SPRING 2004 

  Tues & Thurs 
  10:20-11:35 am
   Foster Hall 201

  Instructor: Dr. Elba E. Serrano
  Associate Professor of Biology
  Ph.D., Stanford University

  Office & Office Hours:

 Foster Hall 337D
 Wed 12 noon -1 pm   (&  by  appointment)
 Contact the Instructor:
 Course Assistants:
Marti Morales  646-7432
Krisstal Clayton  646- 6214



  • STUDY AIDES( under construction)


Biology 490, Neurobiology, covers the fundamental principles that form the basis of our contemporary knowledge regarding the structure and function of the nervous system.  Neurobiology is an exciting discipline that aims to understand how the nervous system develops and functions normally, as well as the causes of neurological disorders. 

Neurobiologists are interested in the biological basis of human thought, behavior, and  emotion. The field is comprised of investigators using different approaches such as molecular biology, computer science, bioinformatics, engineering, anatomy, and psychology in attempts to understand how the brain works.  Neurobiology is a central area of modern biomedical research in part because one of five persons will experience a disorder of the nervous system at some point in their life. The course is designed to give the student a solid foundation in this complex and fascinating field.  

In the Spring of 2004, we will cover a broad spectrum of topics including neurogenetics, molecular and developmental neurobiology, ion channels and neurotransmitters, sensory systems and perception, human neuroanatomy, neural basis of memory and learning.   We will review the present status of research on diseases and disorders of the nervous system such as Alzheimers, schizophrenia, hearing loss, brain cancer, attention deficit disorder, epilepsy, spinal cord injury, and depression.  Recent advances in the Human Genome Project have raised important and controversial questions regarding the role of genes and the environment in behavior and disease that also will be explored in the course.

This course is particularly relevant for students seeking careers in biomedical fields such as medicine, neuroscience, pharmacology, and cancer research.  It also will be of interest to students interested in the biological basis of consciousness and with curiosity about how the mind works. 


Lectures will highlight key concepts from the textbook and readings on reserve in the Zuhl Library.  Students are responsible for mastering the concepts in the readings whether or not they are discussed in class by the instructor.  The instructor is available to discuss material from lectures and readings during scheduled office hours and by appointment. .


The recitation session will provide a forum for in depth discussion of lecture topics and concepts.  A variety of activities are scheduled including problem set review, films, videos, and mini-labs. Students are required to attend 3 of these sessions, only one of which can be a film or video. Click here for the link to the recitation schedule.


Required: Either Biochemistry (395 or 341) or concurrent enrollment in either
RecommendedMath 191, Organic Chemistry (Chem 211 or 313), Genetics (Bio 305), Physics (211 or 215).
* Molecular Biology and Cell Organismal graduate students receive Tier II credit for the course.


The Bear et al. text, Neuroscience, is the required text for the class. Textbooks can be obtained at the bookstore or online from vendors such as Amazon and ecampus.   Students seeking graduate medical and research careers in Neuroscience are encouraged to purchase Principles of Neural Science as well. 
Required Text
Recommended Text
Recommended Text Recommended Text

Ramon y Cajal: Advice
Sacks: Man Hat Wife
Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain (2000)
Bear, Connors, and Paradiso
Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins 
ISBN : 0-683-30596-4
Principles of Neural Science (2000)
Kandel, Schwartz, Jessel
McGraw-Hill/Appleton & Lange
ISBN : 0838577016
Advice for a Young Investigator (1897)
Santiago Ramon y Cajall
MIT Press
ISBN: 0262181916
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1998)
Oliver Sacks     Touchstone Books     ISBN: 0684853949

Earning Grade Points

Grades will be calculated by adding the total points earned on the term exams, the cumulative Final Exam, the term paper, and other assignments.  A total of 1000 pts may be earned during the course. YOU MUST TAKE THE FINAL EXAM.  Any questions and concerns about grading or errors in grading should be discussed with the instructor within 2 weeks of the return date of the graded assignment.
Exams: (550 pts) There will be two in class term exams and one final exam. The final exam (250 points) includes both a cumulative portion worth 150 points and new material covered after Exam 2 worth 100 points.
Research journal: (200 pts)  You will maintain a research journal based on your completion of a series of assignments that will require you to use the library and the web.  You will select the focus of your journal based on your interests in neuroscience and disease.  Click here to link to journal page.   The journal will be handed in twice.

Assignments (250 points) You will be required to complete several  supplementary assignments.  Some of these will involve using the library and internet while others will be problem sets.  Others require that you attend seminars or recitaiton sections and hear how scientists and fellow students talk about neuroscience and reseaarch.

Introduction to Neuroscience   60 pts
Problem set: Biophysics, Circuits, Electrophysiology  70 pts
NeuroEthics 40 pts
Neuroscience in action:  Seminars/recitation sections  80 pts

Grade Scale: The grade scale may be curved at the end of the semester at the discretion of the instructor.
A     900-1000 pts
B     800-899 pts
C     700-799 pts
D     600-699 pts
F     < 600 pts
S     (Satisfactory) requires a C-
S/U Option: Students must meet all requirements of the course.  A grade of C- is required  to receive an S in the course.
Attendance Students are responsible for all material covered in class as well as any previously unannounced assignments that are given out in class.  Therefore  students are expected to attend all classes.  Contact the instructor BEFOREHAND if you will be unable to attend class.

If you miss an exam...:

Late assignments. 10% of the total points will be deducted for each week the assignment is late. Assignments will not be accepted if handed in more than 10 days after the due date.

Neuroscience Scholarships and Financial Aid

Internships and Jobs

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