BIOL 31500

Spring 2013

Instructor - Jean Hardwick
Office - CNS 168
Phone - 274-3213
Email -
Office Hours: W 10-11:30 am, F 12:00-1:00 pm, or by appointment

MWF 9:00-9:50, CNS 333

W 12:00-12:50, CNS 1C

The current syllabus & additional materials, such as papers, will be available on Sakai.

Textbook:  Neuroscience, Purves, et al (2012) 5th edition.   

Goals of this course:
  1. To gain a general understanding of the organization and function of the nervous system
  2. To understand the cellular and molecular events that control neuronal function
  3. To understand how disruptions in these components lead to disease and impairment of neuronal function
  4. To develop your ability to read and understand current research in neuroscience
  5. To develop your ability to communicate current research in neuroscience through oral and written formats


Exams: 20% each

There will be three in class exams, as indicated on the syllabus.  These exams will be given on Wednesdays and will be divided into two parts – the first part will be given during the regular lecture hour, and the second part during the discussion hour.  These exams will test your general understanding of the material presented in lectures, as outlined in goals 1-3 above.

Paper Presentation:  15%

During the discussion sections we will be going over primary literature papers and current topics in neuroscience (goals 4 and 5 above).  Each student will be expected to help lead the discussion of one research paper during the semester (you will work in groups of three for this).  The goal is to discuss how current neuroscience research is done and to then put that research into context within society and its applications. The oral presentations will be graded based on both the individual student performance and the performance of the group as a whole. The expectations used for grading are outlined in the evaluation sheets which are available on the course Sakai site.

Discussion participation:  10%

Those students not presenting are still expected to read the papers prior to the class and come prepared to discuss them.  Every student not presenting must submit a minimum of two questions on Sakai prior to the class time.  You should bring a copy of your questions to class to use during the discussion.  One question can be related to the methods, but at least one question should be more general (i.e. related to background material, interpretation, or future directions). Class participation will be monitored in each discussion section and grades determined accordingly.  Students who do not actively participate in the discussion (i.e., do not ask questions) will lose points.

Written assignment:  20%

Each student will write a paper based on a non-fiction book related to the brain or brain function (goals 4 and 5 for the course).  A list of potential books is listed on Sakai, but you can choose a book not on the list with prior approval from me.  For this paper, you will read a book that is written for the general public and then apply your more advanced knowledge of the brain that you have acquired over the course of the semester.  Initial drafts of the paper will be peer-reviewed, and the final draft will be turned in to me on the final day of classes.  More details on this will be discussed in class. The grades for this section will include a grade of your paper as well as your peer reviews.  Each student will review two papers.


I do not take attendance in lecture. However, exams are based on the material presented in class, some of which is not included in the text.  Attendance at discussion sections is mandatory and points will be deducted for unexcused absences.

 Academic Honesty: 

All the work in this class must be your own, unless stated otherwise.  Confirmed instances of academic misconduct will result in a zero for that assignment or test, and referral to the school judiciary system. Please refer to the Student Handbook for a detailed description of the policies regarding student academic conduct.

 Students with Disabilities: 

 In compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Americans with Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodation will be provided to students with documented disabilities on a case-by-case basis.  Students must register with the Office of Academic Support Services for Students with Disabilities and provide the appropriate documentation to the College.  Before a student can expect to receive any academic adjustment, an accommodation plan from the Office of Academic Support Services must be provided to the professor.

Course Evaluations:

Student input is highly valued and is important to maintain high quality instruction. Course evaluations will be done on-line at the end of the semester.  The evaluation will be submitted to the Department Assistant (Nancy Pierce). She will verify that you have submitted the form.  Once that has been checked, your identification will be removed and will not be printed with the comments.  

