New neuroscience minor could help students save lives

By Judah Taylor

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Students can do independent research that could help save lives and improve the quality of life of those suffering from dementia, depression and other diseases that affect the nervous system.

UK is offering a neuroscience minor for the first time.

Traditionally a branch of biology, neuroscience has become an interdisciplinary study that involves elements of psychology, chemistry, medicine, computer science, politics and even music.

“Interest in understanding your brain has grown tremendously. Both in terms of an intellectual pursuit and in preventing disease and improving life,” said Dr. Liz Debski, an associate professor of biology.

Neuroscience has allowed doctors to treat patients who suffer from strokes, depression, Alzheimer’s disease and muscular dystrophy.

“There has been a growing recognition. (Neuroscience) is an area we should expand, and we have been taking the first steps in that direction with this minor,” said Bruce O’Hara, a biology professor.

The neuroscience minor is designed to help students who are interested in learning about their brain, nervous system and behavior in general, Debski said.

“The minor is not specific to any department. You can get it as a history major for example,” Debski said. “(The minor) is good for people who want to go into public policy, or even writing.”

The minor allows students interested in different areas of neuroscience to learn what they want about the subject, said James Geddes, director of spinal cord and brain-injury research.

“There has been a growing interest in music and brain activity,” Geddes said. “Music and neuroscience would be a good combination.”

The minor is an 18-hour program. Prerequisites include BIO 152 or an equivalent and an introductory neuroscience class.

Up to six of the remaining credit hours may be obtained through independent research in labs.

This research could help doctors create treatment strategies for diseases like cerebral palsy.

While just a minor now, Geddes, O’Hara and Debski, who began planning the minor two years ago, hope that students will enjoy the minor and help them establish a neuroscience major at UK.