Developmental Neurobiology of the Vertebrate Brain


Course Objective

Many brain disorders originate from defects during early brain
development. Therefore it is of vital importance that future
neuroscience researchers obtain in depth knowledge of brain development.

This course will provide insights in the developmental mechanisms of
neural circuits and their plasticity during early and late brain
The following issues will be covered: Molecular mechanisms of brain
development from neurogenesis, neuronal migration, neuronal
differentiation, axonal growth to synapse formation. We will address
critical periods of development and experience dependent plasticity
during embryonic and adult life in relation to normal brain function and
brain disorders.
These topics are discussed while considering the adequate research
technology and will be addressed during hands-on lab work using cultured

Course Content

Lectures, seminars, master classes. The first two weeks will consist of
lectures covering the developmental neurobiology topics discussed above
and master classes from experts in the field of developmental
neurobiology. The last two weeks will focus on and hands-on training on
early development of mouse neurons in culture. In the last week,
students will present on specific topics in developmental neurobiology.

Teaching Methods

This is a full time course.
Week 1&2: Lectures and seminars. These 2 weeks will be examined during
a mid-term exam.
Week 3&4: Master classes, Journal Clubs and hands-on practicals focused
on early development of neuronal networks, Human iPS cells and neuro-
glia interactions.
In week 4, students will present on specific topics in developmental

Theory (30%)
A. Lectures
- 8 sessions of ± 3 hrs: 24 hrs
B. Masterclasses
- 3 classes of ± 3 hrs: 9 hrs
C. Individual Journal Club task
- 1 high-impact paper presentation 6 sessions of 2 hrs: 12 hrs
Hands-on lab work (30%)
- neuron development in vitro (polarization, neurite outgrowth, synapse
formation): 10 sessions of ± 4 hrs: 40 hrs
- Presentation of results lab work: 1 session of 5 hrs
Self study (40%)
- 60 hrs

Method of Assessment

Written mid-term exam (40%). Oral presentation of seminar task (30%).
Presentation of labwork (30%)
Students need to pass all parts (grade > 5.5) to obtain final grade.

Entry Requirements

1st year Master of Neurociences or equivalent.
Course is also open to non-VU students with neuroscience background or a
strong interest in neuroscience. Please send email to course coordinator
Ruud Toonen (
with study program details for eligibility and availability check.


Handouts will be distributed at the beginning of the course.
PDFs of all lectures will be made available via Canvas.

Target Audience

2nd year Master of Neurosciences or equivalent.
Please mind: this course is for 2nd year master students only.

Custom Course Registration

Maximum number of students is 20. Students from the Master of Neuroscience will have first choice. Course is open for non-Master of Neuroscience students. Please send email to course coordinator Ruud Toonen ( with study program details for eligibility and availability check.

General Information

Course Code AM_470713
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. R.F.G. Toonen
Examiner dr. R.F.G. Toonen
Teaching Staff dr. R.F.G. Toonen

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture
Target audiences

This course is also available as: