Neuroscience and Behavior

This program focuses on the study of brain-behavior relationships, broadly defined. It offers students exceptional flexibility to customize their graduate training and research.  The program also provides equally exceptional access to state-of-the art techniques and technologies, such as single cell recording, optogenetics, electrophysiology (EEG/ERP), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computer simulation.  Problems studied by the neuroscience area include, but are not limited to: molecular and genetic determinants of behavior, physiological bases of motivated behaviors (e.g., appetitive, sexual, maternal and drug seeking behaviors), neural and hormonal bases of learning and memory, neural bases of anxiety, physiological bases of psychiatric disorders, and the underlying mechanisms of cognitive processing and social interaction.  Cognitive processes currently under investigation include associative learning, reward processing, decision-making, selective attention, and problem solving. Clinical phenomena currently under investigation include alcoholism, anorexia, diabetes, epilepsy, obesity, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and autism.  

A number of interdisciplinary centers exist that provide valuable training for neuroscience and behavior graduate students at Purdue.  Of particular interest are the Purdue Institute for Integrative Neuroscience (PIIN), the Ingestive Behavior Research Center, and the Center for Research on Brain, Behavior, and NeuroRehabilitation (CEREBBRAL).  PIIN brings together investigators from many disciplines who share a common interest in the properties of the brain.  PIIN organizes regular special lectures and colloquium series that bring distinguished neuroscientists to Purdue.  The Ingestive Behavior Research Center is an interdisciplinary center that offers a variety of training options such as special lecture series and opportunities to participate in collaborative research on bases of ingestive behavior, eating disorders, and obesity.  CEREBBRAL is an Area of Research Excellence within the College of Health and Human Sciences addressing questions about how to improve quality of life, not just extend it, and how to predict disease- and aging-related declines in highly variable populations.

*Sydney Trask will be recruiting new students for Academic Year 2022-2023.

Graduate Faculty

  • Julia A. Chester, Ph.D.

    Dr. Chester’s research focuses on the study of genetic, environmental, and neurobiological factors that influence development of major mental diseases such as addiction, anxiety disorders, and schizophrenia.

  • Yu-Chin Chiu, Ph.D.

    Dr. Chiu's research focuses on examining two key aspects of cognitive control - the ability to select task-relevant infromation proactively (selective attention), and the ability to control responses reactively (response inhibition).

  • Daniel Foti, Ph.D.  {Primary appointment in Clinical Psychology}

    Dr. Foti's research seeks to apply findings from basic affective neuroscience in order to refine our phenotypic definitions of psychopathology, primarily in mood and psychotic disorders.

  • Edward A. Fox, Ph.D.

    Dr. Fox’s research focuses on brain-gut interactions mediated by the vagus nerve that regulate eating and bodyweight.

  • Sebastien Helie, Ph.D. {Primary appointment in Mathematical and Computational Cognitive Science}

    Dr. Helie's research focuses on the interaction between explicit and implicit knowledge, skill acquisition, automaticity, intuition.

  • Brandon Keehn, Ph.D.
    Dr. Keehn holds a joint appointment in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and Psychological Sciences. His research uses a multimodal approach (MRI, EEG, eye-tracking) to understanding attentional strengths and weaknesses and their neurofunctional underpinnings in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

  • Bridgette Kelleher, Ph.D. {Primary appointment in Clinical Psychology}
    Dr. Kelleher’s research examines neurodevelopmental trajectories related to psychopathology in “high risk” populations, including children with rare neurogenetic syndromes (e.g. fragile X syndrome).

  • David Kemmerer, Ph.D.

    Dr. Kemmerer holds a 50/50 joint appointment in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and Psychological Sciences.  His research focuses on the neural substrates of linguistic meaning and its interfaces with perception and action  

  • Kimberly P. Kinzig, Ph.D.

    Dr. Kinzig’s research interests include neuroendocrine regulation of food intake and body weight, neurobiology of eating disorders and stress.

  • Terry L. Powley, Ph.D.

    Dr. Powley’s research is focused on mapping and analyzing the nerve circuits in the brain and the body that control food intake.

  • Susan Sangha, Ph.D.

    Dr. Sangha’s research examines mechanisms underlying fear suppression, using in vivo single-unit recording of neurons to examine how memories are formed, accessed and modulated.

  • Anne Sereno, Ph.D.
    Dr. Sereno's research objective is to understand and characterize the physiological mechanisms of attention, short-term memory, and the programming of eye movements.
  • Susan E. Swithers, Ph.D.
    Dr. Swithers’s research aims to understand the roles of learning, experience, and diet in the development of regulation of food intake and body weight as well as the influence of diet on cognitive performance in females.
  • Sydney Trask, Ph.D.
    Dr. Trask's research investigates the ways the brain encodes, stores, retrieves, and updates memory

Research Faculty

  • Robert J. Phillips, Ph.D.

    Dr. Phillips focuses on the autonomic nerve circuits with which the brain coordinates gastrointestinal tract functions and regulates food intake.

Affiliated Faculty

Courtesy Appointment:

Post-Doctoral Researchers

Departmental Bridge Topics

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