Nsci2001: A Brain Odyssey

Syllabus
Schedule
Lectures
Directory

Syllabus

Directors:       Dr. Steven McLoon (mcloons@umn.edu)

When:             Spring Semester

                       Monday, Wednesday and Friday

                       time 1:25-2:15pm

Where:           Bruininks ####

Credits:          3

Format: This will be a flipped course. Students are expected to watch and study assigned lectures online prior to coming to class. The in class time will be spent doing various activities and discussions that use the information presented in the lectures.

Nsci 2001 vrs. 2100: The material covered in the two courses is almost identical. 2100 is taught only in the fall. It is a traditional lecture course that includes a weekly laboratory. The faculty believe that the laboratory is a valuable part of the course. 2001 is taught only in the spring for those who cannot take the fall course. It does not have a lab, but has the advantage of the flipped format. Students are expected to watch the assigned lectures online prior to class. Class time will be used for various activities that use and reinforce the lecture material. Students who take one of these courses will not be allowed to take the other course.

Prerequisites: none required; high school level biology recommended

                       However, as a 2000 level course, this class covers more material and at a greater depth than does the typical 1000 course. It is expected that students will be self-motivated and able to keep up with the material.

Students:     This course is appropriate for all undergraduate students. Knowledge of fundamental neuroscience will provide students with a better understanding of many biological processes that impact daily life including learning and addiction. Almost everyone will face making a difficult medical decision regarding a neurological condition during their lifetime. This course will provide students with an understanding that will help them make better informed decisions. The nervous system integrates most systems of our body, and thus an understanding of the nervous system provides a broad perspective on many bodily functions. Furthermore, this course will teach the scientific method, which can be applied to many problems in life.

                       Students that plan to do further study in biology, medicine, psychology or education will find this course particularly valuable.

                        Students from all disciplines will have an equal chance of obtaining an 'A' grade.

Description:  The vertebrate nervous system is possibly the most complex, highly evolved biological system. The functional unit of the nervous system is the nerve cell or neuron, and the human nervous system has approximately 10,000 unique types of neurons. Most neurons have a wire-like process, the axon. Neurons carry information to other cells via their axons and communicate with those cells via a transfer of chemicals at synapses. The connections among neurons are organized into functional systems. Disease affecting a small number of cells can affect the function of many parts of the nervous system.

                        This course will provide a broad introduction to the nervous system with an emphasis on the human nervous system. The course will introduce the structure and function of neurons, the major anatomical parts of the nervous system and the main functional systems. Functional systems will be approached through an understanding of the anatomical circuitry. The fundamental concepts of neurochemical communication studied in general terms in the first part of the course will be re-examined relative to specific functional systems later in the course. Although the major focus of the course will be on the normal nervous system, common diseases will be introduced for each main topic. Students will gain an understanding of the nature of many common neurological diseases, which will provide further insight into how the normal nervous system functions. The anatomical substrates of learning/memory, emotions and drug actions will be examined. Through the assigned readings, lectures, and class activities, students are expected to gain an understanding of the neural circuitry and information processing responsible for the diverse range of human behaviors.

                        For each topic covered, we will touch on the limits of our understanding and on the focus of current research. Students will gain an appreciation for how scientific research is conducted and how research has changed and is likely to continue to change our understanding. We will define the ‘scientific method’, which has broad application to problem solving in the modern world, and will see its application in current neuroscience research. We will distinguish between data obtained by controlled experiments from correlational data.

Website:     You found it. Bookmark it now.

                       [Note that useful information and important announcements will be posted as issues arise on the ‘Course News’ page of this website.]

Lectures:      Lecture note will be available for download as a PDF via a link on the 'Schedule' page of the website. The recorded lectures will be available via the 'Lectures' tab on the navigation bar on this page.

Textbooks:     There is no required textbook. Everything that you are expected to learn will be covered in lectures and/or labs. However, a textbook can be a useful reference. We recommend either of the following two books:

                        Essential Neuroscience 3rd edition, by A. Siegel & H.N. Sapru (ISBN 978-1-4511-8968-1) [This book closely follows the course sequence. It has much more information than you will need to learn, particularly the last third of each chapter. The figures are very good. The text is very dry reading. One wonders if the authors even like the subject.]

