Polygence blog / Education and College Admissions

Best Neuroscience Programs & Schools in the US

3 minute read

Neuroscience is the scientific exploration of the nervous system, encompassing the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, and it has become a popular major for university students to embark on. Choosing a Neuroscience major involves studying a bit of biology, chemistry, computer science, and even physics. It is a dynamic subject encompassing a wide array of fields, to help us learn more about the brain and the body. Neuroscience has great opportunities for students in undergraduate and graduate programs.  Without further ado, let’s dive into the best neuroscience programs in the United States that offer academic degrees or research opportunities in this field. 

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Top Universities in Neuroscience 

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition: $51,925

Why it’s a top school in this field: Harvard University's Department of Neurobiology is a pioneering force in neuroscience research. The program's interdisciplinary approach spans molecular, cellular, systems, and behavioral neuroscience. Notable faculty members like John A. Assad and Margaret Livingstone contribute to cutting-edge research.

University of California, Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, California
Tuition: $14,451 for in-state, $44,205 for out-of-state

Why it’s a top school in this field: UC Berkeley's Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute offers a comprehensive program with a focus on brain function and dysfunction. Proximity to the Bay Area's research facilities enhances students' exposure to advancements. Faculty members such as Marla Feller and Linda Wilbrecht are leaders in their fields.

Polygence research program mentors:

Marisa: My name is Marisa and I am a Neuroscience PhD Student at UC Berkeley. I did my undergraduate degree in Psychology at the University of Arizona. My research involves investigating the relationship between blood-brain barrier breakdown, Alzheimer's disease pathology, and memory in aging. I use different methods of neuroimaging for my research, including MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography). Outside of research, I enjoy exercising, traveling, cooking, and hanging out with family and friends. Growing up in Arizona we had many beautiful mountains to hike so I love being outdoors and enjoying the sunshine! 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Tuition: $59,750

Why it’s a top school in this field: MIT's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences is a powerhouse in neuroscience education. The program emphasizes hands-on laboratory experience and offers opportunities to engage in cutting-edge projects. Faculty members like Nancy Kanwisher and Emilio Bizzi lead research in human brain organization and motor control.

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Princeton University

Location: Princeton, New Jersey
Tuition: $62,500

Why it’s a top school in this field: Princeton University stands out in neuroscience education and research due to its interdisciplinary approach, cutting-edge facilities, and renowned faculty. The program integrates biology, psychology, physics, and computer science, offering students a comprehensive understanding of the brain. Emphasizing hands-on research opportunities, ethical practices, and collaborations with other departments, Princeton provides a dynamic and forward-looking platform for scholars to excel in neuroscience at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Polygence research program mentors:

Sae Y: I am a neuroscience PhD student with research experience in clinical psychology, cellular and molecular neuroscience, and systems neuroscience. With my previous projects I thought about the following questions: 1) What is the role of oxytocin in anxiety and depression disorders and how does it affect different sexes. 2) How does dopamine affect astrocytes (a cell type found in the brain that is thought to regulate neuronal activity) in the prefrontal cortex? 3) What is the genetic basis that allows the brain to maintain homeostasis? 4) What neuropsychological markers are correlated with neurodegenerative disease? My current interests lie in studying the role of non-neuronal cells in social behaviors such as anxiety disorders. My interests outside of research include finding good eats, exploring new places, paper cutting art, and gaming! 

Karina T: I am a graduate student at Princeton University, studying towards a PhD in cognitive psychology. I research the intersection of memory and language through behavioral and fMRI studies. I'm especially interested in second language learning and how memory mechanisms studied in cognitive neuroscience can help us better understand the difficulties of learning languages. My interest in language comes from growing up in a multilingual home (Japanese, Portuguese, and English). I hope that my research can one day translate into real classroom practices so we can all learn many languages! I love pointing out psycholinguistic phenomena in everyday life, and would love to teach a class on psycholinguistics through fictional languages in movies and tv shows when I become a professor!

Johns Hopkins University

Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Tuition: $58,196

Why it’s a top school in this field: Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Neuroscience is renowned for its research-intensive programs. The school's affiliation with the Johns Hopkins Hospital provides students with clinical exposure, and faculty members contribute to groundbreaking research in neuroscience.

Polygence research program mentors:

Jiana C: I am an MD/PhD student living in San Diego, California. I have finished pre-clinical medical school training and am currently pursuing my PhD in Neuroscience, and am passionate about mentoring in the fields of both Neuroscience and Medicine. I love surfing and pilates!

Columbia University

Location: New York City, New York
Tuition: $61,671

Why it’s a top school in this field: Columbia's Neurobiology and Behavior Department offers a rigorous neuroscience program. The school's location in New York City provides students with access to a rich scientific and cultural environment, enhancing their educational experience.

Top Public Universities

University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA)

Location: Los Angeles, California
Tuition: $13,253 for in-state, $42,233 for out-of-state

Why it’s a top school in this field: UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Department of Psychology offer a strong neuroscience program. The school's collaborative research environment and access to the vibrant neuroscience community in Los Angeles contribute to its prominence.

Polygence research program mentors:

Tyler T: While at UCLA, I was very involved as a mentor to several students in the Neuroscience Undergraduate Society, focusing on professional development and career advice. Since graduating, I have continued to mentor students via the NUS alumni network. Now I’m pursuing a PhD in neuroscience at UC Berkeley.

