Neuroscience Graduate Group Courses


These courses are required for all NGG students and cover much of the foundation of modern neuroscience. These courses can be taken as electives by students in other graduate groups and by particularly motivated undergraduates, with permission of the course director.

BIOM 600 NGG Core I: Cell Biology. This course is required for all BGS students. It covers basic biochemistry and surveys topics of cell biology including: cell structure, compartmentalization and trafficking, signal transduction, cytoskeleton, membranes and membrane transport. Offered Fall semester. Course Director: Richard Assoian

NGG 572 CORE II: Electrical Language of Cells. This course introduces students to the high-speed electro-chemical signaling mechanisms that occur in nerve and other excitable cells during normal activity. Topics considered in substantial detail include: a) a basic description of the passive and active membrane electrical properties; b) the molecular architecture and functional role of ion channels in cell signaling; c) the role of the calcium ion as an ubiquitous chemical messenger, with applications to neuro-secretion; d) excitatory and inhibitory transmission in the central nervous system; e) sensory transduction, as illustrated by the visual, olfactory and auditory pathways. The course assumes a standard background in cell biology, as well as basic concepts from college physics and college calculus. Offered Fall semester. Course Directors: Doug Coulter and Toshi Hoshi

NGG 573 CORE III: Systems and Integrative Neuroscience. This course provides an introduction to what is known about how neuronal circuits solve problems for the organism and to current research approaches to this question. Topics include: vision, audition, olfaction, motor systems, plasticity, and oscillations. In addition, the course aims to provide an overview of the structure of the central nervous system. A number of fundamental concepts are also discussed across topics, such as: lateral inhibition, integration, filtering, frames of reference, error signals, adaptation. The course format consists of lectures, discussions, readings of primary literature, supplemented by textbook chapters and review articles. Offered Spring semester. Course Directors: Chris Pierce and Yale Cohen

NGG CORE IV: Seminar-Related Journal Club. The goals of this weekly course are to learn how to read and critique research papers; to learn how to present a polished, professional summary of a recent paper, and to acquire some background information and context to more fully appreciate research seminars in the Wednesday MINS seminar series. Each Monday session will consist of two 25-minute presentations of a research paper related to that week’s Wednesday seminar. Each presentation will be followed by a student-led discussion (~15 minutes).   Each Wednesday session consists of attending the one-hour formal MINS seminar by faculty invited from other institutions to speak about their work, published and unpublished.  Attendance at both the Monday and Wednesday sessions is required. Papers are posted on the web at the Neuroscience Journal Club site. Each student who is not presenting is required to read and be prepared to discuss each of the two papers assigned weekly. Following the first class, subsequent presentations will be by first year students. You will sign up for presentations and lunch with the seminar speakers at the first Journal Club session. A faculty mentor will help presenters read and understand the assigned papers and prepare a power point presentation.  Presenters should meet with their mentors at least twice to discuss the papers and polish the presentations. The schedule of Journal Club presenters is posted on the Neuroscience Journal Club website. Course Directors (Fall 2016): Kacy Cullen and Sandra Maday.

Note: A seminar schedule and papers are posted at the following link: Journal Club Papers.

BIOM 611: Biological Data Analysis. This introductory course provides an overview of fundamental concepts in biostatistics. The first half of the course explores fundamental statistical concepts including random variables and probability distributions, sources of variation, experimental design, hypothesis testing and confidence intervals. Both parametric and non-parametric (permutation and rank-based) approaches to inference will be discussed. During the first half of the semester we will introduce the software package R (in Rstudio) and illustrate how to manipulate data in R, explore and graph data, conduct simple tests, create confidence intervals and choose a sample size for a simple two-group comparisons. Approaches to developing reproducible code will be illustrated. During the second half of the course we will explore analysis of variance, regression modeling and categorical data analysis both in class and in lab. The course emphasizes (1) the understanding of statistics through computational approaches rather than mathematical derivations and formulae and (2) the selection, application and interpretation of basic statistical methods appropriate to data arising from the basic biological sciences. Offered Spring semester. Course Director Mary Putt.

