Courses

NSCI 201(F) LEC Neuroscience

This course is designed to give an overview of the field of neuroscience progressing from a molecular level onwards to individual neurons, neural circuits, and ultimately regulated output behaviors of the nervous system. Topics include a survey of the structure and function of the nervous system, basic neurophysiology and neurochemistry, development, learning and memory, sensory and motor systems, and clinical disorders. Throughout the course, many examples from current research in neuroscience are used to illustrate the concepts being considered. The lab portion of the course will emphasize a) practical hands-on exercises that amplify the material presented in class; b) interpreting and analyzing data; c) presenting the results in written form and placing them in the context of published work; and d) reading and critiquing scientific papers. [ more ]

NSCI 209(F) TUT Animal Communication

Animal communication systems come in as many varieties as the species that use them. What they have in common are a sender that encodes information into a physical signal and a receiver that senses the signal, extracts the information, and adjusts its subsequent behavior accordingly. This tutorial will consider all aspects of communication, using different animal systems to explore different aspects of the biology of signaling. Topics will include the use of syntax to carry meaning in chickadee calls, synchronous signaling by fireflies, gestural communication by primates, long-distance chemical attractants that allow male moths to find the object of their desire, and cultural evolution within learned signaling systems. [ more ]

NSCI 310 LEC Neural 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 LEC Neural Systems and Circuits

Last offered Fall 2020

This course will examine the functional organization of the mammalian brain, emphasizing both neuroanatomy and neurophysiology. How do specific populations of neurons and their connections encode 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 nervous system 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. Journal article discussions will complement course topics, providing experience in reading, understanding, and critiquing primary research papers. Writing an original literature review article will provide experience in expository writing and anonymous peer review. 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 312 LEC Sensory Biology

Last offered Fall 2022

How do animals sense properties of the physical world? How do they convert physical or chemical energy to a signal within a cell that carries information? How is that information represented? What are the limits on what can be sensed? We will look for answers to these questions by investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of sensory transduction and how these mechanisms constrain the types of information that the nervous system encodes and processes. We will also ask how natural selection shapes the type of sensory information that animals extract from the world, and what adaptations allow some species to have "special" senses. Some of the examples we will consider are: bat echolocation (hair cells in the ear), detecting visual motion (amacrine cells in the mammalian retina), the constant reshaping of the olfactory system (chemical mapping of odors), what makes a touch stimulus noxious, and enhanced color vision (in birds, bees, and shrimp). Laboratory exercises will focus on the nematode C. elegans, an important model system, to explore and extend how we understand touch, temperature sensation, chemosensation, and light sensation. [ more ]

NSCI 313(F) SEM 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. 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 use disorder. 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 written assignments. [ more ]

NSCI 314 SEM Learning and Memory in Health and Disease

Last offered Spring 2023

This class will examine the neuroscientific basis of different types of learning and memory (such as declarative memory, motor memory, and associative memory), including the brain circuits, cellar mechanisms, and signaling pathways that mediate these different processes. In addition, we will explore how these processes can be disrupted in different diseases and disorders (such as Alzheimer's disease or post-traumatic stress disorder) and we will discuss the strategies and targets for therapeutic intervention. Class meetings will include a mix of lectures, discussions, and student presentations. Critical evaluation of peer-reviewed studies involving both human and animal models will serve as a foundation for class discussions. Working in small teams, students will also design and conduct an empirical project related to the course material. [ more ]

Taught by: Shannon Moore

Catalog details

NSCI 315 LEC Hormones 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 316 SEM Neuroscience of Decision-Making

Last offered Spring 2024

Humans are constantly making decisions: big and small, conscious and unconscious. This seminar will explore different aspects of the decision-making process, including (1) the algorithms for decision-making, (2) the neurological basis of decision-making and (3) the psychological, social, and physiological factors that influence our decision-making. We will examine how scientific approaches can help us understand complex social issues related to decision making. For example: how can stereotypes be understood as a failure in belief updating; how does confirmation bias lead to partisanship; and how to think of xenophobia from the "explore-exploit trade-off" perspective? In this course, we will explore how the brain and its neural networks contribute to these phenomena. The laboratory component of the course will introduce the research tools for studying different aspects of decision-making, including experimental paradigms, computational models and methods of analysis. Students will apply these tools to collaboratively design and conduct behavioral experiments and will analyze neural recording data to understand the relationship between neural activity and decision-making behaviors. Over the course of the semester, students will have the opportunity to develop skills in computer programming to better understand computational models and data analysis. [ more ]

NSCI 319(S) TUT 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 322(S) SEM From Order to Disorder(s): The Role of Genes & the Environment in Psychopathology

This course examines how experimental methods in neuroscience can be used to understand the role of nature (genes) and nurture (the environment) in shaping the brain and behavior. In particular, we will explore how neuroscience informs our understanding of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. We will investigate the biological underpinning of these disorders as well as their treatments. Readings will include human studies as well as work based on animal models. Topics will include: the ways in which environmental and genetic factors shape risk and resiliency in the context of psychiatric disease, the neural circuits and peripheral systems that contribute to psychopathology, and the mechanisms through which interventions may act. In the laboratory component of the course, students will gain hands-on experience in using animal models to study complex behavior and their associated neural mechanisms. [ more ]

NSCI 324(S) LEC Neuroethology

How does an animal experience its environment? What mechanisms allow an animal to select and generate behaviors? In this course we will use a comparative approach to examine how nervous systems have evolved to solve problems inherent to an animal's natural environment. We will discuss how animals sense physical and chemical properties of their surroundings and convert this information to a signal encoded in their brain. We will explore how nervous systems of diverse species are adapted to extract sensory information that is relevant to their survival--such as sound, light, and smell. We will also examine how neural circuits control muscles to generate motor behaviors such as locomotion and vocalization and how sensory information is integrated to influence behavior. To highlight the discovery process, we will read and discuss primary research articles that complement course content. During labs we will use a variety of approaches such as electrophysiology, optogenetics, behavior, and data analysis to understand sensory and motor systems in several different organisms. [ more ]

NSCI 342 SEM Neural 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 SEM Neurobiology of Emotion

Last offered Spring 2024

Emotion is influenced and governed by a number of neural circuits and substrates, and emotional states can be influenced by 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 and optogenetic mouse studies, for investigating neural circuit function in order to gain an understanding of the central circuits and neurotransmitter systems that are implicated in emotional processing. We will focus initially on the neural circuits involved in fear, as a model for how human and animal emotion and physiology is studied, with special sessions on emotional responses to music and art, as well as discussions about burgeoning neurobiological research into the emotion of disgust. The larger goal of the course is to give students opportunities and experience in critical evaluation and discussion of primary scientific literature, and to develop and refine strategies on how to use scientific evidence in building arguments in essays. [ more ]

NSCI 401(F) SEM 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 455 SEM Neural Regeneration

Last offered Spring 2021

Injury to the human nervous system can cause lasting impairment, but non-mammalian animals have prodigious capacity to regenerate neurons, regrow axons, and repair scars. What accounts for these differences? Regeneration can occur in multiple modes: replacement of injured neurons, repairs such as axonal regrowth to reconnect to a target structure, or repurposing existing neurons for new tasks through neural plasticity. We will explore the molecular foundations that underlie neuronal proliferation, neural plasticity, and inflammatory responses. We will consider the potential for translating these findings to inform treatments for humans who suffer from neural injury or neurodegenerative disease. Class discussions will focus on readings from the primary literature. [ more ]

NSCI 493(F) HON 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) HON 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 ]