                        Essentials of the Human Brain, by J. Nolte (ISBN 978-0-323-04570-4) [This book is much more concise. The figures are clear. The text has some gaps in the information.]

Resources:   The 'Schedule' page on the website has links to resources to accompany most lectures. Resource pages typically include a list of the page numbers in the recommended textbooks that relate to a lecture, and links to short lectures on the web that can serve as an introduction to the main course lectures.

Office hours: Dr. McLoon will have a ‘coffee hour’ most weeks. The day, time and place for the coffee hour will vary from week to week. Details for the coffee hour will be announced in class and posted on the course website.

                        Dr. McLoon will be happy to meet with students at other times. It is best to set up an appointment by email.

Examinations: Three midterm exams worth 35 points each will be given during the course as listed on the course schedule. A final exam worth 70 points will be given during finals week at a day and time specified by the University. All exams will be multiple choice. The final exam will be cumulative, with a greater emphasis on the lectures since the last midterm exam. Exams will cover the laboratory material as well as the lectures. A 5 point quiz will be given most weeks except exam weeks for a total of 50 points.

                        Note that an additional hour past the usual class time is available on exam days for those who need extra time.

Students are expected to complete the following during this course:

1.   Watch all lectures online prior to class.

2.   Attend and participate in all class sessions.

3.   Pass three midterm examinations and a final examination.

4.   Pass 10 weekly quizzes.

Grades:       Grades, A-F, will be based on students’ performance on each of the quizzes and examinations. Grades will be curved with the median grade centered on ‘B’.

Absences:    The University’s policy on absences will be followed. See the U's webpage for details. [link]

                       A missed exam with a valid and verified excuse can be made up by taking a written and oral exam with an instructor within one week of the regularly scheduled exam. Unless you can prove that you were admitted to the hospital, you are allowed no more than one make-up exam during the course. Contact Professor McLoon as soon as possible to schedule a make-up.

                       If you can anticipate that you will miss an exam, then please discuss this with Professor McLoon as far in advance as possible.

Copyrights:    All course material including the audio of lectures, lecture slides, lecture notes, exams and handouts are the sole property of the course instructors and may not be reproduced or distributed in any form without the specific written permission of the relevant instructor with the exception of sharing course information among current classmates for the duration of the course.

Cheating:     Students are expected to complete all exams independently without assistance from others or the use of any reference material. Students are not allowed to look at an exam of another student during the exam time. Students are not allowed to be in possession of any electronic device during an exam. Violation of these rules constitutes cheating and will not be tolerated. Cheating will result in an F grade for the course.

Cell phones: Turn off all cell phones during class. If you forget and your phone rings during a class, then silence the ring immediately. Do not answer a voice call or send a text message during class.

Mental Health and Stress Management: As a student you may experience a range of issues that can cause barriers to learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance or reduce a student's ability to participate in daily activities. University of Minnesota services are available to assist you with addressing these and other concerns you may be experiencing. You can learn more about the broad range of confidential mental health services available on campus via www.mentalhealth.umn.edu.

How to succeed in this course: Learning neuroanatomy is much like learning a new language. This requires daily study, typically one to two hours a day… everyday… for most students. Previous students found the following approach successful. Prepare for each lecture by reading a textbook chapter related to the lecture prior to the lecture. As you are reading, you might want to write down key words. With this background, you can learn more during the lecture. You may find it useful to download or print the PowerPoint of each lecture prior to the lecture. Then during the lecture, take notes on each slide. After a lecture and preferably that day when it is fresh in your mind, review the lecture. The textbook can be used as needed to clarify points. Finally, regularly review previous lectures.

                       There are numerous resources to help you during the course. You should feel free to take questions to Dr. McLoon before or after lecture or at his coffee hours. You also should feel free to email questions to Dr. McLoon or to request an office appointment.

                       Previous students found study groups that met regularly to review the course material were extremely helpful.