What does a neuroscientist do?

Would you make a good neuroscientist? Take our career test and find your match with over 800 careers.

Take the free career test Learn more about the career test

What is a Neuroscientist?

A neuroscientist is dedicated to the study of the nervous system, encompassing the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. This multidisciplinary field brings together various scientific disciplines, including biology, psychology, physics, and computer science, to unravel the complexities of the nervous system. Neuroscientists explore the structure and function of neurons, the mechanisms of neural communication, and the neural basis of behavior, cognition, and emotions.

Neuroscientists engage in a wide range of research endeavors, from basic science investigations that seek to understand fundamental principles of brain function to applied research addressing clinical and therapeutic applications. Their findings contribute not only to the scientific understanding of the brain but also have significant implications for fields like medicine, psychology, and neurology.

What does a Neuroscientist do?

Man wearing a brainwave scanning headset, sitting in a chair in the brain study research laboratory.

Duties and Responsibilities
Neuroscientists have a multifaceted role that involves conducting research, advancing scientific knowledge, and contributing to various fields such as medicine, psychology, and neuroscience. Here are key duties and responsibilities associated with the role of a neuroscientist:

  • Research Design and Conduct: Develop and design experiments to investigate specific aspects of the nervous system, ranging from molecular and cellular levels to systems and behavioral neuroscience.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Conduct experiments using a variety of techniques, including brain imaging, electrophysiology, molecular biology, and behavioral assessments. Analyze data using statistical methods and advanced technologies.
  • Literature Review: Stay abreast of current scientific literature and integrate relevant research findings into their own work. This involves continuously reviewing and synthesizing information from a rapidly evolving field.
  • Hypothesis Development: Formulate hypotheses based on existing knowledge and design experiments to test these hypotheses, contributing to the generation of new insights in neuroscience.
  • Publication and Communication: Publish research findings in peer-reviewed scientific journals to disseminate knowledge within the scientific community. Communicate research outcomes through presentations at conferences and seminars.
  • Collaboration: Collaborate with other researchers, scientists, and experts within and outside their field. Multidisciplinary collaboration is common, bringing together expertise from various scientific domains.
  • Grant Writing and Funding Acquisition: Write grant proposals to secure funding for research projects. The ability to secure research funding is crucial for sustaining neuroscientific investigations, which often involve expensive technologies and resources.
  • Teaching and Mentoring: Educate and mentor students, researchers, and other professionals in academic settings. This involves teaching courses, supervising research projects, and guiding the next generation of neuroscientists.
  • Clinical Applications: Some neuroscientists may be involved in clinical research, contributing to the development of diagnostic tools, therapeutic interventions, or medications for neurological and psychiatric disorders.
  • Ethical Considerations: Adhere to ethical guidelines in research involving human or animal subjects. Ensuring the ethical conduct of research is essential for maintaining the integrity of scientific investigations.
  • Public Engagement: Engage with the public through outreach programs, educational initiatives, and media communication to enhance public understanding of neuroscience and its relevance to health and well-being.

Types of Neuroscientists
Neuroscience is a broad and interdisciplinary field, and neuroscientists often specialize in specific areas based on their research interests and expertise. Here are some common types of neuroscientists, each focusing on different aspects of the nervous system:

  • Cognitive Neuroscientists: Study the neural basis of cognitive functions such as perception, attention, memory, language, and decision-making. They often use brain imaging techniques to investigate how specific brain regions are involved in cognitive processes.
  • Behavioral Neuroscientists: Explore the neural mechanisms underlying behavior. They may investigate how changes in the brain contribute to various behaviors, including those related to motivation, emotion, and social interactions.
  • Clinical Neuroscientists: Work in clinical settings and study neurological and psychiatric disorders. They may be involved in understanding the neural basis of disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, or depression and developing treatments.
  • Systems Neuroscientists: Investigate how neural circuits and networks function to produce complex behaviors. They often focus on interactions between different brain regions and study how these interactions contribute to specific functions.
  • Molecular and Cellular Neuroscientists: Examine the molecular and cellular processes that occur within neurons. They may study topics such as neurotransmitter release, signal transduction, and the molecular basis of neural development.
  • Developmental Neuroscientists: Explore the development of the nervous system from embryonic stages to adulthood. They investigate how neurons are generated, migrate, and form connections during different stages of development.
  • Neuropharmacologists: Study the effects of drugs on the nervous system. They investigate how different compounds, including medications, impact neural function and may be involved in developing new drugs for neurological and psychiatric conditions.
  • Neuroimaging Specialists: Utilize advanced imaging techniques such as fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) and PET (positron emission tomography) to visualize and understand brain activity. They may focus on mapping brain regions involved in specific functions.
  • Computational Neuroscientists: Use mathematical models and computer simulations to understand and predict the behavior of neural systems. They may develop models to simulate neural networks and study information processing in the brain.
  • Neurobiologists: Investigate the biological processes and structures that underlie neural function. They may focus on the anatomy of the nervous system, neurophysiology, or neuroanatomy.
  • Neuroethologists: Study the neural basis of animal behavior in natural environments. They investigate how the nervous system contributes to behaviors such as foraging, mating, and communication in various species.
  • Neuroimmunologists: Examine the interactions between the nervous and immune systems. They investigate how immune responses and inflammation in the brain may contribute to neurological disorders.

