Students enter the Program from different backgrounds and the laboratories in which they elect to work cover different disciplines; therefore the Program is tailored to fit the needs of individual students and courses are designed so that students have ample time to become involved in laboratory rotations.
The core curriculum is undertaken during the first year of graduate study. Starting in the 2002-2003 academic year, it will consist of a year long course called Neuroscience and Cognition I and II, which will provide not just a comprehensive, but an integrated introduction to neural function.
Neuroscience and Cognition I
1st and 2nd quarters
Course Director: Dr.Xinzhong Dong
This is the first half of a 4-quarter course on the cellular and molecular basis of neural function and the neural basis of perception, cognition, and behavior. Topics covered in this half include (1) development and structure of the nervous system, (2) cellular neurophysiology, (3) neural signaling and coding, and (4) audition, vocalization, and language. Lectures will be presented by faculty in the Neuroscience, Neurology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Cognitive Science departments. The course will also include discussion sections based on current literature and several neurotechniques sessions designed to familiarize students with current experimental approaches in cellular, systems, and molecular neuroscience. This course is required of all students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Students outside the program may take this course independent of Neuroscience and Cognition II. Prerequisites: Basic Cell and Molecular biology (may be taken concurrently) or permission from Course Directors. Most Recent Syllabus
Neuroscience and Cognition II
3rd and 4th quarters.
Course Directors: Dr. Jim Knierim
This is the second half of a 4-quarter course on the cellular and molecular basis of neural function and the neural basis of perception, cognition, and behavior. Topics covered in this half include (1) perception of objects, space, and self, (2) movement and balance, (3) learning and memory, (4) neurological and psychiatric disorders, and (5) global function in the nervous system. Lectures will be presented by faculty in the Neuroscience, Neurology, Biomedical Engineering, Psychology, and Cognitive Science Departments. The course will also have a laboratory component. This course is required of all students in the Neuroscience Graduate Program. Students outside the program may take this course independent of Neuroscience and Cognition I with permission from Course Directors. Prerequisites: Basic Cell and Molecular biology (may be taken concurrently) or permission from Course Directors. Most Recent Syllabus
Science, Ethics and Society
First and Second Quarter, every year
Course Director: Marshall Hussain Shuler
Science as a profession has undergone radical changes in the last decade. Central issues include mentoring, misconduct in science, preparedness of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows for careers in science, and the career choices currently available. To this end, this course will focus on mentoring and issues of ethics and scientific misconduct. Preparedness for a career in science issues will be discussed in the context of funding currently available to scientists and preparation strategies involved in grant writing. In addition, methods of oral presentation and slide preparation will be discussed. Most Recent Announcement
In addition to the core courses and a statistics course, each student selects advanced electives offered by members of the Neuroscience Training Program or other departments at the Medical School. Students in the Neuroscience Training Program are required to complete five elective courses by the end of their second year. These may be a combination of small seminar-style elective courses in neuroscience, listed below, and advanced courses in other fields relevant to their research interests, such as molecular biology, genetics, immunology, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, biostatistics, pharmacology, physiology, anatomy and computer science.
First quarter, every other year
|Classical studies elucidating the mechanisms of action of psychoactive substances led to seminal discoveries about how the brain works. Conversely, our ability to exploit modern advances in molecular neurobiology to treat neurological and psychiatric diseases will depend on successful development of new drugs based on these findings.|
The instructors present an overview of the mechanisms of action of several, widely used drug classes and the broad range of methods used to elucidate their effects on the brain. Furthermore, students present papers describing recent advances in this dynamic field of research. Most Recent Announcement
Trends in the Neurobiology of Aging
Course Director: Mark Mattson
First quarter, every other year.
As the average lifespan of humans increases, age-related dysfunction of the nervous system, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, are becoming major concerns in our society. Recent advances in understanding the molecular and cellular underpinnings of nervous system aging and neurodegenerative disorders will be the focus of this course. Emerging findings of genetic and environmental factors that either promote successful brain aging or predispose to age-related neurological disorders, and elucidation of their underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms, will be emphasized. The course will consist of several introductory lectures and subsequent sessions in which hot topics in the field are discussed. Most Recent Announcement
Topics in Cortical Plasticity
Experience-dependent changes in cortical synapses and circuits are critical for proper development of the nervous system and for memory storage. This course will focus on recent findings on fundamental mechanisms of plasticity from synapses to circuit level through discussions of recent research papers. Grades will be based on student presentations and participation. Most Recent Announcement
Course Director: Stewart Hendry
First and Second Quarter, every year.
