Program

There is no formal graduate program in ‘Neuroeconomics’ at NYU at this time. Instead, graduate training in Neuroeconomics at New York University is managed through the Ph.D. programs of the Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), as well as through the Stern School of Business. ISDM’s educational philosophy is that all prospective Neuroeconomists must have a core competency in a traditional field before they move on to become Neuroeconomists. For this reason, all incoming graduate students must apply to, and be accepted by, one of the above graduate programs. After admission, graduate students typically complete the standard first year curriculum in their home department before moving on to more specialized curricula in their second year. Training in the second year is individualized, by department, and takes place in parallel with graduate research in one of the Institute’s research labs.

Neuroscience

Incoming Neuroscience graduate students spend their first year taking the four core graduate courses in neuroscience and rotating through two laboratories. During that year they typically attend the monthly Decision-Making Joint Lab Meeting and monthly Neuroeconomics Colloquium. At the beginning of their second year, students select a dissertation laboratory and take advanced electives in the Neural Science department, such as the Seminar in Neuroeconomics, and those in the Economics Department, such as Behavioral Economics.

The NYU Neuroscience graduate program also has a branch campus at NYU-Shanghai that offers neuroscience training for students interested in neuroeconomics. Doctoral students who complete their theses through the NYU-Shanghai track receive the same GSAS diploma from NYU as those who train at the New York campus. Neuroscience doctoral students on the Shanghai track complete a summer lab rotation in Shanghai before traveling to the New York campus, where they spend the first academic year of their doctoral studies completing coursework and lab rotations. Students return to the Shanghai campus for the remainder of their thesis work but receive funding for at least one additional (round-trip) visit to New York during their training. Students’ primary lab and mentors are in Shanghai, however, students are expected to select a co-mentor from the NY campus and include faculty from both campuses on their dissertation committee. Students interested in this track apply using the standard GSAS online application and select ‘Shanghai campus’ on the first page of the application. For additional information regarding the Shanghai track of the Neuroscience doctoral program, please see here.

Psychology

Incoming Psychology graduate students commit to a laboratory for their thesis work before admission and then spend their first year completing core coursework that includes Math Tools for Neuroscientists, and Behavioral & Cognitive Neuroscience. During that year they also typically attend the monthly Decision-Making Joint Lab Meeting and monthly Neuroeconomics Colloquium. At the beginning of their second year these students take advanced seminars in Neuroeconomics including Neuroeconomics & Decision-Making taught in the Psychology Department and Behavioral Economics taught in the Economics Department.

Economics

Incoming Economics graduate students spend the entirety of their first year taking the core curriculum for the economics department and rarely do research of any kind during this period. At the conclusion of their first year they typically enroll in the Economics Department’s Psychology & Economics course, which serves as an entry point for Neuroeconomics research for these students. During the second year, they also typically attend the monthly Neuroeconomics Colloquium and perhaps the Decision Making Joint lab meeting. These students are also expected to take a number of other courses including Experimental Economics, Behavioral Economics and at least one undergraduate neuroscience course.

Stern School of Business

Incoming NYU Stern doctoral students select a particular field of study from one of eight Ph.D. programs offered and must fulfill the program requirements of that department. Generally, the first two years of each program focus on core departmental coursework, as well as electives in related areas (e.g., psychology, economics, etc.). In addition to coursework, students complete research practical alongside faculty members who work in areas related to the students’ research interests. The final 2 to 3 years of the doctoral program allow students to focus on research, present at academic conferences, and defend their dissertations. The interdisciplinary nature of the Stern doctoral programs allows students to integrate coursework and research interests from related areas. Of the Stern Ph.D. programs, marketing is one most commonly associated with neuroeconomics.

Masters Degree vs. PhD

With the exception of the Neuroscience Department, each of the aforementioned programs also offers Master’s Degrees for students. The Psychology Department offers two terminal MA degrees for individuals who wish to explore different areas of psychology, or gain research experience for admission to a doctoral program. The MA Program in General Psychology offers coursework on a broad range of topics in psychology. The MA Program in Industrial/Organizational Psychology focuses on providing theoretical and research training for how psychologists can study and apply psychological principles to work organizations. The Economics Department offers a Master’s Degree in Economics for students wishing to acquire a background in economic theory and principles, or as a preparatory degree before applying to graduate programs elsewhere. Finally, the Stern School of Business offers a number of Master’s degrees in topics that range from business administration to finance, marketing and more. Information and a comprehensive list of these Stern programs can be found here. Note that each of these programs offers terminal Master’s degree that are completed separately from the PhD programs described both regarding the application requirements and program curriculum.

