Cognitive & Brain Sciences Ph.D.

The workings of the brain

The Cognitive and Brain Sciences Program is one of three doctoral programs within the Department of Psychology, along with clinical and behavior analysis. The Psychology department also participates in an interdisciplinary social psychology program. The cognitive and brain sciences program has collaborative links with several other departments on campus, including biology, medicine, computer science and the graduate program in electrical and biomedical engineering. Many of the program faculty also maintain close working links with colleagues and research labs at other universities.

It offers programs of study leading to masters and doctoral degrees. Students are given a strong foundation in current theory and methods and have the opportunity to specialize within a number of substantive areas of research that include:

  • Brain organization in developmental disabilities
  • Comparative and developmental vision
  • Cognitive neuroscience
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Human factors in aviation
  • Attention
  • Face recognition
  • Consciousness
  • Neuropsychology

About the program

The Cognitive and Brain Sciences program is designed to train students to become effective scholars and instructors and to prepare them for professional positions in academic and research settings. During the first two years, students complete a series of foundation courses in statistics, perception, conditioning, cognition, comparative psychology and physiological psychology. These courses prepare the students for the comprehensive exam at the end of their second year. In subsequent years, a wide variety of seminars and independent study options are available for pursuing students´ areas of interest, and doctoral candidates take a doctoral comprehensive exam within their primary areas of specialization. The Master of Arts degree is usually expected to be completed by the third year, while most students are expected to complete the doctoral degree in five years.

All graduate students in the Cognitive and Brain Sciences program receive hands-on training in various psychology and neuroscience methods, including state-of-the-art neuroimaging approaches, which is made possible through the Center for Integrative Neuroscience (COBRE) Neuroimaging Resources Core. The center also funds several graduate assistantships each year


The program is very much research-oriented. Students are encouraged from the beginning to work closely with faculty to gain research skills and experience through laboratory work and research practica and assistantships. Faculty and students are actively involved in and regularly present their research in a number of professional societies, including Society of Neuroscience, International Society for Comparative Psychology, Vision Sciences Society, Cognitive Neuroscience Society, Rocky Mountain Psychology Association, Western Psychological Association, Animal Behavior Society, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology and Psychonomics Society.

Donate to the program

Recent publications

Students are encouraged to publish their research in the top journals of their respective fields.

  • Jones, K., Gözenman, F. & Berryhill, M. (2014). Enhanced long-term memory encoding after parietal neurostimulation. Experimental Brain Research. 1-12.
  • Gözenman, F., Tanoue, R. T., Metoyer, T., & Berryhill, M. E. (2014). Invalid Retro-Cues Can Eliminate the Retro-Cue Benefit: Evidence for a Hybridized Account. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.
  • McCarthy, J. D. & Caplovitz, G. P. (2014). Color synesthesia improves color but impairs motion perception. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 18(5), 224-228.
  • O'Neil, S. F. & Webster, M. A. (2014). Filling-in, filling-out, or filtering out: Processes stabilizing color appearance near the center of gaze. J. Optical Society of America A, 31(4), A15-A22.
  • Coia, A. J., Jones, C., Duncan, C. S. & Crognale, M. A. (2014). Physiological correlates of the watercolor effect. J. Optical Society of America A, 31(4), A140-A147.
  • Skiba, R. M., Duncan, C. S. & Crognale, M. A. (2014). The effects of luminance contribution from large fields to chromatic visual evoked potentials. Vision Research, 95, 68-74.
  • Blair, C. D., Goold, J., Killebrew, K. & Caplovitz, G. P. (2014). Form features provide a cue to the angularvelocity of rotating objects. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception & Performance, 40(1), 116-28.


The program has a number of departmental teaching and research assistantships that are awarded based on merit to new and continuing students. A number of students also receive support through the research grants of individual faculty, University fellowships and external funding.


In order to qualify for admission, a candidate must have earned a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent) from an accredited institution. Those who hold a master's degree in psychology can apply up to 24 credits towards the doctoral degree. An undergraduate major in psychology is not required for admission, although a minimum of 18 credits (or equivalent) of undergraduate course work in psychology is required, including a course in statistics and a laboratory course in experimental research. Course work in related disciplines might be used to satisfy these requirements or might be acceptable transfer credits from a prior master's degree program. In either case, exceptions require approval of the cognitive and brain sciences program faculty.

Applicants should submit a resume and a statement of goals and interests. A completed application file must contain transcripts of all course work, three letters of recommendation, and scores on the general GRE (requirement waived for those applying for Fall 2021 admission). Transcripts, GRE scores and Graduate School applications must be submitted directly to the Graduate School. The letters of recommendation must be sent directly to the psychology department.

For international students, a test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score of at least 500 is required for admission to the Graduate School. Students who have achieved a TOEFL score of 600 or higher are exempt from Intensive English Language Center evaluation. A TOEFL score of 550 or higher is the minimum necessary for a student to be approved for a teaching assistantship. TOEFL scores are not required for international students who have received a baccalaureate or advanced degree from an accredited university or college in the United States.

An average of five students are admitted each year. The program considers a number of factors in selecting applicants including academic and research potential and the degree to which an applicant's research interests complement those of the faculty. The program faculty, with the approval of the department chair, reserve the right to determine which students are accepted for graduate study and to set higher admission standards than the minimum requirements set by the Graduate School.