Understanding Neuroscience

Neuroscience is the study of the nervous system. Research spans from molecules, through cells and pathways, all the way up to complex human behaviour. Neuroscience integrates physics, chemistry, and biology, with studies of anatomy, physiology, and behaviour including human emotional and mental tasks.

Neuroscientific research may focus on:

  • Understanding the human brain and how it controls the body and behaviour;
  • Finding ways to prevent or cure neurological and psychiatric disorders.


Neuroscientists use tools such as:

  • antibodies and gene probes to identify proteins responsible for brain function;
  • fluorescent dyes to mark neurons and synapses with specific characteristics;
  • microelectrode arrays to study the activity of living neurons in real-time;
  • behavioural methods to study the processes underlying behaviour in humans and in animals;
  • computational models of neurons and their connections in the brain.


Scientists still have not uncovered the full extent of what the brain can do. This single organ controls every aspect of the body, ranging from heart rate and appetite to emotion and memory. The brain controls the immune system’s response to disease and determines, in part, how well people respond to medical treatments. It shapes our thoughts, beliefs, hopes, dreams, and imaginations. It is the brain’s ability to perform all these functions that makes us human.

Neuroscientists specialize in the study of the brain and the nervous system. They are inspired to try to decipher the brain’s command of all its diverse functions. Over the years, the neuroscience field has made enormous progress. Scientists continue to strive for a deeper understanding of how the brain’s 100 billion nerve cells are born, grow, and connect. They study how these cells organize themselves into effective, functional circuits that usually remain in working order for life.

Brain researchers are motivated to understand behaviour. How do cell circuits enable us to read and speak? How and why do we form relationships? How do we think, remember, despair, or motivate? Scientists discover possible causes of devastating disorders of the brain and body, as well as ways to prevent or cure them. And they strive to advance a centuries-old scientific quest to understand how the world around us works.

The importance of neuroscience

The importance of this research cannot be overstated. More than 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system result in more hospitalizations and lost productivity than any other disease group, including heart disease and cancer.

In 2007, the World Health Organization estimated that neurological disorders affect up to one billion people worldwide. In fact, neurological diseases make up 11 percent of the world’s disease burden, not including mental health and addiction disorders.

Source: brainfacts.org