By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
The term "neuroscience" refers to the scientific study of the nervous system. The word is derived from a combination of the words "neuron" meaning "nerve" and "science".
Neuroscience concerns all scientific aspects of the nervous system including molecular, cellular, functional, and structural elements as well as the evolutionary, medical and computational aspects. Some examples of the principal areas studied are:
Neuronal signalling and axonal connectivity patterns
Neuronal development and biological function
Neural circuit formation and functional role in reflexes, sense, memory, learning, and emotional response
Cognitive neuroscience addressing psychological functions related to neural circuits
Brain imaging in diagnosis of disease
Neuroscientists explore all elements of the nervous system to understand how it is structured, how it functions, how it forms, how it malfunctions and how it can be altered.
The nervous system is an assembly of interconnected neurons that communicate with each other and other cells through specialized synaptic junctions where neurons project long filaments called axons that can reach and relay signals to distant parts of the body that influence neuronal, muscular and glandular activity at their end points.
Neuroscientists are essentially basic science researchers who usually possess a doctoral degree in neuroscience or a related field. They may then work in post doctoral research or go on to become a medical doctor and later specialize in neuroscience.
Neuroscientists often contribute to understanding the genetic basis of many neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's disease and identify strategies for cure and management. Neuroscientists may also be involved in research into mental disorders such as schizophrenia or behavioural disorders.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Feb 27, 2014