Cellular Neurobiology

This module examines current progress on the understanding of central nervous system development and function, based upon the exploitation of anatomical, genetic, molecular, and advanced physiological techniques. The physiology and molecular biology of neurons is examined. Topics covered are likely to include: how neurons work; synaptic transmission and plasticity, and the techniques to record it; how the brain works; how all the above are grounded on nervous system development. We will pay particular attention to cellular, genetic, and molecular mechanisms. Most if not all mechanisms that give rise to the nervous system are conserved in all animals, but they were often discovered using model organisms. Thus, we will compare findings from models such as the fruit-fly Drosophila, the worm C.elegans and vertebrate models like birds and rodents. These mechanisms may include generation of cell type diversity (neurons, glia), regulation of growth and cell number, emergence and structure of neural circuits and topographic mapping in the brain, synapse formation and elimination, how the brain changes throughout life, learning and memory. Structure enables brain function, which in turn influences brain structure. Thus, we will look at how the principles of development help understand brain plasticity and degeneration and unravel cutting edge approaches to nervous system regeneration. Throughout these topics, we will look at how technological innovation has driven progress, and will explore cutting-edge techniques, which may include optogenetics to stimulate neurons with light, connectomics to decode neural circuits and stem cell transplantations for regeneration.

By the end of the module

  • Understand and explain the mechanisms of synaptic transmission and synaptic plasticity and electrophysiological techniques for study of nerve cell function
  • Understand and explain the cellular and genetic bases of neural circuits and how they drive behaviour.
  • Understand and explain the fundamental principles of cognition
  • Understand and explain the genetic, molecular and cellular mechanisms of nervous system development.
  • Present scientific data (written, figures and tables).
  • Assess and evaluate primary information from the scientific literature and make evidence-grounded decisions on scientific work.
  • Identify and understand of Referees' critical analysis of scientific value.