From outer segments of photoreceptors to the Fusiform Face Area of the cerebral cortex we have come to understand how the visual system works at each of many fundamental levels. This course examines the basis for perception of visible objects at each of these levels. We will use the secondary literature (scientific reviews) to accent the hard-won truths about visual system functional organization and to highlight ongoing controversies. Students will be lead through carefully chosen reviews in a series of lectures and written summaries prepared by faculty. Three exams and a final exam will test students not on their memorization of minutiae but on their understanding of fundamental principles. Most Recent Announcement
Structure and Function of the Auditory and Vestibular Systems
First and Second Quarter, even numbered years
Prereqs: an introduction to neuroscience. Recommended: familiarity with signal theory. Brain mechanisms and perception of sound and balance. This course is an accompaniment for 580.625, although the courses can be taken in either order. Topics include representation of sound and balance in neural discharge patterns, anatomy of the central auditory and vestibular systems, synaptic transmission and signal processing in central neurons, and complex sound perception and movement control. Aspects such as speech perception, sound localization, vestibular reflexes and vestibular compensation are discussed with an integrated perspective covering perceptual, physiological, and mechanistic data. Taught at the School of Medicine. Class size limited to 25. Most Recent Announcement
Structure and Function of the Auditory and Vestibular Periphery
First and Second Quarter, odd-numbered years
Prereqs: an introduction to neuroscience. This course will cover basic mechanisms and functions of the inner ear and brainstem. This is a companion course and alternates with 580.626, although these can be taken in either order. The focus is on transmission and transduction of sound and head movements by the auditory and vestibular periphery. Topics include: cellular and molecular mechanisms of mechanotransduction, synaptic signaling and development, primary afferents and the first-order brainstem nuclei, as well as clinical consequences of peripheral damage. Taught at the School of Medicine. Class size limited to 25. Most Recent Announcement
Physiology of Sensory Transduction
Neuroscience Career Skills
Course Director: Amy Bastian
Third and Fourth quarter, every other year
This course is intended for Neuroscience Program graduate students who are in their fourth year or beyond. There will be ten sessions, and each session we will include one or more invited discussion leaders. This is a pass/fail course and every participant is required to take it for credit. A grade of pass or fail will be decided based on attendance. Most Recent Announcement
Neurobiology of Substance Use Disorders
Third Quarter, every other year
Recent progress in basic and clinical neurobiology has helped to identify specific cellular and molecular mechanisms that are involved in the development and maintenance of drug-taking behaviors. Similarly, clinical studies have identified behavior patterns and brain structures that are relevant to drug addiction. The purpose of this course is to provide an overview of the neural circuitries and of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the addictive process. The lecturers will also provide an overview of the clinical presentations and course of substance use disorders. Lectures will be primarily provided by senior addictions researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Intramural Research Program. The course will consist of 13 lectures given over a period of 8 weeks, with 2 hourly lectures per week. Topics will include the amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and designer drugs. Grading will be primarily based upon a mid-term and final examination. Most Recent Announcement
Stem cells: Unit of Development and Unit of Regeneration
Course Directors: Guo-li Ming and Hongjun Song
Third quarter, every other year
This is a seminar and reading course devoted to the discussion of different type of stem cells. The course is designed to give a broad view of mammalian stem cells. The topics will range from pluripotent stem cells (embryonic stem cells and embryonic germ cells) to multipotent somatic stem cells (in brain, heart, blood, etc.) during development as well as in adult. We will cover the basic biology of these stem cells as well as bioengineering and application of these stem cells to potential treatments of human diseases. This elective course is limited to 20 (25) students. Most Recent Announcement
Writing About the Brain
Course Director: David Linden
ME:440.723 - Third Quarter, every other year
(First offered January 2012)
The goal of this course is to train neuroscientists to effectively and clearly communicate ideas about nervous system function to a general audience. Students shall read and analyze writings about neuroscience and shall interact with established science writers. More importantly, they shall develop, research and write both news and feature-length stories that shall be presented, critiqued and revised each week in a workshop format. Enrollment limited to 10 students.
Prerequisites: Neuroscience and Cognition I and approval of instructor
Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience
Course Director: Ernst Niebur
One quarter course, offered all year
Topics of theoretical neuroscience and computational neuroscience will
be discussed based on the original literature. Students are expected
to actively participate in the discussion and also to present selected
material to the class. Open to graduate students and postdocs and advanced undergraduates. Instructor's permission required. Most Recent Announcement
Cellular and Molecular Biology of Photoreceptors in Health
Course Director: Don Zack
Co-Sponsered by Wilmer Eye Institute and Dept. of Neuroscience.
