Courses

NSCI 201(F)Neuroscience

A study of the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. Topics include a survey of the structure and function of the nervous system, basic neurophysiology, development, learning and memory, sensory and motor systems, consciousness and clinical disorders such as schizophrenia, autism, Parkinson's disease, and addiction. The laboratory focuses on current topics in neuroscience. [ more ]

NSCI 213(F)Sensory Biology

What properties of the physical world do organisms sense, and which ones do they ignore? How do they convert physical or chemical energy to a signal within a cell? We will look for answers to these questions by investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of sensory transduction--and how these mechanisms define the types of information that the nervous system extracts and encodes. We will also ask how natural selection shapes the type of sensory information that animals extract from the world. Some of the examples we will consider are: bat echolocation (hair cells in the ear), detecting visual motion (amacrine cells in the retina), the constant reshaping of the mammalian olfactory system (chemical mapping of odors), what makes a touch stimulus noxious (in worms and mice), enhanced color vision (in birds, bees, and shrimp), and differences in the way males and females sense odors (pheromones and the vomeronasal organ). Laboratory exercises will cover a range of techniques, including electrophysiological recording, the role of mutations in single genes, and behavioral assays. [ more ]

NSCI 310Neural Development and Plasticity

Last offered Fall 2016

Development can be seen as a tradeoff between genetically-determined processes and environmental stimuli. The tension between these two inputs is particularly apparent in the developing nervous system, where many events must be predetermined, and where plasticity, or altered outcomes in response to environmental conditions, is also essential. Plasticity is reduced as development and differentiation proceed, and the potential for regeneration after injury or disease in adults is limited; however some exceptions to this rule exist, and recent data suggest that the nervous system is not hard-wired as previously thought. In this course we will discuss the mechanisms governing nervous system development, from relatively simple nervous systems such as that of the fruitfly, to the more complicated nervous systems of humans, examining the roles played by genetically specified programs and non-genetic influences. [ more ]

NSCI 311(F)Neural Systems and Circuits

This course will examine the functional organization of the vertebrate brain, emphasizing both neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. How do specific populations of neurons and their connections analyze sensory information, form perceptions of the external and internal environment, make cognitive decisions, and execute movements? How does the brain produce feelings of reward/motivation and aversion/pain? How does the brain regulate homeostatic functions such as sleep, food intake, and thirst? We will explore these questions using a holistic, integrative approach, considering molecular/cellular mechanisms, physiological characterizations of neurons, and connectivity among brain systems. Laboratory sessions will provide experience in examining macroscopic and microscopic neural structures, as well as performing experiments to elucidate the structure and function of neural systems using classical and cutting-edge techniques. [ more ]

NSCI 313(S)Opioids and the Opioid Crisis: The Neuroscience Behind an Epidemic

Opioid misuse, including addiction, has emerged as a major health epidemic in the United States. This course will explore the science of opioids as well as the historical and societal context surrounding their use and abuse. We will examine the neurobiological mechanisms through which opioids interact with pain pathways and reward circuits within the brain and we will explore how changes in these systems contribute to opioid tolerance, dependence, and addiction. We will consider how genetic, environmental and behavioral factors can powerfully influence these processes. Finally, we will consider alternative approaches to pain management as well as interventions for the treatment of opioid abuse. Students will be expected to design and conduct an empirical project related to the course material. Critical evaluation of peer-reviewed primary literature from animal and human studies will serve as a foundation for class discussions. Evaluation will be based on class presentations, participation in discussions and empirical projects, written assignments, and a poster presentation of the empirical project. [ more ]

NSCI 314(S)Drug Addiction and Obesity: Tales of a Disordered Brain

Drug addiction and obesity are two of the biggest health problems facing our world today. Although obesity and drug addiction are two qualitatively different disorders, recent literature suggests that they share similar neural substrates. The first third of this class will discuss the behavioral and neural underpinnings of drug addiction, the second third of this class will discuss the behavioral and neural underpinnings of obesity, and the last third of the class will discuss their interaction in many different facets. In so doing, students will learn about the animal models used to study drug addiction and obesity (i.e., intravenous self-administration, intracranial self-stimulation, conditioned place preference, conditioned taste avoidance, and locomotor sensitization) and the neurobiological techniques used to understand their underlying mechanisms (i.e., DREADDs, optogenetics, and immunohistochemistry). Utilizing these tools, students will design and conduct an empirical laboratory experiment to study these dysregulated behaviors. [ more ]

