University of Rochester

Undergraduate Programs

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Brain and Cognitive Sciences

The major in Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS) offers undergraduates the opportunity to study the nature and products of mental activity: perception, action, thinking, language, learning, and memory. This rigorous but accessible natural science discipline lies at the intersection of cognitive psychology, computer science, and neuroscience, bringing these fields together to understand the activities of the mind and brain.

The department offers two degrees:

Both degrees are built around a common curriculum that integrates biological, behavioral, and computational approaches to the study of perception, language, thinking, learning, and development. Two introductory courses examine the neural machinery that underlies behavior and introduce the domain of cognitive science. Three core courses build on this introduction by exploring some of the major scientific problems we study—perception and action, cognition, and language. All BCS majors must also take a statistics course, laboratory course, and senior seminar. The BS degree requires additional courses outside the BCS department, including biology, math, linguistics, and computer science.


The BCS department also administers the Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in Biological Sciences with a concentration in Neuroscience.

Neuroscience is one of the tracks associated with the Undergraduate Program in Biology and Medicine, and provides students interested in biology with an opportunity to explore the molecular, cellular, and physiological bases of behavior. NSC majors gain a solid background in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics, along with a concentration of courses in neuroscience. Neuroscience adopts a multidisciplinary approach to the study of nervous systems, and endeavors to understand how cells and circuits of this organ system function to generate and regulate behavior.

Choosing a major

While BCS and NSC overlap somewhat in their focus on the brain and what it does, the NSC major emphasizes biological and chemical investigations of brain function in relation to behavior, whereas the BCS major blends biological, behavioral, and computational approaches to focus more strongly on the cognitive and perceptual abilities mediated by the brain. Whether you choose a BS in Neuroscience, BA in BCS, or BS in BCS, you will acquire many important skills:

  • Logic and methods of scientific inquiry
  • Critical thinking and reasoning
  • Engaging in real research problems
  • Writing succinct and fluent scientific reports
  • Basic disciplinary qualification for graduate or professional training in the behavioral and neural sciences

Options for career paths, research opportunities, and graduate programs are quite fluid between BCS and NSC majors. Choosing a BA degree allows for greater flexibility since it requires fewer courses, and generally does not restrict you from graduate school or employment in the field. Medical school and other health professions are open to any major as long as the appropriate prerequisite courses are completed.

Questions about our Undergraduate Programs? Contact our Undergraduate Coordinator.