The Developing Brain


Course Objective

Students learn about neurobiological mechanisms that underlie normal and
aberrant brain development and thereby shape the life of individuals
over time.

Course Content

The focus of this course is on phases of brain development that shape
the life of individuals over time. The brain performs differently at
various ages; the young brain being very plastic, whereas the aging
brain is gradually losing its adaptive capacity. Importantly, early and
late brain development are affected by specific genetic factors and
vulnerable to changes induced by environmental stimuli. These
alterations can result in neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative

The course consists of three modules (one week per module), each
covering a critical phase of brain development. In module 1, we will
focus on early (prenatal and postnatal) brain development and its
relation to brain disorders such as autism and intellectual disability
(amongst other disorders). In the second module, we will focus on brain
development during childhood and adolescence and discuss issues related
to this phase of development, such as gender identity, schizophrenia and
the effects of drugs of abuse (alcohol, nicotine). In the last module,
we will discuss cognitive decline associated with normal brain aging as
well as specific diseases of aging, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson's
disease. Notably, each module contains a keynote lecture related to the
topic of the module. Keynote lectures are given by renowned experts in
their fields and are mandatory for all students.

Teaching Methods

Lectures: 30 h
Workgroups: 4 h
Q&A sessions: 1.5 h
Self study: ~60 - 120 h (in between lectures, students are expected to
spend time on reading of literature to prepare for next
lectures/workgroups and to make assignments on canvas)

Method of Assessment

Exam (E; multiple choice questions and open questions): 80%
Academic skills assignment (A): 20%
The grade of both tests has to be >5.5 to pass the course.

Students have the option to resit the exam (E).


"Foundations Of Behavioral Neuroscience" by N.R. Carlson (Pearson
Education (US)), 8th edition.
Slides of all lectures

Recommended: associated reading material will become available on

Target Audience

Students of the minor Brain & Mind.
Third year bachelor students who are interested in the neurobiological
mechanisms of the developing brain.

Additional Information

This minor course requires a minimum of 25 participants.

Explanation Canvas

Slides of the lectures will become available on Canvas in three modules.
Each module ends with quiz questions about the lectures of that module.
Quizes have to completed by the student to be able to access the next
Keynote lectures will end with an open question that has to be answered
on Canvas. Therefore, the student has to make sure that he/she has
access to Canvas during the keynote lectures.

Recommended background knowledge

This course is part of the minor Brain and Mind. A basic understanding
of neurons, neurophysiology and molecular biology (DNA and proteins) is
required. For this, we recommend to follow the courses 'Cognitive
Neuroscience' and 'Nature versus Nurture' of this minor.

General Information

Course Code AB_1059
Credits 6 EC
Period P2
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. M.C. van den Oever
Examiner dr. M.C. van den Oever
Teaching Staff dr. M.C. van den Oever
prof. dr. S. Spijker
dr. R.E. van Kesteren
dr. R.M. Meredith
dr. H.K.E. Vervaeke

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Computer lab, Study Group, Lecture, Practical