Schedule -- tentative -- the current one is on Sakai


Lecture Topic



W 1/23

History of Neuroscience, neurons and glia

Chapter 1

Secret Life of the Brain

F 1/25

Gross anatomy of the brain and spinal cord

Appendix 717-721


M 1/28

Ventricular system, meninges 

Appendix 741-744


W 1/30

Resting membrane potential

Chapter 2

Secret Life of the Brain

F 2/1

Action potential, Voltage-clamping

Chapter 3


M 2/4

Voltage gated ion channels

Chapter 4


W 2/6

Action potential propagation


Spikerbox Demo

F 2/8

Other ion channels



M 2/11

Synaptic transmission

Chapter 5


W 2/13

Neurotransmitters: ACh

Chapter 6

Evolution of excitability – Guest lecture

F 2/15

Imaging – Guest lecture



M 2/18

Neurotransmitters: catecholamines ,serotonin



W 2/20




F 2/22

Neurotransmitters: amino acids; GABA



M 2/25

Neurotransmitters: peptides, nitric oxide



W 2/27

Early development of the nervous system

Chapter 22


F 3/1

Neuronal migration and differentiation 



M 3/4

Trophic factors and synapse formation 

Chapter 23


W 3/6

Depression (discussion and lecture switched)

Chapter 25

Axonal repair and regeneration

F 3/8

No class




Spring Break – no classes



M 3/18

Somatic sensation

Chapter 9


W 3/20


Chapter 10


F 3/22


Chapter 11


M 3/25

No class



W 3/27

Vision (cont)



F 3/29


Chapter 13


M 4/1


Chapter 14


W 4/3




F 4/5

Motor systems; Gamma motor neurons

Chapter 16


M 4/8

Reflex pathways



W 4/10

Motor cortex, basal ganglia

Chapter 17


F 4/12

Basal ganglia

Chapter 18


M 4/15

Huntington’s disease (discussion – not lecture)



W 4/17


Chapter 19

Spinal cord regeneration

F 4/19

Prion diseases

Peer reviews due


M 4/22

Learning and memory: Anatomy, Aplysia

 Chapter 8


W 4/24

L & M: Physiology in the hippocampus

Chapter 31

Alzhiemer’s Disease

F 4/26




M 4/29

Alzheimer’s disease



W 5/1




F 5/2

Emotions and the Limbic system

Chapter 29


M 5/6


Chapter 28


F 5/10

Final draft of papers due 10:30 AM



Discussion Papers

Feb 27th: Sleep Schöne, et al (2012). Optogenetic probing of fast glutamatergic transmission from hypocretin/orexin to histamine neurons in situ. J. Neurosci. 32: 12437-12443.

Mar 6th: Depression Hutchinson, et al (2012). Phosphorylation of MeDPs at Ser421 contributes to chronic antidepressant action. J. Neurosci. 32: 14355-14363.

Mar 20th: Schizophrenia Steinecke, et al (2012). Disrupted-in-Schizophrenia 1 (DISC1) is necessary for the correct migration of cortical interneurons.  J. Neurosci. 32: 738-745.

Mar 27th: Autism Arons, et al (2012). Autism-associated mutations in ProSAP2/Shank3 impair synaptic transmission and neurexin-neuroligin-mediated transsynaptic signaling.  J. Neurosci. 32: 14966­14978.

Apr 10th: Pain Tsantoulas et al (2012). Sensory neuron downregulation of the Kv9.1 potassium channel subunit mediates neuropathic pain following nerve injury. J. Neurosci. 32: 17502-17513.

Apr 15th: Huntington’s Disease Kwan, et al (2012). Bone marrow transplantation confers modest benefits in mouse models of Huntington’s Disease. J. Neurosci. 32: 133-142.

Apr 17th: Spinal Cord Regeneration Bhalala, et al (2012). microRNA-21 regulates astrocytic response following spinal cord injury. 

J. Neurosci. 32: 17935-17947.

Apr 24th: Alzheimer’s Disease Nath, et al (2012). Spreading of neurodegenerative pathology via neuron-to-neuron transmission of β-amyloid.  J. Neurosci. 32: 8767-8777.

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Last updated 1/16/2013