CNS Program Requirements

Cognition and Neural Systems Program Requirements

Directors: Jamie Edgin (jedgin [at] email [dot] arizona [dot] edu) and Rebecca Gómez (rgomez [at] email [dot] arizona [dot] edu

Students in the Cognition and Neural Systems Program meet their Program requirements by following the course of study outlined below.

I.  Departmental Requirements (See Departmental Curriculum Requirements you received in your meeting with Department Head Lee Ryan)

II. Foundations of CNS: A two-semester core course (PSY 506A&B). Students in the CNS Program generally take this core course during the first two years (6 units). PSY 506A provides a basis for understanding how brains acquire, assimilate, store and retrieve information and how they compute adaptive responses to external inputs. Understanding these processes requires a basic working knowledge of both the theoretical principles and biological mechanisms underlying neural signaling, knowledge representation and data storage. PSY 506B covers basic concepts, foundational knowledge, and common paradigms in the study of perception, attention, memory, learning, language, and decision-making. 

III. Two additional breadth courses within the CNS Program: One course from each of the neural systems and cognition columns below (6 units).

IV. Two additional courses from either column


  • Topics courses (e.g. 596F and others) can be taken more than once for credit as long as the topic varies.
  • Courses listed with an asterisk (*) can be used to satisfy either the neural systems or cognition requirement.   

Neural Systems            

  • ANTH 531: Primate Sexuality
  • ECOL 600A: Fundamentals of Evolution
  • ECOL 573: Topics in Behavioral Ecology
  • PSY 501a/b: Psychophysiology
  • PSY 502: Neuroanatomy (Ryan)    
  • PSY 503C: Intro to Computational Neuroscience    
  • PSY 504A: Human Brain-Behavior Relations
  • PSY 512: Animal Learning
  • PSY 515: The Design of the Mind: Genes, Adaptation and Behavior
  • PSY 520: Cognitive Neuroscience of Hearing
  • PSY 544A: Computational Cognitive Neuroscience (Wilson)
  • PSY 578: Sleep & Sleep Disorders (Fernandez)
  • PSY 596F: Sleep, circadian rhythms, and neurodegeneration (Fernandez)
  • PSY 596E: Biopsychology    
  • PSY 596L: Introduction to Analyses of Neural Time-Series Data (Allen)
  • PSY 597H: Neuroanatomy Lab (take with PSY 502)
  • NRSC 560:  Systems Neuroscience
  • NRSC 582: Topics in Neural Development        
  • NRSC 583: Topics in Neural Plasticity    
  • NRSC 587: Biology of Neurological Disease
  • NRSC 588: Principles of Cellular & Molecular Neuro
  • NRSC 653:  Neuropharmacology/Drugs of Abuse   
  • SHLS 545: Neurogenic Language Disorders in Adults


  • Biolinguistics LING/PSYCH/PHIL 449A/549A (every spring, Piattelli-Palmarini)
  • ECOL 596V: Topics in Animal Behavior and Cognition
  • ECOL 587R/L: Animal Behavior
  • FSHD 5647C: Biosocial Development (inquire with FSHD)
  • FSHD 567: Theories of Human Development (inquire with FSHD)
  • PSY 509:  Psycholinguistics of Writing Systems (Bever)
  • PSY 511: Animal Behavior
  • PSY 515: The Design of the Mind: Genes, Adaptation and Behavior
  • *PSY 524: Gerontology
  • PSY 526:  Advanced Human Memory
  • *PSY 528: Cognitive Neuroscience
  • *PSY528: Cognitive Neuroscience: The Cognitive Neuroscience of Imagination
  • *PSY528 Cognitive Neuroscience: Introduction to Brain Functional Connectivity
  • *PSY 529: Advanced Perception (Peterson)
  • *PSY 530: Neural Bases of Language (Lai)
  • PSY 532: Psychology of Language (Fall, alternates between Fedzhechkina, Nicol, Bever)
  • PSY 533: Theories of Language Development (alternates between McKee and Fedzhechkina)
  • PSY 534: Perceptual Learning
  • *PSY 536: Topics in Visual Cognition (topics vary by year)
  • PSY 538: Computational Linguistics (Fong)
  • PSY 540: The Bilingual Mind (Nicol)
  • PSY 542: Lexical Systems
  • PSY 551: Philosophy and Psychology (Pragmatics)  
  • PSY 568: Speech Perception
  • PSY 570: Primate Behavior
  • PSY 596F: Cognitive Psychology: Special Topics (varies by year)
  • PSY 596F: Cognitive Neuroscience:  Conscious Mind, Conscious Brain (Isham)
  • PSY 596F Rationality, cognition and decision-making (Piattelli-Palmarini, taught in the spring on even years, e.g. 2020; co-convenes with PSY 496F)
  • PSY 596F: Lifespan Cognitive Development (Edgin)
  • *PSY 596F: Memory Development (Edgin)
  • *PSY 596F: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience (Gomez)
  • PSY 696F: Linguistic Theory and Applications (alternates between Bever, Piattelli-Palmarini, Fedzechkina, Ussishkin and Nicol)

