What is Behavioral Neuroscience?

Behavioral neuroscience explores the role of the nervous system in normal and abnormal behavior, thought, and emotion. This major emphasizes an understanding of nervous system structure and function from the molecular/cellular level to the systems level. For example, behavioral neuroscientists study the neurobiological basis of normal learning and memory, psychiatric illnesses such as depression, schizophrenia, and drug abuse and neurological illnesses such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Behavioral Neuroscience Degree(s)

Behavioral Neuroscience, BS

The Behavioral Neuroscience program integrates across elements of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, and psychology to study how nervous system structure and function produces normal and abnormal behavior.


Andrea Swanson, Advisor
bns@wwu.edu | 360-650-2148

Behavioral Neuroscience at Western

Western's Behavioral Neuroscience program, offered through the Department of Psychology,  provides students with the specialized preparation, research opportunities, and technological sophistication critical for success in entry-level research and healthcare positions and postgraduate training in neuroscience, medicine, dentistry, and related disciplines.

Western is one of the few public institutions in the country offering an undergraduate Behavioral Neuroscience major. The success of our graduates is testimony to the strength of this new program!

Dr. Janet Finlay

Retired Associate Professor of Behavioral Neuroscience

Explore Courses

BNS 305 - Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

PSY 310 - Sensation and Perception 

PSY 323 - Psychopharmacology

PSY 327 - Cognitive Neuroscience Lab


It’s thrilling to conduct real research and then present it to the public, who are always amazed at what undergraduate students are doing at Western. I love that Behavioral Neuroscience emphasizes our duty as researchers to teach the public about science.

Lauren Alfiler

Behavioral Neuroscience Student

Being involved in Behavioral Neuroscience research has given me valuable hands-on laboratory experience that is difficult to come by as an undergraduate. I feel a sense of fulfillment knowing that I am contributing in some small way to furthering our understanding of the neurobiology of addiction, in hopes that this research will help to identify better strategies to effectively treat addiction and facilitate rehabilitation.

Kristin Maris

Behavioral Neuroscience Student

Organizations and Clubs

Behavioral Neuroscience is more than an academic major at Western, it is a family of dedicated faculty, staff, and students who collaborate in behavioral neuroscience research and outreach. Behavioral Neuroscience majors are actively involved in original research with faculty and staff, frequently coauthoring national and international conference presentations and journal articles. Students may also be involved in the Neuroscience Research Driven Students (NeRDS) Club, hosting activities that range from purely social gatherings to increasing brain awareness through outreach to K-12 public school classrooms and community laboratory tours.  

What can you do with Behavioral Neuroscience?

Behavioral Neuroscience students at Western receive the specialized preparation critical for success in such graduate-training programs as neuroscience, psychology, pharmacology, mental health, neurobiology, medicine, and dentistry. Western students have continued their studies at the following schools, among many others: 

  • Arizona State University: Neuroscience (PhD) 
  • University of Washington: Medical School (MD and PA), Dental School 
  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center: Neuroscience (PhD) 
  • Johns Hopkins University: Medical School (MD) and Neuroscience (PhD) 
  • Washington State University: Neuroscience (PhD) and Pharmacy (Pharm D)
  • University of Texas Southwestern: Immunology (PhD) 
  • Oregon Health Sciences University: Medical School (MD) and Neuroscience (PhD) 
  • University of British Columbia: Neuroscience (PhD)

For students who do not anticipate pursuing post-graduate education, the degree provides an excellent platform for entry-level positions in academia and industry. Western students have been employed by the following academic institutions and companies, among others: 

  • Seattle Neuropsychiatric Treatment Center 
  • Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories 
  • University of Washington 
  • Western Washington University 
  • Gilead Sciences 
  • Allen Institute for Brain Science
  • Fred Hutch

Behavioral Neuroscience careers

  • Neuroscientist
  • Biomedical Researcher
  • Psychiatrist
  • Medical Doctor
  • Dentist
  • Pharmacist
  • Veterinarian
  • Physician Assistant
  • Pharmaceutical Sales

Start Your Career at Western