Systems Neuroscience

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Class Meetings

Mon, Wed, Fri: 8:30 – 9:50 AM Room: Vollum M1441

Course Directors

Henrique von Gersdorff
W. Rowland Taylor

Course Objectives and Organization

This course is an introduction to the functional anatomy, electrophysiology, and pharmacology of the central and peripheral nervous systems.

Emphasis is placed on the functional organization and processing of information in the major input and output systems of the brain, including the somatosensory, motor, visual, auditory and autonomic and hormonal regulatory systems, and on the higher integrative functions of the nervous system, including learning, emotion, motor control, and sleep. The course will consist of lectures and readings in primary literature and critical review sessions of recent topics of interest.


Cellular Neurophysiology (NEUS 624), Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology (NEUS 625), or equivalents.


Kandel, Schwartz and Jessell, Principles of Neuroscience, 4th edition.

Critical Reviews

The goals of the Critical Review (CR) are to provide students with an interactive experience in critically reviewing published scientific papers and in public presentation.

Two papers will be picked by the CR faculty; the papers will preferentially have contradictory data and/or interpretations.

Two students each will be assigned to each of the papers (four students present each session).

Presenters have 15 min. each to make their case with oral arguments.

The rest of the session will be devoted to a debate of the two sides, with the remainder of the students expected to participate.

Before class, students not presenting will write 2 paragraphs summarizing the two opposing sides and will argue for one side. This report will be e-mailed to the coordinator prior to class.

After class, the presenters (the four) will receive coded copies of the other students' evaluations; the presenters will grade the evaluations on the NIH scale (1 best, 5 worst).


All students are expected to be in the classroom and ready for the lectures to begin promptly at 8:30 AM. It is clear that late entry to the classroom is disruptive and discourteous to the other students and to the lecturer.  Late arrival is strongly discouraged.

Lecture Length

All lectures will end at 9:50 AM, which will accommodate the Neurobiology of Disease course, which begins at 10 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays.


Three exams are scheduled (short written answers to one question/lecture). The final grade will be based on Exam 1 (20%), Exam 2 (20%), Exam 3 (20%), CR critiques (20%) and CR
presentation (20%).