Upper Division Requirements, Sample 4-yr Plans, Elective Lists

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.

Upper Division Requirements

*Physics 8A is a prerequisite for MCB 160. Physics 8B is recommend to take before or concurrently.
**MCB 160 and MCB 161 are intended to be taken in sequence. The prerequisite for MCB 161 is MCB 160 and this is strictly enforced.


​Petitioning to Substitute MCB 160L or 163L with Research Units

Students may petition to substitute the lab course with equivalent knowledge and units obtained through independent research experience (such as 199 or H196 research), as determined by the Head Faculty Advisor of their major emphasis. Careful consideration and discussion with your faculty advisor is important when making the decision whether to use independent research to substitute the lab, as MCB labs expose students to many biological approaches not always encountered during these research projects. For more information on the approval process see Petition to Substitute MCB Lab Course.

Sample 4-yr Plans

These are just examples, for more sample schedules including spring start and transfer see or meet with an advisor to explore your options. It is recommended by MCB advisors and faculty to take the upper division lab as early as you can if you are interested in research and/or honors research. 

  Neurobiology Elective List

Molecular and Cell Biology

  • 130 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)
  • 137L Physical Biology of the Cell (Sp; 3 units)
  • 141 Developmental Biology (Sp; 4 units)
  • 150 Molecular Immunology (F, Sp; 4 units)
  • 160L Neurobiology Lab (Sp; 4 units) (allowed only if MCB 163 is used as lab requirement)
  • 163 Mammalian Neuroanatomy Lab (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)


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

Cognitive Science

  • C127 Cognitive Neuroscience (F; 3 units)

Integrative Biology

  • 139 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)


  • C129 The Aging Human Brain (F; 3 units)


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


  • C113 Biological Clocks: Physiology and Behavior (not currently offered; 3 units)
  • C116 Hormones and Behavior (Sp; 3 units)
  • 117 Human Neuropsychology (Sp, Su; 3 units)
  • C127 Cognitive Neuroscience (F; 4 units)

Public Health

  • C129 The Aging Human Brain (F; 3 units)
  • 141 Introduction to Biostatistics (Su; 5 units)
  • 142 Introduction to Probability and Statistics in Biology & Public Health (F, Sp; 4 units) - Note: For students who have completed Math 10A/B, or Stat 2 or 20, this course is not accepted to meet the elective requirement.


  • 131A Statistical Inferences for Social and Life Scientists (F, Sp; 4 units) - Note: For students who have completed Math 10A/B, or Stat 2 or 20, this course is not accepted to meet the elective requirement.

Approved Courses but NOT Regularly Offered

  • BioEng 143 Computational Methods in Biology
  • MCB 137 Computer Simulation in Biology (replaced by MCB 137L)
  • MCB C145 Genomics
  • Physics 132 Contemporary Physics

Previously Approved Electives

  • IB 131 Human Anatomy (F, Su; 3 units) - no longer approved under new curriculum (effective sp15)
  • Psych C112 The Biology of Stress (no longer offered; 3 units)
  • MCB 167 Physiological and Genetic Basis of Behavior (Sp; 3 units) - no longer offered after Sp15