Southwestern University recently announced the addition of a new minor to its curriculum. Beginning in the Fall 2023 semester, neuroscience will be offered as a minor to current students.

The new minor focuses on empirical approaches to studying the brain and nervous system using various scientific techniques in animals and humans. Courses that contribute to the minor include natural sciences, social sciences, and fine arts. Students will develop many technical skills necessary to conduct research in the field and an appreciation for the application of neuroscience in clinical pathology, art, music, and language and linguistics.

The neuroscience program aims to:

  • Explain and understand the fundamentals of the nervous system, as studied in humans and other model organisms.
  • Communicate information about neuroscience to diverse audiences in written, oral, and multimedia modalities.
  • Explore scientific techniques to study the nervous system at the molecular, cellular, systems, and organismal levels.
  • Analyze and critique the presentation of scientific evidence in both primary literature and popular media.
  • Recognize the importance of applying neuroscientific principles to diverse areas, including clinical conditions, artistic creation and perception, and the development and use of languages.

As a neuroscientist and professor of psychology, Fay Guarraci has wanted to create a neuroscience minor for many years. When the biology department hired Assistant Professor of Biology Kim McArthur, and then the Kinesiology department hired Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Jennifer Stokes, her dream started to become a potential reality.

To make the minor possible, Guarraci, McArthur, and Stoked examined the courses offered that discuss neuroscience. It required the three professors to ask faculty outside of their departments about the influence of neuroscience in other fields. In the process, they found several courses that discuss the brain and neuroscience in the humanities and the fine arts, as well as traditional courses in the natural and social sciences.

“Consistent with Paideia in our curriculum and ethos at Southwestern, this minor also includes the application of the study of the nervous system to a vast array of topics - where neuroscience intersects with the arts, language, and computer science. For example, neuroscience is part of our understanding of music processing, language acquisition, movement, artificial intelligence, and color perception, to name a few,” Guarraci said. “We hope this minor allows students to see how the study of neuroscience can influence so many different areas of investigation and appreciation.”

The addition of this area of study brings the total minors offered at Southwestern to 36, along with 43 majors and a variety of pre-professional pathways with specialized advising, including medicine, law, dentistry, and theology.