Applying

In order to manage admission across the Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economics departments all students applying to NYU who are interested in Neuroeconomics indicate their interest in their application by selecting “Neuroeconomics” as a ‘track’ for future study. This is accomplished by applying to graduate admission to the program of your choice. On the online application, there is a question that specifically asks for your field of study and with which professor you would like to collaborate. It is here that students indicate their interest in Neuroeconomics and choose one or more ISDM professors affiliated with the department to which they are applying for admission. Selecting Neuroeconomics is essential because it allows the faculty of the Institute to identify and track applicants to the program and also to ensure that students are well matched to their departments and that the applications of these students receive appropriate consideration by the parent departments. Students applying to the Stern School of Business for doctoral training should select their field of study for doctoral training from here and apply through Stern’s online application system.

Contacts

ISDM Graduate Studies Liaison: Candace Raio
Email: iisdmgradstudies@gmail.com

NYU Neuroscience

Psychology Department

Economics Department

Stern School of Business

Courses (Ph.D. Courses)

Economics

I: Reviews theory of calculus, linear algebra, and constrained optimization. Theory and methods of differential equations, calculus of variations, optimal control theory, and dynamic programming applied to economic problems.

II: Methods and applications of optimal control theory to problems of economics. Discusses economic applications of stochastic processes, probability, measure theory, and topology.

I: Decision theory, theory of the firm, and consumer behavior; introduction to general equilibrium theory and welfare economics.

II: Game theory, including extensive form solution concepts, bargaining, and repeated games; information economics, contract theory and mechanism design.

I: Models of national income determination; sectorial inflation; labor markets, production theories, and aggregate supply models; supply and demand for money; foreign trade and balance of payments.

II: Classical and Keynesian macroeconomic thought, modern-day microeconomic theories of money-wage and price determinations, reconstruction of macro theory and heterogeneous agent macroeconomics.

I: Concise introduction to probability theory and to the problem and methods of statistical inference as encountered and applied in econometrics: maximum likelihood theory, method of moments, method of least squares, and hypothesis testing.

II: Econometrics analysis of the general linear model; the estimation of distributed lag models; misspecification analysis; and models involving errors in variables.

Studies experimental methods and reviews the literature in an effort to give the student a working knowledge of experimental techniques. While the areas of application vary, the course is research oriented.

This is a doctoral level workshop in which students, faculty and guest speakers present work that uses experimental methods on economics. Although the focus will be on test of economic methods using laboratory methods, issues in behavioral economics and neuroeconomics will sometimes be covered. Studies that use controlled treatment manipulation within a field setting will also be presented. This course will allow students interested in applied work to be exposed to studies that use experimental methods.

The C.E.S.S. Experimental Seminar invites speakers to present novel work in economics using experimental methods. It should be of interest to students and faculty members interested in applied work in economics and related fields such as psychology, neural science, political science, business administration, finance, and management.

This course introduces students to the field of behavioral economics, which seeks to insert more behavioral realism into economic theory. Typically we try to accomplish this by making nonstandard assumptions about human preferences, but occasionally our approach will be to explore non-standard beliefs or emphasize the limitations of our decision making faculties. We will usually approach a topic by examining evidence of some departure from the assumptions made in the canonical economic model. We then ask how such departures can be formalized theoretically and how the resulting models can be tested empirically.

Neural Science

Team-taught, intensive course. Lectures and readings cover basic biophysics and cellular, molecular, and developmental neuroscience.

Team-taught intensive course. Lectures and readings concentrate on neural regulation of sensory and motor systems.

Team-taught, state-of-the-art teaching laboratory in neural science. The first semester includes histology and cellular and molecular neuroscience. The second semester includes neuroanatomy, sensory neurophysiology, modern neuroanatomical tracer techniques, psychophysics, and computational neuroscience.

Team-taught intensive course. Lectures, readings, and laboratory exercises cover neuroanatomy, cognitive neuroscience, learning, memory, and emotion.

Team-taught intensive course. Lecture, readings, and homework exercises cover basic mathematical techniques for analysis and modeling of neural systems. Homework sets are based on the MATLAB software package.

This seminar will survey the emerging field of neuroeconomics, the interdisciplinary study of the brain’s mechanisms for decision evaluation and choice. We will approach these issues from multiple perspectives, drawing on theoretical, behavioral, and neural data from economics, psychology, and neurobiology. Major topics include: decision under risk and uncertainty; multiplayer interactions and social preferences; the role of learning in evaluating options; and choice mechanisms.

