure and function of the human brain. The course is intended to provide foundational knowledge for students with little or no background in neuroscience. Topics to be covered include sensory and motor systems, as well as the circuitry underlying complex behaviors including motivation, emotions, and memory. Note that this is a half-semester course.
  • BBSN 4005 - Research Methods in Neuroscience
    This course is intended to provide an overview of the scientific methods used in the field of neuroscience. We will be discussing the basic tenets of experimental design and statistical analysis as they are used by all behavioral and cognitive scientists. We also will work to apply those design and analysis concepts to the specific methodologies used by neuroscientists.
  • BBSN 4904 - Research practicum and independent study: Neuroscience and Education
    Students may register for this course if they are involved in a practicum experience such as working in a lab, an educational setting, or clinical treatment setting doing research independently, such as research toward writing the thesis. The course also covers students who are taking external workshops such as the functional MRI training at MGH's Martinos Center. Registration is for 0 to 3 credits depending on the level of commitment and/ or financial constraints; registering for zero credits is at no tuition cost to the student. Students should consult with their advisor prior to registration.
  • BBSN 5000 - Electroencephalography (EEG) Lab Methods
    This course provides basic understanding of electroencephalography (EEG) and event-related potential (ERP) methods as they are used in investigations of language and cognitive processes. The course covers the neurophysiology of EEG, principles of experiment design, and some methods for preliminary data processing.
  • BBSN 5003 - Cognitive Neuroscience
    This course explores the cognitive and neural processes that support attention, object recognition, language, social cognition, and memory. It introduces basic neuroanatomy, functional imaging techniques, and behavioral measures of cognition. We consider evidence from patients with neurological diseases (e.g., Balint's syndrome, amnesia, and focal lesions from stroke) and from healthy human participants.
  • BBSN 5005 - Evaluation of Neuropsychological Instruments for Research
    This course will examine various neuropsychological testing instruments and their role in research and the evaluation of neuropsychological disorders in children and adults. The course will focus on the basic theoretical and clinical foundations of neuropsychological testing.
  • BBSN 5007 - Neuroscience Applications to Education
    This course will survey the application of current neuroscience research to educational practice. We will discuss how neuroscience can (and cannot) inform current pedagogical methodologies, including neuroethical issues as they pertain to education, as well as educational “neuromyths.” We will cover the neural bases of selected cognitive and academic systems (including literacy, math, and self-regulation), as well as the current science of intervention in these domains. We discuss experience-based brain plasticity across a variety of contexts (sleep, physical activity, stress, bilingualism, socioeconomic status, music exposure). Finally, we will discuss the future of neuroeducational research and policy. Throughout the course, we focus on the ability to evaluate, critique, and interpret scientific evidence as it relates to educational practice and policy.
  • BBSN 5010 - Neuroscience of Reading
    This is a one---semester introduction to the neuroscientific investigation of reading, its development, and its disorders. Theoretical frameworks are outlined to provide a foundation for discussion of the neurological underpinnings of sub---processes in reading. Experimental findings from the field of neuroscience are presented to provide information about the organization of these sub---processes across the lifespan and across linguistic communities. Developmental and acquired disorders of reading are discussed, and the influence of neuroscientific investigations on remediation and intervention is described.
  • BBSN 5019 - Human Functional Neuroanatomy
    This hybrid course will review neuroanatomical terminology and identify structure and function of major landmarks and pathways in the human brain, peripheral nervous system, and spinal cord using clinical cases, MRI images, brain models, and preserved human brain specimens. We will also discuss neurological disorders and pathology as is relevant to each structure.
  • BBSN 5022 - Eye Tracking Methods
    This course aims to explore the applications, methods, neurophysiology, and psychometrics associated with the use of eye tracking in cognitive, linguistic, developmental and clinical research. Students will learn to use TOBII eye trackers and will explore the use of other head mounted systems as well. Students will design, run and analyze an experiment employing these technologies. In addition, we will learn to use other dynamic event recording systems, including ELAN, MACSHAPA/DATAVYU, PRAAT and CHILDES. These systems are designed for coding video, sound, speech, language and other event based data sets. We will also explore the contents of the shared datasets on CHILDES and DATABERY (as it comes on line).