Third Quarter, every other year
The course will present a multidisciplinary approach to the biology and pathology of photoreceptor cells. The first block of lectures will discuss the development, organization, cell biology and biochemistry of photoreceptor cells, and the metabolic bases of their susceptibility to injury; emphasis will be on vertebrate photoreceptors, but contributions from studies with invertebrates will also be included. The next block will be devoted to the photoreceptor microenvironment, including retinal pigment epithelial and Muller cells, the interphotoreceptor matrix, trophic factors and retinoids, light, oxygen and neuromodulators. The third block will be devoted to photoreceptor physiology, including the visual cycle, phototransduction, dark adaptation, spectral sensitivity and color mixture, electroretinography, and rod and cone response dynamics. The next section, dealing with pathology of photoreceptors and related outer retinal structures, will cover some hereditary diseases of known genetic origin, such as retinitis pigmentosa, gyrate atrophy, and abnormalities of color vision, as well as hereditary photoreceptor dystrophies of unknown origin. One lecture will be devoted to strategies for the search for genetic defects responsible for these diseases. After a discussion of macular degeneration and retinal detachment, the last block of lectures will review recent progress in the search for preventive and therapeutic approaches for these diseases, including the development of animal models, gene therapy, transplantation techniques, possible uses of stem cell therapy, and growth factor administration. Most Recent Announcement
The Hypothalamus: The Brain's Master Homeostat
Third Quarter, every other year
The hypothalamus is the central regulator of a broad range of homeostatic behaviors essential to survival, and plays a key role in controlling emotional and appetitive behaviors. This course offers an overview of both historical and recent work on this vital brain region. Topics covered will include the evolution and development of the hypothalamus, control of circadian rhythms and sleep, regulation of hunger and body temperature, as well as hypothalamic regulation of sexual, defensive, and affiliative behavior. Each class will include 10-15 minutes of introductory lecture, followed by in-class discussion of 2 relevant recent papers. The final grade will be based on class participation and one 6-page review article or mock grant proposal on any related topic. An optional lecture on good grant writing practices will also be offered. Students must have completed Neuroscience Cognition I and II or have permission of instructors. Maximum enrollement of 15 students. Most Recent Announcement
Current Issues in Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience
Course Director: Jim Knierim
Fourth Quarter, every year
The brain is an information processing system without parallel. It excels at recognizing objects and substances, reconstructing space, analyzing sound environments, controlling complex behaviors, and storing a lifetime's worth of events and experiences. The neural mechanisms underlying these abilities are studied by a large community of systems and cognitive neuroscientists. This research has generated a rapidly evolving field of high-profile discoveries and lively debates between competing laboratories. This course aims to convey a clear sense of this field by focusing on current experimental and conceptual controversies regarding organization and function in the vertebrate nervous system. Each week will focus on a different topic represented by two or more recent papers (selected by an instructor) reflecting opposing points of view. Students will present the papers informally and direct a debate over the relative merits of the conflicting viewpoints. The quarter-long course will be divided into 2-3 week sections covering different sensory, motor, or cognitive systems, in addition to computational neuroscience. There will be one 2-hour debate each week, and participation in the 1-hour Systems Journal Club (Readings in Systems Neuroscience, ME440.810) will also be required. Most Recent Announcement
Mechanisms of Synaptic Transmission
A seminar and reading course devoted to the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic transmission and the regulation of synaptic plasticity. The structure and function of neurotransmitter receptors, ion channels and synaptic vesicle proteins will be discussed. In addition, the molecular mechanisms involved in the control of synaptic transmission such as the trans-synaptic regulation of the function and expression of synaptic proteins will be examined. Most Recent Announcement
Brain diseases: Neurodevelopmental Diseases
Course Directors: Christopher Ross and Daniel Weinberger
Fourth quarter, every other year, beginning Spring 2014
The course will consider the emerging unity of approaches and concepts in understanding a range of brain diseases such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and related disorders. Genetic mutations or risk factors for many of these diseases are beginning to illuminate pathogenesis, and genetic relationships among the diseases are beginning to change our thinking about diagnostic categories. Interactions among protein or RNA products of genes mutated in each disease may help establish pathogenic pathways. Environmental influences also appear to be important, including possible roles of infection and immunity. Schizophrenia and related adult onset disorders appear to be caused by mechanisms involving neurodevelopment, whose major consequences are most visible during adulthood. Cell and mouse models are increasingly central for understanding pathogenesis and developing novel therapeutics. For all the disorders, it is possible to conceive of a unified understanding ranging from molecular manifestations to systems neurobiology. Ultimately, the goal is to devise rationale disease-modifying treatments. Lectures by experts in each disease will be followed by student-led discussions critically reviewing current literature. Discussions will focus on strengths and limitations of current models, controversies about mechanisms, unresolved research questions, and potential paths to therapeutics. Student participation will include leading and participating in discussions of papers and writing a research proposal using an abbreviated NIH grant format on any topic related to the course.
