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What Is the Relationship between Cognitive Science and Neuroscience?

Megan Shoop
Megan Shoop

Cognitive science and neuroscience are two separate fields of study related to the brain. Though each have their own scope of research and development, there are many places where these areas intertwine and overlap. The combination of these two sciences is sometimes called cognitive neuroscience. Scientists who study cognitive science and neuroscience together typically have backgrounds in psychology and biology. Cognitive neuroscience, as the combination is called, studies how cognition and cerebral processes affect the workings in the central nervous system of the brain.

Neuroscience primarily studies the nervous system, focusing on how signals are passed from the nerve endings to the brain. Scientists then look at how these signals affect different brain areas. The general point of neuroscience is to discover which areas of the brain are connected to which parts of the body. Many neuroscientists also study where and how emotions, memories, personality traits, and other kinds of information are stored.

Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Through this research, neuroscience seeks to discover exactly how the nervous system works and how problems occur. Experiments with the nervous system may involve changing it temporarily to see how volunteers react and how their brain functions are affected. Such studies can also help the medical field develop treatments for nerve and brain disorders.

Generally, cognitive science studies cognition, or how new information is absorbed and processed in the brain. Such investigations can span the fields of psychology and physiology in areas like behavior and the processing of language, perception, reason, and emotion. Experiments are often done with memory-strengthening exercises, music, and different kinds of intelligence. Cognitive science and neuroscience are both interested in where and how the brain stores information, they just use the information differently.

Many scientists agree that cognitive science and neuroscience come together naturally in many instances. For example, if a cognitive scientist understands how information is processed in the brain, a neuroscientist may expand on that information by discovering how the information gets there to begin with. When working together, cognitive science and neuroscience conflate biological responses with psychology, to discover why some mental disorders exist at all.

Possibly the most important way cognitive science and neuroscience come together is in the field of medicine. Brain tumors, surgeries, head trauma, and psychological disorders may all affect the brain in some way. Neuroscientists can discover if there is any damage present and may decide what to do about it. Meanwhile, cognitive scientists may develop therapies and methods for retrieving lost information and healing tissue damage in the brain. Though they occasionally compete, cognitive science and neuroscience often fit together as easily as clockwork gears.

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      Scientist with beakers