Neurobiology is the study of the brain and nervous system, which are the cells and tissue that generate sensation, perception, movement, learning, emotion, and many of the functions that make us human.  In the past decades, neurobiological research has made tremendous advances in understanding how this complex organ works, and what goes wrong in neurological disease.  Neurobiology is intrinsically multi-disciplinary, spanning from molecular biology and gene regulation in neurons, to chemical and electrical signaling in neurons, to information processing by neural circuits and brain regions, to nervous system development and plasticity.  Knowledge at each of these levels is merged to generate a mechanistic, molecular-to-systems level understanding of animal and human behavior.  Active research areas in neurobiology include:  What is the genetic program that makes a neuron?  Can new neurons be created to treat disease?  How do ion channels work that mediate electrical signaling in neurons?   How do synapses work, and how do they store information during learning?  How do networks of neurons process information and perform computations for behavior?  How does the brain develop, and how is it specialized through evolution to generate species-specific behavior?  Why do neurons die in neurodegenerative disease, and how can they be saved?

Recent research advances within the Division include understanding how voltage-gated ion channels function, development of new optical approaches to monitor and control activity in specific neurons, how taste sensation works in Drosophila, how neural activity is homeostatically controlled via novel gene regulation pathways, how the retina and cerebral cortex processes sensory information, and how sensory use alters synapses to store sensory information in the brain.  Overall, 55 faculty at Berkeley (in MCB and other departments) conduct neurobiology research, reflecting the diversity and importance of this field within modern biology.

The Neurobiology emphasis prepares students for careers in medicine, including in medical specialties involving the nervous system (neurology, pharmacology, psychiatry, neuropsychiatry, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, optometry), in scientific research in neurobiology (postgraduate study), in biotechnology (including technical and research oriented careers), and in other biology-related careers (nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy).   All Neurobiology majors receive essential coursework in molecular and cell biology, as well as rigorous training in specific neurobiology courses.  We are distinguished from other MCB emphases by the multi-level, multi-disciplinary approach, and by the focus on the brain.  We are distinguished from Psychology and Cognitive Science by emphasizing a mechanistic, molecular, cellular and circuit-level understanding of behavior and disease.

MCB 102 - Survey of Biochemistry
MCB 104 - Genetics, Genomics, & Cell Biology
MCB 160 - Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology*
MCB 161 - Circuit, Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience*
Neurobiology Lab - MCB 163 or MCB 160L
Neurobiology Elective

* MCB 160 (fall only) and MCB 161 (spring only) are intended to be taken in sequence. The prerequisite for MCB 161 is MCB 160 and this is enforced.

Neurobiology (new curriculum)

(shows as 966: MO&CEL BIO PII, EM 3 on some official University documents)

 *** The new curriculum is effective for students declaring this emphasis in Sp15 and beyond, and for declared NEU students who do not complete MCB C160 by Sp15. Sample schedules can be found at: 

  • MCB 102 Survey of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (F, Sp, Su; 4 units)
  • MCB 104 Genetics, Genomics & Cell Biology (F, Sp; 4 units)
  • MCB 160 Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology (Fa only; 4 units)
  • MCB 161 Circuit, Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience (Sp only, 4 units)
  • Choose one of the two following lab courses
    • MCB 163 Neuroanatomy (F, 4 units)
    • MCB 160L Neurobiology Lab (Sp; 4 units)
  • One elective from Neurobiology Approved Electives (One course from List A or B)

Neurobiology (old curriculum)

***For students declared Fa14 and before, 6 upper-division course requirements:

  • MCB 102 Survey of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology (F, Sp, Su; 4 units)
  • MCB 104 Genetics, Genomics & Cell Biology (F, Sp; 4 units)
  • MCB C160 Neurobiology (F, Sp; 4 units)
  • Choose one of the two following lab courses
    • MCB 163 Neuroanatomy (F, 4 units)
    • MCB 160L Neurobiology Lab (Sp; 4 units)
  • One elective from Neurobiology Approved Electives List A or List B
  • One elective from Neurobiology Approved Electives List B

Approved Electives List for Neurobiology

 Elective List A (Non-Neuroscience Courses and Neuroscience Courses outside of MCB)


  • 121 Introduction to Micro and Nanobiotechnology: MioMEMS (F, Sp; 3 units)

Cognitive Science

  • C127 Cognitive Neuroscience (F; 3 units)

Integrative Biology

  • C139 The Biology of Stress (F, 3 units)
  • C143A Biological Clocks: Physiology & Behavior (Alt F; 3 units)
  • C143B Hormones & Behavior (Sp; 3 units)
  • C144 Animal Behavior (F; 4 units)


  • 110 Linear Algebra (F, Sp, Su; 4 units)
  • 127 Mathematical and Computational Methods in Molecular Biology (F; 4 units)
  • 128A Numerical Analysis (F; 4 units)
  • 128B Numerical Analysis (Sp; 4 units)

Molecular and Cell Biology

  • C100A Biophysical Chemistry (F, Sp; 4 units)
  • 130A Cell and Systems Biology (Sp; 4 units)
  • 132 Biology of Cancer (F; 4 units)
  • 135A Molecular Endocrinology (F; 3 units)
  • 136 Physiology (F; 4 units)
  • 137 Computer Simulation in Biology (Sp; 3 units)
  • 141 Developmental Biology (Sp; 4 units)
  • 150 Molecular Immunology (F, Sp; 4 units)


  • 112 Introduction to Statistical and Thermal Physics (F, Sp; 4 units)


  • C112 The Biology of Stress (F; 3 units)
  • C113 Biological Clocks: Physiology and Behavior (Alt F; 3 units)
  • C116 Hormones and Behavior (Sp; 3 units)
  • 117 Human Neuropsychology (Sp, Su; 3 units)
  • C127 Cognitive Neuroscience (F; 4 units)

Public Health

  • 141 Introduction to Biostatistics (Su; 5 units)
  • 142 Introduction to Probability and Statistics in Biology & Public Health (F, Sp; 4 units)


  • 131A Statistical Inferences for Social and Life Scientists (F, Sp; 4 units) 

Elective List B (MCB Neurobiology Elective Courses)

Molecular and Cell Biology

  • 160L Neurobiology Lab (Sp; 4 units) (allowed only if MCB 163 is used as lab requirement)
  • 163 Mammalian Neuroanatomy (F; 4 units) (allowed only if MCB 160L is used as lab requirement)
  • 165 Neurobiology of Disease (Sp; 3 units)
  • 166 Biophysical Neurobiology (F; 3 units)
  • 167 Physiological and Genetic Basis of Behavior (Sp; 3 units) - no longer offered after Sp15

***approved courses but not regularly offered

  • BioEng 143 Computational Methods in Biology
  • MCB C145 Genomics
  • Physics 132 Contemporary Physics
  • 131 Human Anatomy (F, Su; 3 units) - no longer approved under new curriculum (effective sp15)