Why Study Physiology, Neuroscience, and Behavior at ISU?

Have you ever wondered how the brain works, how it controls body functions and behavior? Are you fascinated by the variety of behaviors animals and humans exhibit, and considering a career as a doctor, veterinarian or researcher? Then the Physiology, Neuroscience and Behavior Sequence offers you the ideal preparation for post-graduate professional school. Students will discover the fundamental ways by which behavior provides animals the flexibility needed to survive and to reproduce successively, but also how an animal’s sensory organs, nervous system, and physiology work together in a highly coordinated fashion to determine an animal’s behavior. You will find no better place than the PNB sequence to experience the excitement of understanding nervous system function, physiology and behavior, from the output of single nerve cells and the neural machinery that processes sensory information to the appropriate behavioral responses, and ultimately, the myriad ways by which behavior serves to meet the unique survival and reproductive needs of animals and humans.

The PNB sequence gives you the flexibility to choose between tracks focusing on Physiology and Neuroscience, Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms or Organismal Biology. This highly integrative sequence spans physiological processes from single cells to behavioral responses, and includes studies in closely related fields such as Biochemistry, Physics and Psychology. Majors selecting the PNB sequence will receive training from research experts and acquire technical and intellectual skills necessary to succeed in a variety of careers, including academic or industry laboratory technical staff, behavioral analysts, technician, clinical research specialists, and pharmaceutical sales. The sequence is specifically designed to provide a focused experience for students interested in physiology, neuroscience, and/or behavior, while providing a breadth of courses within these disciplines. Research opportunities for undergraduate students are available in the laboratories of all faculty associated with the PNB sequence.


Why Study Physiology, Neuroscience, and Behavior?

Physiology, Neuroscience and Behavior (PNB) are three branches of biology that are often studied together because of the conceptual linkages between these disciplines.

Physiology is the scientific study of function in living systems. This includes how organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and bio-molecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system. Physiologists are interested in the integration of knowledge obtained from research at the level of molecules, cells, and organs to understand functions of the body at the whole organism. The objective is to understand basic mechanisms and their associated defects with the object of translating this information to diagnosis, therapies and prevention of clinical disorders.

Neuroscience is the branch of Biology that studies the nervous system. Neuroscientists study the nervous system in all its aspects: how it is structured, how it works, how it develops, how it malfunctions, and how it can be changed. For example, it has become possible to understand, in much detail, the complex processes occurring within single nerve cells, the mechanisms driving learning and memory, and the mechanisms that underlie disorders and drug addiction.

The human brain is the most complex living structure in the known universe. It has a capacity to store more information than a supercomputer and to create a network of connections that far surpasses any social network. It has enabled humans to achieve breathtaking milestones — walking on the moon, mapping the human genome, and composing masterpieces of art, literature, and music. Neuroscientists are inspired to try to decipher the brain’s functions and how its 100 billion nerve cells are born, grow, and connect. They study how these cells organize themselves into effective, functional circuits that usually remain in working order for life, how cell circuits enable us to read, speak, breath and walk, and the causes of devastating disorders of the brain, and how can we prevent or cure them. The techniques used by neuroscientists range from molecular and cellular approaches to study individual nerve cells to imaging and computational modeling of large networks of neurons in the brain. Neuroscientists collaborate with other related fields such as chemistry, physics, computer science, mathematics, medicine and psychology.

The brain has the capacity to store more information than a supercomputer and its malfunction can cause many disorders. Nerve cells (or ‘neurons’) are the functional units of the nervous system. They possess quite complex shapes.


Behavior is the primary means by which animal actively interact with their biotic and abiotic environment. Behavior provides a natural intersection for neuroscientists and physiologists because it is the neural and physiological processes that determine behavioral output. Behavior can also be studied within the context of evolutionary biology, by exploring how natural selection has shaped the physiology and behavior of animals to meet fundamental biological needs including navigation and migration, finding food, avoiding predators, and reproducing. Researchers study these questions using a wide range of techniques including video animation, sound recording and playbacks, time-lapse photography, phenotypic engineering, and hormonal manipulations, among others.

