Skip to main content

Join us at Laurier

Becoming a Golden Hawk means more than just cheering on our (really good) varsity teams – it means being a student who cares about your community, who works hard in the classroom, and who takes advantage of all the learning opportunities that can happen outside the classroom, too.

Neuroscience is one of the most exciting and rapidly advancing fields in all of the life sciences. At Laurier, we take a broadly integrative perspective, examining the interaction between behaviour, cognition and the nervous system across a diverse set of species from fish to humans, ranging in scale from populations, to individuals, to cells, on timescales ranging from milliseconds to generations.

Our research interests are interconnected, focusing on the mechanisms underlying:

  • Visual and auditory perception;
  • Motor control, attention and memory;
  • Language;
  • Medical (mental) disorders, including addiction, eating disorders, and age-related memory disorders;
  • The neurobiology of learning and memory, the evolution of learning, social learning, comparative cognition, the learning-motivation interface, and neural plasticity; and
  • Social organization and collective behaviour.

The objective of our PhD program is to train students to become independent research investigators in the field of neuroscience. An apprenticeship model provides students with an opportunity to acquire advanced academic knowledge in the biological basis of cognition and behaviour. Human and animal psychological issues are addressed by exploring the interaction between cognition, behaviour and the nervous system. Commonalities between humans and animals relating to cognitive, learning, and motivational processes and behaviour are explored to determine the role of the inner workings of the brain.

Students will develop basic and/or applied research skills in neuroscience. The PhD dissertation requires original research that contributes significant new knowledge to the field. Graduates are trained for positions in university, hospital, community, industry or government settings.

Our facilities allow faculty members and students to employ a rich diversity of tools and techniques including:

  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), high-density evoked potentials (EP), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
  • Animal models of human medical (mental) disorders, including addiction, eating disorders, and age-related memory disorders.
  • Automated tracking of collective behaviour, and operant behaviours.
  • Confocal imaging, immunohistochemistry, patch clamp electrophysiology, quantitative gene expression analyses, and in situ hybridization.

In addition, a field station is equipped to study large groups of freely behaving animals to study the neural mechanisms organizing complex social behaviour.

Admission Requirements

Admission is contingent upon successful completion of a master’s degree program. If a student applies with a MA or MSc degree from another university, she/he may be admitted to the PhD program; some make-up course work may be required depending on the courses completed at the master’s level. 

Program Overview

Training at the doctoral level in all five fields is based on a research apprenticeship model, in which students work closely with faculty supervisors conducting research. Doctoral students are encouraged to teach a course as part of their program experience.

Required Courses

  • One of PS660: Principles of Cognition or PS663: Principles of Neuroscience. Students will take whichever course they did not take previously. Those students entering the program without a Laurier MSc degree will take the course most suited to their research interests (in consultation with the Psychology graduate coordinator).
  • PS856: Research Seminar in Neuroscience II. All PhD candidates are required to participate in the research seminar. The seminars will have a component devoted to training in teaching. The seminars are taken in the fall and winter terms for the duration of the student’s enrolment in the PhD program. Students are marked on a pass/fail basis in the last year in the program (receiving an incomplete until that point).
  • PS891: Comprehensive Research Experience I. During the first two years of the PhD program, all students must complete a comprehensive research experience under the supervision of a faculty member other than their advisor.
  • Two additional courses from:
    • PS892: Comprehensive Research Experience II (which can take the role of a research project, including a written report, or a review paper) under the supervision of a faculty member other than their advisor; 
    • Elective content courses: PS860: Seminar in Cognition, PS861: Seminar in Comparative Cognition, PS862: Seminar in Perception, PS863: Seminar in Behavioural Neuroscience, PS864: Seminar in the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, and PS865: Seminar in Cognitive Neuroscience.
  • PS899: Dissertation.

The university regulations regarding the requirements for submitting a doctoral dissertation and scheduling the oral examination will apply.

Faculty with Supervisory Status

  • Todd Ferretti. Interests: language and cognitive processes.
  • Jeffery Jones. Interests: Human communication through speech, music and other acoustic signals.
  • Paul Mallet. Interests: addiction, learning, motivation, neural plasticity.
  • Diano F. Marrone. Interests: memory, neural plasticity.
  • Bruce McKay. Interests: addiction, learning, motivation, neural plasticity.
  • Noam Miller. Interests: collective behaviour, learning, comparative cognition.
  • Elizabeth Olds. Interests: Visual perception and attention.
  • Philip Servos. Interests: somatosensory and visual perception.
  • David White. Interests: comparative cognition, neural plasticity, learning, collective behaviour.

Contact Us:

For more information about the Cognitive and Behavioural Neurosciences program, as well as admissions-related inquiries, email


We see you are accessing our website on IE8. We recommend you view in Chrome, Safari, Firefox or IE9+ instead.