University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
Tuition: $15,948 for in-state, $52,266 for out-of-state

Why it’s a top school in this field: The University of Michigan's Neuroscience Graduate Program is renowned for its focus on translational neuroscience. Faculty members actively contribute to research areas like neurodegenerative diseases, providing students with valuable insights.

University of Maryland - College Park

Location: College Park, Maryland
Tuition: $10,778 for in-state, $36,891 for out-of-state

Why it’s a top school in this field: The University of Maryland's Neuroscience and Cognitive Science Program offers a strong foundation in neuroscience. Faculty members engage in diverse research areas, providing students with opportunities to explore various aspects of the field.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-Chapel Hill)

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Tuition: In-state: $8,987, Out-of-state: $36,159

Why it’s a top school in this field: UNC-Chapel Hill is a prominent research institution with a robust Neuroscience program. The curriculum integrates various disciplines, including biology, psychology, and chemistry. The university's commitment to cutting-edge research and a collaborative learning environment provides students with a comprehensive understanding of neuroscience.

Polygence research program mentors:

David L: My name is David, and I am a third-year Pharmacology PhD Candidate at UNC Chapel Hill. My primary research focuses on pain and opioid neuropharmacology, where I aim to better understand opioid receptor dynamics and alternative targets for pain treatment. I am extremely passionate about neuroscience, molecular biology, drug discovery, and bioentrepreneurship. In my free time, I like to watch sports, play guitar, and spend time outdoors. Additionally, I am interested in biotechnology startups, where I spend time applying my scientific knowledge to assist founders, form teams, and spin out companies.

Lesser Known Universities with Neuroscience Programs

Trinity College 

Location: Hartford, Connecticut
Tuition: $59,050

Why it’s a top school in this field
: Trinity College offers a dedicated Neuroscience program that combines a strong foundation in biology and psychology. The small class sizes foster a collaborative learning environment, and students have opportunities for research projects and internships.

Stonehill College 

Location: Easton, Massachusetts
Tuition: $47,070

Why it’s a top school in this field: Stonehill College's Neuroscience program integrates coursework from biology, psychology, and chemistry. The program emphasizes hands-on research experiences, and students benefit from collaborations with nearby research institutions.

Fairfield University 

Location: Fairfield, Connecticut
Tuition: $50,340

Why it’s a top school in this field: Fairfield University's Behavioral Neuroscience program explores the interdisciplinary nature of the field. The curriculum includes courses in neurobiology, psychology, and chemistry. Students have access to modern research facilities and engage in faculty-led research projects.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) 

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts
Tuition: $54,352

Why it’s a top school in this field: WPI's interdisciplinary approach to Neuroscience includes a strong emphasis on research. Students collaborate with faculty on projects ranging from neuroengineering to cognitive neuroscience, and the university's project-based learning model adds a practical dimension to the program.

Providence College 

Location: Providence, Rhode Island
Tuition: $54,546

Why it’s a top school in this field: Providence College's Neuroscience program integrates biology, psychology, and chemistry coursework. The program emphasizes research, and students have opportunities to participate in internships and collaborative projects with faculty.

Choosing the right neurosciences school involves considering factors such as faculty expertise, research opportunities, and program focus. Whether opting for prestigious institutions or exploring lesser-known gems, each school offers a unique approach to understanding the complexities of the brain.

What You Learn in a Neuroscience Program

A neuroscience program is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the nervous system, exploring its structure, function, and the mechanisms underlying behavior and cognition. The specific curriculum may vary between institutions, but generally, a neuroscience program covers the following key areas:

  • Basic Neuroscience Principles

  • Neuroanatomy

  • Neurophysiology

  • Behavioral neuroscience 

  • Cognitive neuroscience

  • Developmental neuroscience

  • Clinical neuroscience

  • Research methods and techniques

  • Statistics, Mathematics

  • Computational Modeling and Simulation techniques

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How to Find the Right Neuroscience Program for You

Choosing the right neurosciences school is a pivotal decision that significantly impacts your academic and professional journey. To embark on this quest, start by defining your goals within the vast field of neuroscience. Determine whether you wish to specialize in cognitive neuroscience, behavioral neuroscience, neuropsychology, or another area. Once your goals are clear, research reputable programs, considering factors such as faculty expertise, available specializations, and research opportunities. Ensure that the school is accredited, signifying adherence to recognized academic standards.

Here are some tips to consider as a student searching for the best colleges to attend as a neuroscience major:

  • Consider the school's location and size based on your preferences - would you prefer to study in an urban or a more rural setting? 

  • Evaluate the resources of each institution. What are the facilities, resources, and technologies like on the campus? The best colleges for neuroscience will have ample opportunities for neuroscience students.

  • Investigate faculty credentials, industry connections, and the availability of student support services. Assess the school's commitment to diversity and inclusion, as a diverse learning environment enhances your educational experience.

  • Visiting campuses, reading reviews, and exploring alumni success stories can provide valuable insights into the strengths of each program. Connect with college admissions offices to gather as much information as you can.

  • Lastly, consider financial factors such as tuition costs and net price, available scholarships, financial aid, and the overall cost of living in the school's location. 

By carefully considering these factors, you can identify the best neuroscience program that aligns with your aspirations and learning preferences.