NSCI 315Hormones and Behavior

Last offered Fall 2018

In all animals, hormones are essential for the coordination of basic functions such as development and reproduction. This course studies the dynamic relationship between hormones and behavior. We will review the mechanisms by which hormones act in the nervous system. We will also investigate the complex interactions between hormones and behavior. Specific topics to be examined include: sexual differentiation; reproductive and parental behaviors; stress; aggression; and learning and memory. Students will critically review data from both human and animal studies. All students will design and conduct an empirical research project as part of a small research team. [ more ]

NSCI 317 TNature via Nurture: Topics in Developmental Psychobiology

Last offered Spring 2019

Do your genes determine who you are? This course examines the relative contributions of nature (genetics) and nurture (the environment) that lead to individual differences in behavior. Modern neuroscience techniques have discovered new relationships between genes and behavior. Conversely, recent studies on the effects of social factors suggest critical environmental influences on the expression of these genetic determinants. This tutorial will explore the theoretical and empirical issues in animal models of behavioral epigenetics. Topics include child neglect, antisocial behavior, addiction, anxiety, risk-taking, empathy, and depression. Each tutorial pair will design and conduct an empirical laboratory project that will explore their own experimental question about the interaction of genes and environment in determining behavioral phenotypes. [ more ]

NSCI 319 T(F, S)Neuroethics

Neuroscience studies the brain and mind, and thereby some of the most profound aspects of human existence. In the last decade, advances in our understanding of brain function and in our ability to manipulate brain function have raised significant ethical challenges. This tutorial will explore a variety of important neuroethical questions. Potential topics will include pharmacological manipulation of "abnormal" personality; the use of "cosmetic pharmacology" to enhance cognition; the use of brain imaging to detect deception or to understand the ability, personality or vulnerability of an individual; the relationship between brain activity and consciousness; manipulation of memories; the neuroscience of morality and decision making. In addition to exploring these and other ethical issues, we will explore the basic science underlying them. [ more ]

NSCI 342Neural and Hormonal Basis of Hunger

Last offered Spring 2018

Hunger and satiety are highly regulated behavioral states that maintain energy homeostasis in animals. This course will focus on readings from the primary literature to track numerous recent advances in how the brain and endocrine systems regulate appetite. Topics include how organ systems communicate with the brain to regulate appetite, how different populations of neurons in the brain interact to regulate appetite, how brain systems that regulate appetite affect other behaviors, and how the neural and hormonal basis of hunger compare with brain systems that regulate other homeostatic systems such as thirst. By tracing the advances in appetite regulation within the past decade, we will also trace the advent of cutting-edge molecular, genetic, and optical-based tools that are transforming multiple fields within physiology and neuroscience. Students in this class will have the opportunity to improve skills in written and oral scientific presentation. [ more ]

NSCI 347(S)Neurobiology of Emotion

Emotion is influenced and governed by a number of neural circuits and substrates, and emotional states can be influenced by experience, memory, cognition, and many external stimuli. We will read and discuss articles about mammalian neuroanatomy associated with emotion as defined by classic lesion studies, pharmacology, electrophysiology, fMRI imaging, knockout mouse studies, as well as new opti-genetic methods for investigating neural circuit function in order to gain an understanding of the central circuits and neurotransmitter systems that are implicated in emotional processing and mood disorders. [ more ]

NSCI 401(F)Topics in Neuroscience

Neuroscientists explore issues inherent in the study of brain and behavior. The overall objective of this seminar is to create a culminating senior experience in which previous course work in specific areas in the Neuroscience Program can be brought to bear in a synthetic, interdisciplinary approach to understanding complex problems. The specific goals for students in this seminar are to evaluate original research and critically examine the experimental evidence for theoretical issues in the discipline. Topics and instructional formats will vary somewhat from year to year, but in all cases the course will emphasize an integrative approach in which students will be asked to consider topics from a range of perspectives including molecular, cellular, systems, behavioral and clinical neuroscience. Previous topics have included autism, depression, stress, neurogenesis, novel neuromodulators, language, retrograde messengers, synaptic plasticity, and learning and memory. [ more ]

NSCI 493(F)Senior Thesis: Neuroscience

Neuroscience senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). Independent research for two semesters and a winter study under the guidance of one or more neuroscience faculty. After reviewing the literature in a specialized field of neuroscience, students design and conduct an original research project, the results of which are reported in a thesis. Senior thesis work is supervised by the faculty participating in the program. [ more ]

NSCI 494(S)Senior Thesis: Neuroscience

Neuroscience senior thesis; this is part of a full-year thesis (493-494). Independent research for two semesters and a winter study under the guidance of one or more neuroscience faculty. After reviewing the literature in a specialized field of neuroscience, students design and conduct an original research project, the results of which are reported in a thesis. Senior thesis work is supervised by the faculty participating in the program. [ more ]