Brain diseases: Neurodegenerative Diseases
Course Directors: Christopher Ross and Jeffrey Rothstein
Fourth quarter, every other year, beginning Spring 2015
The course will provide an in-depth examination of the biology of the classic neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, ALS and Alzheimer's disease, and other diseases may be considered depending on student and faculty interest. All involve toxicity or death of neurons. Rare genetic varients of many of the neurodegenerative diseases have greatly illuminated the more common, apparently sporadic, forms. Interactions among protein products of genes mutated in each disease are helping establish pathogenic pathways. Inflammation and metabolic stress are other common themes, and environmental contributions, possibly involving toxins, are important for some diseases. Cell and mouse models are increasingly central for understanding pathogensis and several diseases, though the exact mechanisms and relation to cell death are controversial. It is increasingly possible to conceive of a unified understanding ranging from molecular manifestations to systems neurobiology. Ultimately the goal is to devise rational disease-modifying treatments. Lectures by experts in each disease will be followed by student- led discussions critically reviewing current literature. Discussions will focus on strengths and limitations of current models, controversies about mechanisms, unresolved research questions, and potential paths to therapeutics. Student participation will include leading and participating in discussions of papers, and writing a research proposal, using an abbreviated NIH grant format, on any tpoic related to the coruse.
Topics in Somatosensory Research
Course Director: Steven Hsiao
Fourth quarter, every year
A seminar and reading course devoted to current research into information processing in the nervous system. Neural coding, the neural representation of images and information, and the neural mechanisms of pattern recognition, association, perception, memory and attention will be discussed. The investigation of information processing depends equally on psychophysical, neurophysiological and computational approaches; the course will draw from the literature in each of these areas. Most Recent Announcement
The Cellular and Molecular Basis of Neural Development
ME:440.705 (Development II) & ME:440.711 (Development I)
Fourth quarter, every year
A seminar and reading course devoted to the discussion of the cellular and molecular processes underlying neuronal development. Topics to be covered include neural induction, cell differentiation, neurotrophic factors and their mechanism of action, mechanisms of axonal growth and guidance, target recognition and synapse formation, and the basis of synaptic specificity. Students must have completed Neuroscience Cognition I and II. Most Recent Development I Announcement, Most Recent Development II Announcement
The Retinal Ganglion Cell
Course Director: Nick Marsh-Armstrong
Fourth Quarter, every other year
The course will focus on one cell type, the retinal ganglion cell (RGC). From the perspective of cell biology, developmental biology, physiology and pathobiology, RGCs share many features with other projection neurons, including a susceptibility to disease. Thus, this course will be directed not only at students who study the retina, but also to neurobiology students who want to take an in depth and wholistic look at all aspects of neurobiology pertaining to one particular neuron. The course will take a comprehensive approach to understanding from a cellular and molecular perspective all aspects about the life and death of RGCs. First, the course will cover the structure and function of RGCs: anatomy, morphology, and physiology or RGCs, focusing on the diversity of RGC subtypes and their interaction with various glial cells. Second, the course will cover the development of RGCs: how they are specified, how they differentiate, how they sprout processes, how their axons reach central targets, and RGC dependence on trophic support for survival. The third part of the course will focus of diseases affecting retinal ganglion cells, focusing principally on glaucoma, but also covering other optic neuropathies as well as the response of RGCs to axotomy. This disease section will draw similarities to other neurodegenerations, and will integrate information regarding the structure/function as well as development parts of the course.
The course will have the format of lectures on Mondays by experts in the field, followed by student led discussions on Wednesdays. The discussions will encourage students to critically evaluate the literature, to assess the strength and weaknesses offered by various hypotheses, and to identify important gaps in our current knowledge about these important cells.