An Organismal Approach to Behavioral Neuroscience.
Course Format: 2 hour seminar
Time and location: 1:30 to 3:30 PM, Monday in RKC115
Instructors: Wan-chun Liu, PhD, Jason Schwarz, Nicole Creanza
This course will examine behavioral neuroscience from a species- and research-based perspective. Model organisms have both limitations and strengths as research systems, and the anatomy, complexity, and behavior of these species have shaped the current state of knowledge on the structure and function of the nervous system. Each week, discussions will focus on a particular organism, exploring the studied behaviors and the contributions to neuroscience made in the species. In the process, the fundamentals of neuroscience will be discussed with an emphasis on the context in which they were discovered and the ways these discoveries shape future research. Readings from the primary literature will highlight the historical and current importance of the organism to our understanding of the brain and behavior. By scrutinizing the papers, students will become familiar with the complexities of experimental design and gain experience in critically analyzing scientific research.
The goal of this course is to explore the history and future of neuroscience with a focus on the role of the model organisms used. The primary questions we wish to keep in mind are:
1. What are the strengths of this model organism that allow for novel discoveries and a redefinition of the field?
2. What are the weaknesses of this model organism? What sorts of questions cannot be addressed using it? The choice of model organism is fundamental to the type of questions that a researcher can ask, and neuroscience is unique in biology in the diversity of model organisms available to the researcher, making a thorough understanding of those organisms crucial to success in the field.
- 50% -
- Attendance/Participation - Attendance is mandatory. The course will be run as a graduate-style seminar and a student will lead the discussion on one of the papers each week. All students will be required to submit by email one question per paper by midnight on the Sunday before class. Questions can be related to clarifications, criticisms, or experimental ideas that arise during reading the paper.
- 50% -
- Research Paper/Presentation - A 10-page research proposal or review will be required. It is due by May 19th. Students will then give a 15 minute presentation on the subject of their paper during the last class. Details will be discussed at a later date. We will meet individually in early April to discuss topics.
Contact InformationWan-chun Liu - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Creanza - email@example.com
Jason Schwarz - firstname.lastname@example.org
Office hours will be held from 12PM to 1PM on Mondays in RKC 209.
Syllabus4 February: Humans
- Initial attempts to understand the brain on an anatomical and cellular level
- Visualizing the brain
O'Driscoll and Leach 1868 BMJ: "‘No longer Gage’: an iron bar through the head."
11 February: Ethology
- Understanding animals, behavioral ecology
- Instinct, fixed action patterns, imprinting
- Evolutionarily stable strategy
Emery and Clayton 2004 Science: "The mentality of crows: convergent evolution of intelligence in corvids and apes."
18 February: Introduction to neuroscience
- Kandel readings
- Explanation of cell types
- Action potential, neurotransmitters
- Group discussion of primary literature
25 February: Squid
- Neuronal biophysics
3 March: Aplysia
- Neural basis of behavior
10 March: Drosophila
- First genetic mutations producing behavioral phenotype
- Functional imaging to find olfactory maps
Wang et al. 2003 Cell: "Two-photon calcium imaging reveals an odor-evoked map of activity in the fly brain."
17 March: C. elegans
- Nervous system development
- Single circuits regulating complex behaviors
de Bono and Bargmann 1998 Cell: "Natural variation in a neuropeptide Y receptor homolog modifies social behavior and food response in C. elegans."
24 March: Fish
Fish as an emerging vertebrate model system to study:
- Nervous system development
- Simple behavior
Schlegel and Schuster 2008 Science: "Small circuits for large tasks: high-speed decision-making in archerfish."
Bleckmann and Schwartz 1982 J. Comparative Biology: "The functional significance of frequency modulation within a wave train for prey localization in the surface-feeding fish Aplocheilus lineatus."
7 April: Birds
- Description of the neuroanatomy of the song control system
- Complex behavior: vocal learning
- Similarities between birdsong and human language
Mello, Vicario, and Clayton 1992 PNAS: "Song presentation induces gene expression in the songbird forebrain."
14 April: Birds 2 A visit to the Rockefeller University Field Research Center
- Evidence for adult-born neurons, implications for brain damage
- Exploring the boundaries of what can be learned
Gardner, Naef, and Nottebohm 2005 Science: "Freedom and rules: the acquisition and reprogramming of a bird's learned song."
21 April: Rodents
- Rodents as models of neurological disease
- Inquiries into learning and memory
Wills et al. 2005 Science: "Attractor dynamics in the hippocampal representation of the local environment."
28 April: Monkeys
- Visual cortex
- Primate behavior
Hauser 1992 PNAS: "Costs of deception: cheaters are punished in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta)."
5 May: Wild species
- The importance of fieldwork
- Understanding the natural history of an organism
- Using wild species in the lab
Young and Wang 2004 Nature Neuroscience: "The neurobiology of pair bonding."
Jensen, Moss, and Surlykke 2005 Journal of Experimental Biology: "Echolocating bats can use acoustic landmarks for spatial orientation."
12 May: Evolution of behavior
- Altruism and kin selection; social behaviors; the effects of genetic relatedness on individual behavior and social dynamics; eusociality
- Adaptation to unusual environments
Kimchi and Terkel 2002 Current Opnion in Neurobiology: "Seeing and not seeing."
19 May: Student Presentations and Conclusions