This focus area will emphasize the study of changes in central and peripheral nervous system structures from infancy to late adulthood with corresponding effects on behavior in domains such as cognition, language and emotion. This focus area includes the neuroscience of movement and how the motor system interacts with sensory, perception, and cognitive systems. Normative changes in attention, memory, executive functions, and other cognitive processes will be juxtaposed with pathological conditions. Areas of study include normal aging; language and communication disorders; movement variability; movement timing/sequences; motor planning; motor learning; and functional recovery in populations with disorders and disabilities such as aphasia, apraxia, Alzheimer's disease, and other dementias. Students may focus on neuropsychological assessment of speech, language, and cognitive-communicative functions; variability across different linguistic populations; and language treatment following stroke, traumatic brain injury, neurosurgery, and degenerative disorders. Course work and research experiences may examine the role of genes, environmental factors, and gene-environment interactions in normal aging, disease-free survival and longevity, as well as examining factors that increase risk for depression and disease states that occur in late-life. In addition to foundational courses in neuroscience, seminars will be offered that are specific to each specialty area.
In their courses, students will develop an appreciation of the cognitive factors that influence patterns of brain activation in human and animal models, and they will learn about the effects of disease on brain anatomy and integrity. In their lab rotations, students will gain hands-on experience with data acquisition, data processing, statistical analysis, and visualization techniques related to research on brain structures and functions before, during, and after neurorehabilitation. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to design and conduct state-of-the-art neuroscience research that employs a variety of neuroimaging methods and that contributes to the solution of educational, medical, social, and vocational problems.