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Arizona Community College students can pursue accounting at ASU with the help of the Deloitte Foundation

May 23 2022

Lecturers Rachel Bristol and Shannon Eaton came from very different backgrounds, but they are some of the most sought-after faculty members for the Bachelor of Neuroscience degree program at Arizona State University.

They teach online and on-campus courses, with content ranging from “Your Brain on Drugs” to “The Neuroscience of Memory and Learning” to “Introduction to Neuroscience”.

Portrait of Arizona State University lecturers Shannon Eaton and Rachel Bristol.
Arizona State University lecturers Rachel Bristol and Shannon Eaton.
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The Neuroscience program has doubled in size since becoming a stand-alone and online undergraduate degree option in the fall of 2021. The Neuroscience degree at Arizona State University studies brain and nervous system functions in relation to behavior, emotion, and consciousness.

Bristol came to ASU after receiving his Ph.D. in cognitive science from the University of California, San Diego. She previously earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Oregon, and pursued her MA in Linguistics from the University of Delaware before discovering her passion lies in neuroscience. She is interested in difficult questions such as, “What is cognition?” What is the nature of thought, and how does the brain support consciousness? and “Do our brains specialize in social interaction?” She is fascinated by language and the way it intertwines with our brains, minds, and societies.

This fall, Bristol will be taking courses in Introduction to Neuroscience and Fundamentals of Cognitive Neuroscience and is excited to help undergraduate students explore the field of Neuroscience.

“I kind of slipped into neuroscience by mistake, but I think it should inspire students because it shows how easy it is to get into this field,” Bristol said. “For example, even the skills someone acquires from studying art history can somehow apply to the study of the brain and how we perceive art. Personally, my passion for language is closely related to cognitive science and neuroscience, and I think it’s open to anyone who is curious.”

Both Eaton and Bristol emphasized the breadth of neuroscience, with a mixture of skills from philosophy, psychology, linguistics, engineering, artificial intelligence, biology, and education, all mixed together.

As Bristol explores more of the theoretical concepts behind neuroscience, Eaton has a background in molecular biology and is focusing more on the structure and function of the brain. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky and majored in psychopharmacology, or the study of the use of medications in the treatment of mental disorders. She investigated gender differences in pharmacokinetics and reward behaviors in the brain.

“The big focus for me is curiosity and inspiring curiosity. I love seeing what gets students excited. Usually in Your Brain On Drugs class, students are really excited to see research on hallucinogens and marijuana. However, I also hope that students get excited about the bigger picture around with drug abuse,” Eaton said. “Curiosity is what drives learning, and learning is what drives future research.”

While Eaton’s background is on the cellular end, she would call herself a behavioral neuroscientist. She is personally interested in the molecular effects that can influence behaviour. for example, Research by Associate Professor Jessica Verbiot recently revealed additional links between the role of the cerebellum and behavior.

Her passion in neuroscience is understanding the differences between the sexes and the role of sex hormones in the brain.

“With my background in psychopharmacology, I have always been interested in how prescription drugs and treatments affect men and women differently. For example, eight out of 10 prescription drugs are removed from shelves because their side effects are worse in women than in men,” Eaton said. Fifty percent of the population is women, yet it has not historically been researched due to cycling hormones and social dynamics.”

This fall, Eaton will teach the Neuroscience of Learning and Motivation course.

“First, we examine the neural mechanisms and processes behind the simplest forms of classical and practical learning and conditioning. Next, we go into language acquisition and the epigenetics of learning/cognitive ability. During the course, we examine questions such as “What is learning?”, “Do you need a brain to learn?” “Can animals learn the same things as humans?”, “What is motivation?” and “What brain regions and neurotransmitters are involved in learning and motivation?” Eaton Sacid.

“These topics are explored through hands-on activities and student-led essay presentations,” Eaton said. “As a result, students have a huge impact on what is discussed and each class is a little different.”

Bristol and Eaton also shared that neuroscience falls into multiple categories, much like musical genres.

“When you think about it in this lens, there’s rap, but there’s rhythm and blues and hip-hop, or then there’s 18 different genres of rock and roll. The same goes for neuroscience—like cool fields like neuroscience or psychopharmacology. Bristol said. “As long as you are interested in the brain, there is a place for you in neuroscience!”

NEU long talk video