Neuronal Networks and Behavior

2019-2020

Course Objective

This course is designed for life sciences students who want to learn
more about how networks of brain cells control behaviour. To this end,
we will discuss different aspects of brain function covering sensory
information processing, control of movement, learning and memory,
spatial navigation, cognition, emotions. We will focus on how neuronal
networks in different brain areas give rise to these functions.
After completen this course the students will be able to:

1. Explain the biological basis of perception (vision, auditory
processing, smell and taste), motor and behavioral control, and
cognitive and emotional processes. In addition, you will get an
understanding of the neurobiological basis of a number of neurological
and psychiatric disorders.
2. Explain the general plan of human sensory and movement systems.
3. Apply this general plan to explain the differences and
similarities between different sensory systems.
4. Give examples of how and through which neurons and nuclei signal
transduction proceeds during interaction of the human brain with the
external environment.
5. Apply this knowledge in performing scientific research.
6. Create new research ideas based on the learned practical and
theoretical knowledge.

The students will develop the following academic skills:
1. Search for and read scientific literature, extract important
information.
2. Utilize the theoretical background from course lectures and
practicals to critically evaluate neuroscience research, formulate
critical questions and participate in discussion.
3. Acquire hands-on experience in recording from neuronal networks,
conducting experiments and analyzing own data. The students will learn
how to stimulate neurons and record synaptic communication within
neuronal networks, induce synaptic learning.
4. Design and conduct own experiment based on the learned technique
5. Develop practical experimentation skills on analysis of human
startle responses.
6. Summarize the experimental results in a lab report

Course Content

In Neuronal Networks & Behavior we will discuss different aspects of
brain function ranging from sensory information processing, control of
movement, learning and memory to cognition and emotions. We will study
how neuronal networks in different brain areas give rise to these
functions. To achieve this, we will use a combination of lectures and
practicals. These will build on chapters from the book ‘Neuroscience’ by
Purves and colleagues (5th or 6th edition). Some background knowledge on
neuronal function is required for this course.

To help you in exploring the exciting territory of neurons that shape
our behavior, the first two weeks will be centered on lectures. In this
way the lectures will go deeper on the subjects that you already worked
on through the assignment and will resolve the questions that may arise
during this preparation. During the lecture we will often work in
smaller groups to discuss the material. In the second week, a series of
practicals will start. During the first practical you will perform
experiments on neuronal networks in brain slices and will learn basic
principles of neuronal network function. You will even have an
opportunity to design and perform your own experiment under supervision.
The second practical takes you to experimenting with human behavior such
as startle reflex. Here you can be both the researcher and the subject
of the experiment yourself.

Teaching Methods

1. Lectures (l) by dr. N. Goriounova , dr. L. Witter, dr. R. Min
The first day will start with an opening lecture during which the aims
of the course are highlighted. The first week will contain lectures on
sensory systems; during the second week we will discuss the motor
control of behavior memory and cognition. You are expected to read the
text book before the lectures so that we can discuss the topics and
address unclear issues in depth.
Hours per student: 24 hrs

2. Hippocampal brain slice practical (pra) by J. Timmerman
In the second week, the practicals on neuronal networks from the
hippocampus will expose you to the actual experimentation that is done
to understand functioning of neuronal networks. Before starting the
experiments, you will have an introductory work group to help you
prepare for the practical.
The practical will provide you with an insight with what it takes to do
research, and it will help you to understand some of the concepts
discussed in the course. During the
practicals, we will divide the class into multiple small teams of
maximum 12 students. You will work in groups of 3 on one experimental
setup.
Hours per student: 4

3. Startle eye-blink practical (pra) by dr. M. Meijer
In the third week, experiments on human subjects are performed with an
emphasis on startle reflex modulation in humans. In addition, a number
of key primary research articles are discussed that facilitate the
understanding of which brain areas are involved in emotional learning
and central reflex modulation.
Hours per student: 5

Method of Assessment

The grading procedure will be as follows:
1. Practicals (P): pass/fail. Participation in practicals is obligatory
2. Written reports (R): from the practicals corrected after tutor’s
feedback. Report electrophysiology practical 10% of the final grade;
report startle reflex practical 10%.
3. Written exam (E) consisting of open questions 80%

Grades for the reports and exam should be at least 5.5 and can not
compensate each other
Re-examination: Written exam (E)

Entry Requirements

Understanding of cell biology, neuronal communication and neuro-anatomy.
Purves et al (5th or 6th edition) "Neuroscience" Chapters 1-8

Literature

Neuroscience, Purves, Sinauer Associates Inc.,U.S., 5th Revised edition
(or 6th edition)
ISBN: 9780878936953

Up-to-date course materials are posted on the site to which all students
and lecturers have access. Background information for this course,
relevant literature and copies of all lecture PowerPoints will be
provided in the Course Documents folder on Canvas.

Target Audience

This course is part of the track ‘Neurosciences’ of the minor
‘Biomolecular Sciences and Neurosciences’.

Additional Information

In addition to the lectures and practicals, we will pay attention to the
development of a number of important academic skills: designing
experiments, performing the experiments, analyzing data and reporting
the results.

The track ‘Neurosciences’ is an excellent preparation for the Master
Neurosciences.

This minor course requires a minimum of 25 participants to take place.

Recommended background knowledge

Basic (first and second year level) courses in Cell Biology and
Neurosciences.

General Information

Course Code AB_1051
Credits 6 EC
Period P3
Course Level 300
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator dr. N.A. Goriounova
Examiner dr. R.M. Meredith
Teaching Staff dr. R. Min
ing. A.J. Timmerman
dr. T.S. Heistek
dr. R.M. Meredith
dr. N.A. Goriounova
dr. L. Witter
dr. M. Meijer

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Lecture, Study Group, Practical