Neuroscientist  What They Do

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dotNeuroscience is the study of the nervous system. The term neuroscientist applies to a broad range of careers that can look at many different aspects of the nervous system. For example, neuroscientists can study nerve cells on a molecular and cellular level, neural networks, or the brain.

"Neuroscientists are employed in a wide variety of occupations that make use of their training," says Deanna Benson. Benson is a professor of neuroscience at a school of medicine in New York. "Research is the first to come to mind, because that's how we are all trained, but there are many other career options."

dotDavid Mintz is an assistant professor of anesthesiology and an attending physician. His days find him both doing neurology research and working in the operating room.

"I spend 75 percent of my time as a neuroscientist," he says. "I work on questions that are related to anesthesiology and how anesthetics work on the brain, and in particular my background is in the development of the brain. There's a concern that anesthetic exposures at early ages may alter brain development.

"The other 25 percent of my time, I spend in the operating rooms, where I take care of patients who are having anesthesia for neurosurgery. I teach residents and do all the things that academic physicians do."

dotNeuroscientists deal with cell and tissue samples when doing research. They use expensive machines like magnetic resonance imagers (commonly known as MRIs).

You've most likely heard of diseases like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's. Neuroscience examines all these diseases because they are based in the nervous system.

The work is intense and requires lots of concentration. You should be eager to get answers out of complex problems if you'd like to be a neuroscientist.

Neuroscientists have to be able to work well with others and to focus very intensely while working alone. They need to have strong math, communication and decision-making skills.

"In all areas of health care, communication is very important, but especially so when working with vulnerable patients," adds Sue Kadyschuk. Kadyschuk is a past president of an association of neuroscience nurses. She's also qualified to be a clinical nurse educator in the area of neurosurgery. "We find that many of the conflicts that happen on our unit start with poor communication."

At a Glance

Research all facets of our nervous system

  • You will most likely be in school for a long time
  • There is a wide range of career options within neurology
  • You should like to solve complex problems