Psychology

Intensive course in basic mathematical techniques for analysis and modeling of behavioral and neural data, including tools from linear systems and statistics. In 2008, first semester Math Tools is being offered jointly for students from Neural Science and Psychology, as an alternative for the first-semester of the two-semester psychology sequence.

Survey of basic areas in behavioral neuroscience. Areas of primary interest include behavioral and neurobiological analysis of instinctive behavior, conditioning, motivation and emotion, and learning and cognition.

Covers topics in numerical analysis, probability theory, and mathematical statistics essential to developing Monte Carlo models of complex cognitive and neural processes and testing them empirically. Most homework assignments include programming exercises in the MATLAB language.

Exploration of the psychological processes that underlie people’s judgments and decisions. First identifies some general rules that capture the way people make decisions. Then explores how people make decisions in numerous domains, including consumer, social, clinical, managerial, and organizational decision making. Looks at both rational and irrational patterns in the way people select options. Discusses the impact of the media on our choices. Also examines how different ways of presenting options and different decision-making strategies can influence decision outcomes. In general, emphasizes the applied implications of the various perspectives on decision-making.

This course examines decisions from theoretical, behavioral, and neural perspectives. A first goal of the course is to review normative and descriptive theories of decision under risk or uncertainty, decisions based on sampling, temporal discounting, visuo-motor analogues of decision, and decisions in multi-agent interactions. We will also explore learning in the context of decision problems, including reinforcement learning and foraging models. Finally, we will consider how all this work informs and is informed by research in humans and animals about the neural substrates for decisions. We will read both classical papers and very recent work, some chosen to reflect the interests of the participants.

This course covers the major topics and issues in the field of fMRI. With this background, students will be able to design and implement their own fMRI experiments. There are weekly lab projects that will involve acquiring and analyzing fMRI data, and submitted written lab reports. Final grades are based on the lab reports. The lectures provide background information useful in performing the labs, along with additional information for a broader and deeper understanding of fMRI methods.

Stern Business School:

Coursework for PhD programs at Stern is specific to each of the eight departments that offer PhD programs, however the interdisciplinary nature of Stern’s doctoral programs means students may complete coursework in other related fields as deemed appropriate by their faculty advisor (e.g., economics, psychology). Additionally, Stern offers a broad range of academic programs (i.e., MA, MS, MBA and executive programs) that can be found here.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply for the neuroeconomics graduate program at NYU?

There is no graduate program in ‘Neuroeconomics’ at NYU. But it is important to note that this is not an accident. We believe that scholars who wish to work in neuroeconomics need to have primary expertise in a more traditional discipline before they specialize in our area. For this reason students interested in neuroeconomics are encouraged to apply to either the PhD programs in Neuroscience, Psychology, Economics or the Stern School of Business depending on their primary area of interest. Students interested in neuroscience can visit NYU’s Neuroscience Institute’s website to find out more about the neuroscience doctoral program. Until recently, there were two neural science doctoral programs to which prospective neuroscience students could apply: one in the Center for Neural Science, and one in the Sackler Institute at the School of Medicine. The application process for these programs has now been merged, establishing a single online application and set of academic requirements and research and training opportunities for all neuroscience students. For details regarding the application process and how students can decide which neuroscience program (if any) they prefer, please visit NYU’s Neuroscience Institute’s website. Students interested in pursuing a PhD in Psychology can apply to NYU’s Cognition & Perception program, which offers rigorous training in behavioral and cognitive neuroscience as well as neuroimaging techniques. NYU also offers a competitive PhD program in Social Psychology, which provides academic and research training to study individual and group behavior. Students interested in pursuing decision-making research in this program would apply through the Social Psychology department and select a lab mentor that collaborates with IISDM faculty to facilitate their research training in neuroeconomics. Economics PhD applicants should review the application page of the Economics PhD program before applying to the PhD program. Each of the above programs (Neuroscience, Psychology, Economics) use a single online application through the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences found here. Individuals wishing to apply to one of the eight Ph.D. programs in the Stern School of Business should apply through the Stern Ph.D. application website.

What is the background needed for each program?