  • BBSN 5044 - Current Issues in Neuroscience and Education
    This course features a series of synchronous Zoom talks by visiting speakers presenting their cutting-edge neuroscientific research. The course introduces graduate students to a range of topics and researchers. The format provides an opportunity for students to engage directly with scientists in a professional arena. For each talk, students will be required to read background papers that describe aspects of the work presented by a visiting speaker. Assigned groups will submit questions/topics of interest for discussion after the talks. Every couple of weeks, the class will meet via Zoom for a "live" discussion. Lecture topics seek to expand student exposure to a diversity of neuroscientific research. Assignments encourage reflection on the topics presented and how the material covered contributes to a deeper understanding of neuroscience more generally.
  • BBSN 5070 - Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience
    This course examines neurophysical development from conception through adulthood and its relation to changes in cognitive and linguistic functioning. Topics include visual development, attention, development of action/motor systems, language and reading development, executive function, and social cognition. In addition, the course covers developmental disorders related to specific cognitive, linguistic, and social functions, and theoretical approaches to mental representation and the emergence of cognitive functions.
  • BBSN 5080 - Affective Neuroscience
    Emotion and cognition have traditionally been studied in isolation from one another, but these processes typically interact with each other in interesting and unique ways. Understanding these interactions is critical to understanding human behavior: affect can modulate our attention, guide our decision making, bias our perception, and influence our memories. Affective neuroscience utilizes the tools typically used to study cognitive neuroscience to better understand how emotion interacts with these and other aspects of cognition.
  • BBSN 5122 - Psychoneuroimmunology
    Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a field that integrates behavioral sciences, cellular neuroscience, endocrinology, and immunology to explain how immune-brain interactions can affect health and behaviors. The course will begin by introducing the principles of neuroscience, immunology, endocrinology, and research methods in PNI. We will then survey foundational work and current research related to brain-immune interactions and how they influence health and disease including topics that are relevant to cognitive neuroscience and education such as learning, memory, and cognitive disorders.
  • BBSN 5152 - Neuroscience, Ethics, and the Law
    As our ability to measure and understand the functioning of the human brain has rapidly advanced, so too has our need to grapple with the ethical and legal implications of these neuroscientific tools and discoveries. This seminar will introduce students to the emerging fields of Neuroethics and Neurolaw and create a forum for discussion and debate about a range of timely topics. Topics will include brain development in adolescence (related to issues of driving laws, school start times, and adolescents being tried as adults in courts of law); the use of neuroimaging as “brain reading” technology (and its applicability in court); the neurobiology of memory and its legal application; the use of neuropharmacological agents and brain stimulation for cognitive enhancement; the neurobiology of addiction (and implications for the voluntary control of behavior); and death, unconsciousness, and the law. Throughout the course, we focus on the ability to evaluate, critique and interpret scientific evidence as it relates to ethical and legal practice and policy. With each topic we consider, our goal will not be to achieve consensus on what’s right and what’s wrong but rather to understand the ethical quandaries and to think critically about ways that the field could go about addressing them. Students should leave this course with an enhanced appreciation of the many ways in which our work impacts society and a heightened commitment to public engagement.
  • BBSN 5193 - Neuroscience of Adversity
    This course will survey the state-of-the-art research into what happens to our brains following the experience of adversity. We will consider adversity broadly defined, including common forms of adversity such as poverty, as well as more extreme forms of adversity, such as abuse and institutionalization. We will consider adversity across the lifespan and will also focus on plasticity and resilience. Throughout this course, we focus on the ability to evaluate, critique, and interpret scientific evidence as it relates to the neuroscience of adversity.
  • BBSN 6904 - Research and independent study: Neuroscience and Education
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