Developmental and Brain Sciences (DBS), PhD

The PhD program in Developmental and Brain Sciences (DBS) at the University of Massachusetts Boston is a research-intensive program focused on understanding cognition, perception, and behavior when underlying neural and hormonal mechanisms are developing. Core faculty (Jane Adams, Erik Blaser, Vivian Ciaramitaro, Tiffany Donaldson, Richard Hunter, Zsuzsa Kaldy, Celia Moore, Jin Ho Park, Mohinish Shukla, Edward Tronick, and Susan Zup) engage in lab work ranging from cognitive development and psychophysics to neuroendocrinology and behavioral genetics.

Students may follow a cognitive specialization investigating functional changes in perceptual and cognitive abilities or a behavioral specialization investigating neural and hormonal correlates of behavior. Independent of specialization, DBS students will receive rigorous core training in methods (dry and wet lab skills, advanced statistical methods, computational tools like MATLAB) and work in laboratories using multiple levels of investigation including psychophysical and neuropsychological evaluation, functional brain imaging (NIRS, ERP), and neuropharmacological, molecular/cellular, and genetic methods.

Our Mission

We seek to provide our graduate students with superior training that prepares them for successful careers in a variety of settings as researchers, clinicians, and academics, giving them the knowledge and skills to contribute high-impact science to various fields, including clinical science, education and public policy; and 2) to produce graduates who can uniquely contribute multi-level, developmental and translational research and advancement to the field of neuroscience.

Our educational mission is to prepare students to approach fundamental areas of neuroscience in this multi-disciplinary fashion by training students in a research intensive environment that uses human and animal models to study cognition  (learning, memory, attention, language), perception (vision, hearing), and the genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences (in utero chemicals, maternal stimulation, enriching toys) on behavior while underlying neural and hormonal mechanisms are developing (e.g. in infancy and early childhood). 

In line with the University’s mission, the DBS program engages in rigorous research which serves the public good of our city, our commonwealth, our nation and our world in an environment that nurtures diversity, inclusion, and a commitment to our urban population.


DBS labs are housed in the Integrated Sciences Complex, part of our campus on the Columbia Point peninsula. This location is just a few miles south of downtown and offers wonderful views of the city and Boston Harbor.

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