Neural Science is particularly appropriate for those considering animal research in decision-making. Competitive applicants to that department usually have a strong background in biological sciences (preferably neuroscience or a related field), ample research experience, and a command of mathematics beyond the level of calculus. Psychology’s Cognition and Perception and Social Psychology Ph.D. programs are research-based programs, therefore applicants with a strong research background or experience in cognitive neuroscience or social psychology are encouraged to apply. This program is particularly appropriate for those considering functional imaging research in humans. The Economics department is particularly appropriate for those considering theoretical studies as the core of their future work. Unlike Neuroscience and Psychology, to gain admission to this top-level department, applicants are not required to have a background in research, but are expected to have training in economics and possess very strong quantitative skills. Applicants to the PhD program in economics should read the FAQs section of NYU’s Department of Economics for more details on background requirements for this program. To some extent, the background needed to have a competitive PhD application for at Stern will depend on the field of study chosen. However, applicants should generally have a strong academic record with excellent academic references from their previous institutions. Finally, an applicant’s personal statement should reflect critical and independent thinking about research topics and questions in their chosen field.

Can I attend the Neuroeconomics colloquium series?

Yes. The Neuroeconomics colloquium series is open to all scholars at NYU and surrounding institutions. To get into the Economics department building where the colloquium is held you will need identification of some kind. An ID from any area University or College is fine. If you do not have an ID of that kind, contact the IISDM office for help getting on campus.

My background is not in neuroscience, psychology, or economics. Can I still apply to the program? (When it comes to actual science, my background is informal. How much of a problem would this be?)

If you are planning to apply to the Economics department or the Stern School of Business this is not a terrible problem as long as you have very good grades, an excellent math GRE score and, for the Economics department, advanced training in mathematics. In Neural Science and Psychology this is more of a problem. Successful candidates in those departments nearly always have significant research experience either as undergraduates or as paid staff after their undergraduate degree is complete. While one does not need to have a degree in Neuroscience to get into the Neural Science program, an applicant does need to have an advanced undergraduate knowledge of Neuroscience for entry into this department. In a similar way, the Cognition and Perception Track and the Social Psychology Track in Psychology does expect students to have an advanced undergraduate familiarity with Cognitive Neuroscience or Social Psychology.

What classes will prepare me for the program (to be taken before applying)?

Neuroscience: Applicants to the Neuroscience program typically have at a strong background in fields related to neuroscience (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, psychology, computer science or engineering) and at least three semesters of undergraduate neurobiology. A combination of coursework in undergraduate neuroscience, intermediate microeconomics and calculus/mathematics is ideal to support neuroeconomic training though IISDM.

Psychology: Students seeking admission to the Psychology program may come from a broad range of academic backgrounds, but most have undergraduate degrees in psychology, cognitive or basic neuroscience, or computer science. Ideally, individuals will have at least three semesters of cognitive or basic

neuroscience, as well as training in statistics. Exposure to undergraduate microeconomics and at least than two semesters of calculus/mathematics is also helpful to facilitate interdisciplinary training in neuroeconomics.

Economics: Either an undergraduate degree in Economics, Math or a degree in a highly mathematical discipline. In terms of mathematical ability, applicants should have experience with high-level math courses, such as multivariate calculus, linear algebra, probability theory and statistics. Ideally, at least one semester of Introductory Neuroscience would be helpful to facilitate specialized training in neuroeconomics. The courses that will best prepare applicants seeking admission to the PhD program through Stern School of Business will depend on the field of study selected by the applicant. Nonetheless, having a background in social sciences, math or engineering is typically preferred. Students interested in learning more about what the admissions committee looks for in candidates can contact phd@stern.nyu.edu.

I would like to get research experience in Neuroeconomics. How should I go about finding opportunities?

In the greater New York Area there are two principal centers for neuroeconomic research: NYU’s Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Decision-Making and Columbia University’s Center for Decision Science. To find research opportunities go to the Faculty pages of both Centers and look through the profiles to find Faculty whose interests overlap with your own. Then, contact those faculty directly. Remember that younger faculty tend to be more open about having volunteers with less experience. Also be aware that new people tend to enter labs in the early Fall, so the middle of the summer is an ideal time to make contact. For summer internships, February is the time to start looking. Individuals interested in acquiring a paid research position through IISDM are encouraged to upload their current CV to the Research Assistant ad listing under the ‘Careers’ section of the IISDM website, which has a rolling submission process. IISDM faculty will have access to this resource to search for potential research interns, assistants or lab managers as positions become available.

Where can I find scientific literature about Neuroeconomics? (Journals or suggested readings?)

The standard textbook: Neuroeconomics, Decision-Making and the Brain, published by Academic Press, is probably a good place to start for anyone interested in neuroeconomics. Another good place to look is the website of the Society for Neuroeconomics. Academic articles come out in a number of different journals including: The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Nature, Science, Nature Neuroscience, Neuron, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, and The Journal of Neuroscience. More specialist journals with an emphasis on Neuroeconomics include: Frontiers in Decision Neuroscience, The Journal of Neuroscience, and The Journal of Economic Psychology.