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 the overarching question of why humans and other animals behave the way they do in dynamic real-world environments. How do people make simple choices, such as when deliberating between food options on a restaurant menu? How can we learn from past trial-and-error behavior to make decisions in the future? What factors govern how we interact socially with others? How do financial markets operate? What factors influence decision making in the political process?

Research. A core unifying assumption underlying research in BSN is the idea that only by establishing the nature of the computations being implemented by neural systems deep within our brains is it possible to gain insight into how individuals, groups, and societies function. To study these problems, we build on theories, concepts, and approaches from such traditional disciplines as psychology, economics, cognitive and systems neuroscience, computer science, and political science. We also use a wide array of techniques to study behavior and brain function, including computational modeling, single- and multi-unit neurophysiology, functional brain imaging and EEG, psychophysiology, psychophysics, transcranial magnetic stimulation, and lesion approaches. For more information on our research, click here.

Graduate Studies. The BSN graduate option provides students the essential skills needed to perform research in this interdisciplinary area, including exposure to core constructs in economics, psychology, and computational neuroscience and experience with basic techniques such as computational modeling, functional neuroimaging, and neuropsychological assessment. For more details on the graduate program, click here.

Postdoctoral Scholars. Many of the faculty whose research programs are described on these pages are able to accommodate 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 most appropriate faculty member, indicating, if relevant, alternative faculty members whose work interests them.