The department's evolution can be charted through three phases. The first phase started with Teuber and continued under Richard Held's leadership through the mid-80's, during which the department became the Department of Psychology and Brain Science to reflect its growing attention to neuroscience. In the second phase, which started in 1986 under the leadership of Emilio Bizzi, the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences was formed through the merger of the department with the neuroscience program of the Whitaker College of Health Sciences and Technology. The department's administrative home moved as well from the School of Humanities to the Whitaker College. A few years later, in 1993, the department became the newest member of MIT's School of Science, joining the departments of Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Mathematics and Physics.
The third and current phase commenced under the leadership of Mriganka Sur in 1998, and is marked by consolidation of the department's existing strengths together with expansion of key research areas, including molecular neuroscience and brain imaging. Two new neuroscience centers were envisioned and founded - the McGovern Institute for Brain Research in 2000, and the Picower Center for Learning and Memory in 2002. A significant number of the BCS faculty are investigators in one of these centers; in turn, new faculty members recruited through the centers have expanded the BCS roster significantly. The department, as well as the two centers, moved into a new building during the fall of 2005. All of these initiatives are in keeping with the ambition of BCS and of MIT to be a world leader in the study of the brain and mind.
Envisioned from the outset as an interdisciplinary department, BCS has continued to shape the frontiers of the rapidly evolving fields of molecular and cellular neuroscience, systems neuroscience, cognitive science, computation, and cognitive neuroscience. Today, at a time of increasing specialization and fragmentation, the department remains committed to its original goal of studying and understanding cognitive processes and brain mechanisms at multiple levels of analysis.