photo of books and pages of brain scans and illustrations on a desktop


Neuroscience at Reed is an interdisciplinary major for students who wish to focus their coursework and research at the intersection of biology and psychology to understand the mechanics of the brain and the behavior it generates in humans and other animals.

Incorporating the study of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and ethology, students explore brain function with a range of approaches, from molecular studies of single neurons all the way to exploring complex cognitive phenomena. Majors acquire core competencies in biology and psychology; students also take classes in mathematics and chemistry or physics.

In addition to the formal courses offered toward fulfillment of the major, students have the opportunity to conduct independent work under the supervision of Reed faculty, who have developed outstanding expertise in neuroscience—from the genomic basis of behavior and the world of sensory substitution to the “hunger hormone”—making Reed an ideal environment in which to spend the summer conducting fieldwork or working in a lab. Over the last decade, students have also coauthored dozens of papers in prominent journals and presented findings at local and national conferences.

“Reed values an interdisciplinary education, which allows students to explore both the structure of the brain and deep questions about the mind. From the development of vision to an understanding of desire, attention, and consciousness, the expertise of the faculty provides a breadth of fields for students to explore.” MADELINE DOAK ’20

Professor profile

Professor Erik Zornik

Social and Hormonal Influence
photo of Professor Erik Zornik with his orange cat

Associate Professor of Biology Erik Zornik is interested in how behavioral variation is encoded in neural circuits. In one of his projects, he’s investigating courtship vocal behaviors of African clawed frogs, Xenopus laevis.

“Adults of this species exhibit a rich vocal repertoire of at least seven call types that range from rhythmically simple to temporally complex,” Zornik explains. “Xenopus vocalizations are sexually differentiated; males and females produce calls with distinct temporal characteristics that are regulated by steroid hormones during development and in adulthood. This makes their vocal behaviors an ideal subject for understanding the neural basis of behavior and behavioral plasticity.” Because many neurological disorders involve disruptions of normal rhythms, the overarching goal of the research, he says, is to discover novel mechanisms that underlie rhythm generation, potentially leading to novel treatments.

Download Neuroscience Flyer as a PDF

Select Student Research

Investigating the Coordination of Neuron and Blood Vessel Formation in the Zebrafish Retina
Anna Maior-Leichtfried ’22 (building on work from Erin Howell ’18, Avery Van Duzer ’18, Kenzie Givens ’17, Sasha Chang ’22, and Mingus Zoller ’20)

Neural Dynamics Underlying Auditory Bistable Perception: Laurel or Yanny?
Alex Franklin ’22

Associative and Non-associative Learning in Plants (Mimosa pudica)
Naim Currimjee ’21

Failure to Find Altruistic Food Sharing in Rats
Matt Wan ’21 and Cyrus Kirkman ’20

Sex-Biased Gene Expression in the Brain Conserved Among Taxa
Madeline Doak ’20

Neuroscience Research Fellowship

Each year, many neuroscience majors are awarded a paid 10-week summer fellowship to carry out independent research projects with biology and psychology faculty. Designed to provide students with strong research skills, the Neuroscience Research Fellowship is a great opportunity to prepare for the senior thesis, graduate school, or other avenues for a career in neuroscience.

Faculty Research


  • Derek Applewhite: Dynamics of neuronal cytoskeleton
  • Kara Cerveny: Neuronal differentiation in the zebrafish visual system
  • Suzy Renn: Behavioral genomics of social behavior


  • Enriqueta Canseco-Gonzalez: Psycholinguistics, neuropsychology, and cross-sensory integration
  • Tim Hackenberg: Comparative cognition, behavioral economics, and learning
  • Michael Pitts: Cognitive neuroscience of attention, perception, and consciousness

What Do Alumni Do?

Research Assistant
The University of Chicago
Nebiyat Esubalew ’21

Animal Biologist
National Institute on Aging
Avantika Vivek ’20

Graduate Student
New York University
Theresa Steele ’18

Emergency Medicine Resident
Bellevue Hospital
Chris Graulty ’15

Professor of Biology
Dartmouth College
Michael Hoppa ’04

Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy
University of Utah, School of Medicine
Adam Douglass ’98

Professor of Biology and MacArthur Fellow
Brandeis University
Gina Turrigiano ’84