Communication, as represented by this singing male cricket, is regulated by an animal’s nervous system in concert with environmental cues. Goal-directed social behaviors such as parenting or reproduction require exquisite coordination of neural and physiological processes that is mediated via hormonal signals.

The Curriculum

As a student in the PNB sequence you will focus on physiological processes in the body that allow humans and animals to produce the behavioral repertoire that fascinates biologists all around the globe. The PNB sequence offers research opportunities for interested students. Obtain summer, part-time, volunteer, co-op, or internship experience to test your fields of interest and gain valuable experience. Present your research to poster competitions or research symposiums such as the Phi Sigma Research Symposium. Learn to read scientific journals related to your area of interest and to interpret current scientific literature. Finally, you will secure strong personal and professional relationships with the professors of the PNB sequence.

Our four capstone courses - Animal Physiology, Animal Behavior, Hormones and Behavior and Introduction to Neurobiology - provide a broad basis for the study of physiological mechanisms and span physiological processes from subcellular signaling and molecular interactions to behavioral responses. PNB, as a highly integrative sequence, is the perfect place for students who want to understand the concepts that create nervous system function and disorders, as well as behavioral output and disease. By selecting the appropriate elective courses, the PNB sequence gives you the flexibility to choose between tracks focusing on Neuroscience and Physiology, Organismal Biology or Pre-Professional.

NEUROSCIENCE

  • BSC 196 Biological Diversity (4)
  • BSC 197 Cellular and Mol. Basis of Life (4)      
  • BSC 204 Biological Investigations (1)
  • BSC 283 Animal Physiology (4) 
  • BSC 286 Animal Behavior (4)    
  • BSC 327 Hormones and Behavior (3)       
  • BSC 343 Introduction to Neurobiology (3)         
  • BSC 201 Ecology (4)       
  • BSC 203 Cell Biology (3) or BSC 350 Molecular Biology (3)
  • BSC 325 Ecological Physiology of Animals (3)
  • PSY 253 Cognition & Learning (3)
  • BSC 290 Research in Biological Sciences (1-3)


ORGANISMAL BIOLOGY

  • BSC 196 Biological Diversity (4)
  • BSC 197 Cellular and Mol. Basis of Life (4)      
  • BSC 204 Biological Investigations (1)
  • BSC 283 Animal Physiology (4) 
  • BSC 286 Animal Behavior (4)    
  • BSC 327 Hormones and Behavior (3)       
  • BSC 343 Introduction to Neurobiology (3)      
  • BSC 201 Ecology (4)       
  • BSC 396 Avian Biology (4) or BSC 301 Entomology (4)
  • BSC 325 Ecological Physiology of Animals (3)
  • BSC 305 Biological Evolution (3)

 

PRE-PROFESSIONAL

  • BSC 196 Biological Diversity (4)
  • BSC 197 Cellular and Mol. Basis of Life (4)      
  • BSC 204 Biological Investigations (1)
  • BSC 283 Animal Physiology (4) 
  • BSC 286 Animal Behavior (4)    
  • BSC 327 Hormones and Behavior (3)       
  • BSC 343 Introduction to Neurobiology (3)        
  • BSC 203 Cell Biology (3)
  • BSC 367 Immunology (4)
  • BSC 350 Molecular Biology (3)
  • BSC 295 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy (4) or BSC 260 Microbiology (4) 

   

Related Research Faculty and Topics

 

Skills that you will acquire in this sequence

  • Teamwork
  • Problem solving skills
  • Knowledge of mathematics and statistics
  • Operating scientific high-tech equipment
  • Application of biological theories into practice
  • Creativity
  • Ethics and professional behavior
  • Flexibility in thought and receptivity to new ideas
  • Understanding of laboratory procedures and familiarity with equipment
  • Scientific writing and grant proposal preparation.

Professional Opportunities

  • A Bachelor's degree will qualify you for work as a laboratory assistant, technician, technologist, or research assistant in education, industry, government, pharmaceutical, and healthcare at both private and public institutions.
  • An undergraduate degree can also be used for nontechnical work in writing, illustration, sales, photography, and legislation.
  • The PNB sequence will prepare you for graduate school and built an excellent basis for future researchers.

 

Academic Advisor

Megan Larson, Julian Hall 210F, mrlarso@ilstu.edu, (309) 438-8252

 

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