(*) can be used to satisfy either the neural systems or cognition requirement.

EEP Major Track: (Note that EEP students must take PSYC 515 and at least two other courses from the CNS list (one Cognitive and one Neural in addition to PSY 506A&B) as well as courses from the list below according to their individualized program of study.

  • ECOL 519: Introduction to Modeling in Biology
  • ECOL 596H: Complex Systems and Networks 
  • ANTH 501A: The Primate Skeleton
  • ANTH 529A: Human Reproductive Ecology
  • ANTH 538A: Women’s Health in Global Perspective
  • ANTH 568: Human Osteology
  • ANTH 595D: Special Topics in Biological Anthropology
  • ANTH 596: Gender and Health
  • PSY 587: Foundations in Health Psychology
  • ECOL 597S: Topics in Social Insect Biology

IV. Committee Meetings.  Entering students are expected to complete appropriate coursework and to set a goal of completing their Master’s thesis/project in the second year of the program.  By the end of the Spring semester of the first year, students must form a Master’s committee of faculty in the Cognition and Neural Systems Program, and meet with them as a group to discuss their coursework plan and the proposed direction of their research for the coming year.  Either at this meeting, or at a subsequent one early in the Fall semester of the second year, students will present to their committee a proposal for their Masters

Research.  In future years, students must organize a meeting with their Committee as a group at least once per year, typically late in the Spring semester. At these meetings, students will give a short presentation on their progress, including a discussion of their completed and in-progress research, the courses they have completed and those they plan to take, and the proposed direction of their research for the coming year. The committee members will advise the students on their plans. Students and committee members will work together to ensure that each student’s program of study is sufficiently broad yet tailored to the student’s interests. Summaries of these Committee meetings will be given to the Program Director and placed in the student’s file.

V.  Seminars.  All CNS students are expected to make at least one seminar presentation each semester.  The primary venue for this is the CNS Seminar, held on Mondays at 4pm.  All CNS students must attend the CNS Seminar on a regular basis and must make one presentation in the CNS Seminar per year.  Venues for the other mandatory yearly talk (the expectation is one per semester or two per year) include various area group and lab meetings and journal clubs.

VI. Annual assessments. For each CNS presentation, and for your masters, orals and dissertation defenses, please obtain evaluations from two faculty members by sending them this link.

VII. Completing the Program. Students may take any two additional courses from the lists above to complete the 18-unit requirement of the CNS Program. (The menu of courses will change, as new faculty members or courses are added. In addition, students may be able to substitute other courses by permission of their committee and the Program Director.)

VIII. CNS Minors

Students in the CNS Program who choose to minor in CNS may choose any three additional courses after consulting with their minor committee members.

A minor in CNS unaccompanied by a major in CNS can be earned by taking the core courses (PSYC 506A&B) and one other course from either the Neural Systems or the Cognitive column, for a total of 9 units.