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Biology | Higher Education | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Science and Mathematics Education


Core concepts provide a framework for organizing facts and understanding in neuroscience higher education curricula. Core concepts are overarching principles that identify patterns in neuroscience processes and phenomena and can be used as a foundational scaffold for neuroscience knowledge. The need for community-derived core concepts is pressing, because both the pace of research and number of neuroscience programs are rapidly expanding. While general biology and many subdisciplines within biology have identified core concepts, neuroscience has yet to establish a community-derived set of core concepts for neuroscience higher education. We used an empirical approach involving more than 100 neuroscience educators to identify a list of core concepts. The process of identifying neuroscience core concepts was modeled after the process used to develop physiology core concepts and involved a nationwide survey and a working session of 103 neuroscience educators. The iterative process identified eight core concepts and accompanying explanatory paragraphs. The eight core concepts are abbreviated as communication modalities, emergence, evolution, gene–environment interactions, information processing, nervous system functions, plasticity, and structure–function. Here, we describe the pedagogical research process used to establish core concepts for the neuroscience field and provide examples on how the core concepts can be embedded in neuroscience education.