BSN Overview

Welcome. Behavioral and Social Neuroscience (BSN) is an interdisciplinary research program and graduate studies option at the California Institute of Technology, which is part of Caltech's broader neuroscience initiative spearheaded through the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience. BSN includes faculty members, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students from a variety of disciplines who are interested in how humans decide what to do in a range of decisions with important personal consequences. How do people make simple choices, such as when choosing what to eat from a restaurant menu? How do we learn from trial-and-error behavior to make decisions in the future? How do people decide who might help or harm them? How do emotions such as fear and anxiety work biologically and change behavior? How does the brain process information and control emotions in complex markets like stocks? What factors influence candidate appeal and voting in politics?

Research. The BSN program reflects the belief that detailed computations being made by the deciding brain is necessary to understand behavior. We believe the computational neuroscientific basis will yield new insights about individuals, groups, and societies. In BSN we use the best theories and methods from psychology, economics, cognitive neuroscience, computer science, and political science. We also use a wide array of methods to study behavior and brain function, including: Computational (mathematical) modeling, single- and multi-unit neurophysiology, functional brain imaging (fMRI) and EEG, psychophysiology, psychophysics, transcranial magnetic stimulation, diffusion tensor imaging, genomics, and study of people with brain lesions. For more information on our research, click here.

Graduate Studies. The BSN graduate option is designed to prepare students to do  outstanding innovative research in behavioral and social neuroscience. Students are therefore required to master theories in economics, basic neurobiology, and theoretical neuroscience in the first two years. Students must also learn some methods in psychology and computational neuroscience, including basic techniques such as computational modeling, functional neuroimaging, and neuropsychological assessment. Students graduating from BSN have gone on to work in academic positions in psychology, business (marketing), and neuroscience, as well as in private sector jobs involving biology and data science. For more details on the graduate program, click here.

Postdoctoral Scholars. The BSN faculty often welcome postdoctoral fellows who wish to obtain further research training. In some cases, funding can be provided by research grants or through Institute-administered fellowships. Interested individuals should apply directly to the faculty member whose research interests are closest to their own, but can also describe flexibility in working with other faculty members.