CNS Program Requirements

Cognition and Neural Systems Program Requirements

Director: Jamie Edgin (jedgin [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 single semester course in cognition and neural systems (506). Students in the CNS Program generally take this core course during the first two years.  PSY 506 provides a basis for understanding how brains acquire, assimilate, store and retrieve information and how they compute adaptive responses to external inputs to generate behavior dynamically. Understanding these processes requires a basic working knowledge of both the theoretical principles and biological mechanisms underlying neural signaling, knowledge representation and data storage. The course integrates coverage of basic concepts, foundational knowledge, and common paradigms in the study of perception, attention, memory, learning, language, and decision-making. Together, the course provides an integrated understanding of cognition and neural systems, with a strong focus on mammals. 

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 or one course from either column and 3 units of PSY595A: CNS Seminar (a 1-unit course offered fall and spring semesters).


  • 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 513: Drugs, Brain & Behavior 
  • PSY 515: The Design of the Mind: Genes, Adaptation and Behavior
  • PSY 520: Cognitive Neuroscience of Hearing
  • PSY 544A: Computational Cognitive Neuroscience 
  • PSY 578: Sleep & Sleep Disorders 
  • PSY 596F: Sleep, circadian rhythms, and neurodegeneration 
  • PSY 596E: Biopsychology    
  • PSY 596L: Introduction to Analyses of Neural Time-Series Data 
  • 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)
  • ECOL 596V: Topics in Animal Behavior and Cognition
  • ECOL 587R: Animal Behavior
  • FSHD 5647C: Biosocial Development (inquire with FSHD)
  • FSHD 567: Theories of Human Development (inquire with FSHD)
  • PSY 509:  Psycholinguistics of Writing Systems 
  • 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 
  • *PSY 530: Neural Bases of Language 
  • PSY 532: Psychology of Language (Fall)
  • PSY 533: Theories of Language Development 
  • PSY 534: Perceptual Learning
  • *PSY 536: Topics in Visual Cognition (topics vary by year)
  • PSY 538: Computational Linguistics 
  • PSY 540: The Bilingual Mind 
  • 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 
  • PSY 596F Rationality, cognition and decision-making (co-convenes with PSY 496F)
  • PSY 596F: Lifespan Cognitive Development 
  • *PSY 596F: Memory Development 
  • *PSY 596F: Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 
  • PSY 696F: Linguistic Theory and Applications

(*) 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 two presentations a year.  One venue for this is the CNS Seminar, held on Wednesdays at noon.  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 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. Notes about coursework. The menu of courses in the Neural Systems and Cognition columns will change as new faculty members or courses are added. 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 course (PSYC 506) and two other courses from either the Neural Systems or the Cognitive column, for a total of 9 units.


Possible Minors

All CNS students must choose a minor area which can include a minor in Statistics, CNS (Psychology), Health Psychology, Neuropsychology, Cognitive Science, and Program Evaluation and Research Methodology (PERM). Your advisor will guide you through the process of declaring a minor and finding a minor advisor. The requirements for the minors differ across program. Two common minors and details regarding them are Cognitive Science and PERM, detailed here. 



Cognitive Science is the interdisciplinary study of the mind, encompassing the study of intelligent behavior as well as the brain mechanisms and computations underlying that behavior. More than 68 faculty members from 16 departments are affiliated with the Cognitive Science Graduate Interdisciplinary Program (GIDP). The interdisciplinary graduate minor ( consists of 9 credit hours designed to expose students to the breadth of Cognitive Science topics and methods, and to choose courses that complement their major.

The Cognitive Science Community comes together for weekly talks and Q&A sessions at the Cognitive Science Colloquia (Fridays at noon). Invited speakers from other universities and the UA present their research. Topics range across the interdisciplinary field of Cognitive Science. Students fulfill three units toward the Graduate Minor in Cognitive Science by attending the Cognitive Science Colloquium (COGS 595; 1 credit/semester, for 3 semesters). Students enrolled in the course are invited to continue the discussion over lunch with the speakers.

The graduate minor consists of 9 units, with six units devoted to:

  1. Foundations of and Contemporary Topics in Cognitive Science (COGS 517; 3 credits). Seminar taught every other spring (e.g., Spring 2022 and Spring 2024).
  2. The Cognitive Science Colloquium (1 credit per semester; 3 semesters). Contemporary research in Cognitive Science.

The other three units can be chosen from ~80 courses spanning the departments listed on the website, including:


Anthropology                          Psychology                  Ecology &Evolutionary Biology          

Linguistics                                Philosophy                   Systems & Industrial Engineering

Management                          Education                    Electrical and Computer Engineering

Nursing                                    Computer Science       School of Information (ISTA)

Speech, Language and Hearing Science


Travel Support/Award Eligibility

All Graduate Minors in Cognitive Science are eligible for

  1. $300 per year to support the cost of travel to/registration for a conference at which they are presenting a talk or a poster.
  2. The Best Research in Cognitive Science Award given at the end of the fall semester ($100 + presentation of research at a celebration of the UA Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs).

And two other competitive travel awards offered by the Graduate College for GIDP students:

  1. Herbert E. Carter Travel Award Program which provides up to $600 per year to GIDP students for National or International travel to a professional meeting. Three deadlines per year.
  2. Raphael and Jolene Gruener Research Travel Award for travel to field sites for off-campus data gathering and visits to conduct research in laboratories, libraries or archives at other institutions. This grant does not fund travel to conferences or academic meetings or travel simply to meet with researchers or participate in research for which the student is not a primary researcher.

Cognitive Science students’ applications for these awards from the Graduate College have been successful. See

The Director of the Cognitive Science program is Mary A. Peterson, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, (mapeters [at] u [dot] arizona [dot] edu).


PERM Minor

The Graduate Minor in Program Evaluation and Research Methodology (PERM) is open to CNS majors as well as qualifying non-CNS majors, and can be comprised of courses broadly covering a variety of related areas, including: (a) The logic of inquiry and issues of philosophy of science as they apply to psychosocial research; (b) Problems encountered by researchers in personality, family studies, social and clinical psychology, and creative approaches to their data analysis and methodological design resolutions; (c) Research problems and methods particularly relevant to field research; (d) The logic of inquiry and approaches to data analysis appropriate to field trials and quasi-experimental research; (e) The problems of measurement, research design, data analysis, causal inference, and representation of results needing to be resolved in formulating research problems, in determining the legitimacy of conclusions, and in the usefulness of recommendations based on them; and (f) The practical application of theoretical learning within group settings and involving the exchange of ideas and practical methods, skills, and principles. As PERM requires a certain degree of expertise in quantitative methods of data analysis, additional courses have included quantitative courses offered by the departments of Psychology, Educational Psychology, and Family Studies.​ 

The coordinator of the PERM minor is Melinda Davis, Research Assistant Professor of Psychology (mfd [at] email [dot] arizona [dot] edu).

The "EGAD" (Evaluation Group for Analysis of Data) group meets weekly. Attendees are PERM minors and other students interested in statistical analysis and problem solving.  EGAD was started by the late Lee Sechrest and AJ Figueredo in 1987. The contact for EGAD is Melinda Davis, Research Assistant Professor of Psychology (mfd [at] email [dot] arizona [dot] edu). Any faculty member or student may arrange to present a project in an EGAD meeting to get feedback on approaches to data analysis. AJ Figueredo is also available during regular office hours to provide statistical consultation on personal projects (ajf [at] email [dot] arizona [dot] edu).