Neuroscientists have distinct personalities. Think you might match up? Take the free career test to find out if neuroscientist is one of your top career matches. Take the free test now Learn more about the career test

What is the workplace of a Neuroscientist like?

Neuroscientists work in diverse and dynamic environments, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of their field. Many neuroscientists are affiliated with academic institutions, such as universities and research centers. In these settings, they engage in cutting-edge research, often leading laboratories dedicated to unraveling the mysteries of the nervous system. The academic workplace provides opportunities for collaboration with fellow researchers, mentorship of students, and access to state-of-the-art facilities, including neuroimaging labs, molecular biology laboratories, and behavioral testing facilities. Neuroscientists in academia may also be involved in teaching undergraduate and graduate courses, shaping the next generation of scientists.

Government agencies and research institutions are additional common workplaces for neuroscientists in the U.S. Government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) fund and conduct extensive neuroscience research. Research institutions, both public and private, offer a range of research opportunities, often with a focus on translational research aimed at developing interventions for neurological and psychiatric disorders. Neuroscientists in these settings collaborate with multidisciplinary teams, contributing to the advancement of scientific knowledge and the development of new therapies.

Private industry is another significant sector where neuroscientists find employment. Pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, and medical device companies hire neuroscientists to work on drug development, clinical trials, and the creation of innovative technologies. In the private sector, neuroscientists may contribute to the discovery and development of drugs targeting neurological disorders, design and implement clinical studies, or explore emerging technologies in neuroinformatics and artificial intelligence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Neurologist vs Neuroscientist

Neurologists and neuroscientists are both professionals who study the brain and nervous system, but they have different areas of expertise and focus.

A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. They are trained to provide medical care for patients with conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and stroke. Neurologists use a variety of tools to diagnose and treat patients, including imaging techniques like MRI and CT scans, and may prescribe medications or other therapies to manage symptoms.

On the other hand, a neuroscientist is a scientist who studies the structure, function, development, and evolution of the nervous system. They use a range of techniques to study the brain and nervous system at the molecular, cellular, and systems levels, and their research may focus on topics such as learning and memory, neural development, neural plasticity, and brain disorders. Neuroscientists may work in academic settings, government agencies, or private industry, and their work may have applications in fields such as medicine, psychology, engineering, and artificial intelligence.

In summary, neurologists focus on diagnosing and treating nervous system disorders in patients, while neuroscientists study the nervous system at a more fundamental level, aiming to understand its underlying mechanisms and develop new treatments and therapies.

Continue reading

See Also



Continue reading

See Also
Scientist Animal Scientist Anthropologist Archaeologist Atmospheric Scientist Behavioral Scientist Biochemist Bioinformatics Scientist Biologist Biomedical Scientist Chemist Conservation Biologist Conservation Scientist Cytotechnologist Dairy Scientist Developmental Biologist Ecology Biologist Entomologist Evolutionary Biologist Food Scientist Forensic Scientist Geneticist Geographer Geologist Geospatial Information Scientist Horticulturist Hydrologist Marine Biologist Mammalogist Materials Scientist Meteorologist Microbiologist Molecular Biologist Natural Sciences Manager Neurobiologist Paleontologist Particle Physicist Pharmaceutical Scientist Pharmacist Physicist Poultry Scientist Social Scientist Soil and Plant Scientist Systems Biologist Zoologist Astronomer Climate Change Analyst Forensic Science Technician Industrial Ecologist Epidemiologist Biostatistician Immunologist Astronaut Agronomist Food Science Technologist Veterinary Pathologist Forensic Pathologist Pathologist Volcanologist Soil and Water Conservationist Neuropsychologist Geodesist Physiologist Astrophysicist Biotechnologist Toxicologist Oceanographer Ecologist Wildlife Biologist Biophysicist Botanist Engineering Physicist Cellular Biologist Cytogenetic Technologist Sociologist Political Scientist Criminologist Forester Biotechnician Chemical Technician Ethologist Comparative Anatomist Herpetologist Ornithologist Ecotoxicologist Wildlife Ecologist Ichthyologist Zoo Endocrinologist Marine Ecologist Marine Biogeochemist Marine Mammalogist Marine Fisheries Biologist Marine Microbiologist Marine Conservationist