Note: Students with a strong quantitative background should consult with their advisors, the ARC, and the NGG Chair about the possibility of taking a statistics course with more rigorous mathematical underpinnings.

NGG 695-301: Scientific Writing. This course is designed to help students through the process of preparing the written portion of the Candidacy Exam, which is a reseach proposal written as an Individual Predoctoral NRSA Fellowship application. Eligible students are required to submit the proposal as an NRSA applicaiton upon successful completion of the Exam. The course includes: i) a mock study section, to familiarize students with the peer-review process; ii) overviews and peer critiques of Specific Aims, Significance, and Research Strategy sections of the document; and iii) discussions of how to make effective figures. Course Directors: Joshua Gold and Alice Chen-Plotkin.


NGG 706-401 Neuroeconomics. This seminar will review recent research that combines psychological, economic, and neuroscientific approaches to study human and animal decision-making.  The course will focus on our current state of knowledge regarding the neuroscience of decision-making, and how evidence concerning the neural processes associated with choices might be used to constrain or advance economic andpsychological theories of decision-making. Topics covered will include decisions involving risk and uncertainty, decisions that involve learning from experience, decisions in strategic interactions and games, and social preferences.  Prerequisite: Psychology 149, 153, or 165, or permission of the instructor. Course Director: Joe Kable

NGG 510 (PHRM 510) Neurotransmitter Signaling & Pharmacology (Spring of even years). The goals of this course are two-fold: 1) Provide in-depth information on neurotransmitters and their associated signaling systems.  Emphasis will be placed on the wealth of new molecular information that has been gathered to examine how neurons function and communicate (one class per week). 2) Develop skills to appreciate, present and critically evaluate the current literature in neurotransmitter signaling and neuropharmacology (one class per week). Course Directors: Steve Thomas, Chris Pierce

NGG 521-401 Brain-Computer Interface. (Spring-every year). This course will provide practical education in engineering technologies used to monitor and modulate the nervous system and their translation into clinical devices. Fundamental concepts in neurosignals, hardware and software will be reinforced by practical examples and in-depth study of three neurodevice platforms over the course of the semester: (1) localization of epileptic networks with intracranial electrodes, and modulation of these circuits with responsive brain stimulation (2) localization and stimulation of thalamic nuclei for treatment of movement disorders (e.g. Parkinson’s disease), (3) systems for evoked-potential driven computer-guided communication for quadraplegic patients. Basic background in neurosignals will be provided, spanning scales from single neurons to large-scale field potentials, and across modalities from electrophysiology to optical and chemical recording. Algorithms for extracting, classifying, and modulating neurosignals will be covered, along with strategies for reducing them to practice on implantable computational platforms. Finally, some appreciation for hardware implemented in clinical systems will be given, along with their limitations and major design considerations. By the end of the course students will be able to design and implement a scaled-down brain-computer interface device in computer software simulations, and understand basic concepts involved in its implementation and approval. Course Director: Brian Litt

NGG 575 (BIOL 442) Neurobiology of Learning and Memory (Spring of odd-numbered years). This course focuses on the current state of our knowledge about the neurobiological basis of learning and memory. A combination of lectures and discussions will explore the molecular and cellular basis of learning in invertebrates and vertebrates from a behavioral and neural perspective. Course Director: Ted Abel

NGG 576 (PHRM 550) Neuropsychopharmacology (Spring of odd-numbered years). This course provides an oveview of the neurobiology of the major neuropsychiatric illnesses. The course is divided into four modules related to behavioral disorders or disciplines. The specific modules covered are: affective and anxiety disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia, and fundamentals of stress neurobiology. Each module covers a specific area using the following format: 1) clinical features and overview, 2) basic and clinical neuroscience studies relevant to understanding the pathobiology of these disorders, 3) current treatment practices for each set of disorders; and 4) mechanisms of current treatment and future treatment needs. Each of the modules present material that integrates clinical and basic neurobiology approaches to research on these neuropsychiatric disorders to emphasize translational links between patient treatment and laboratory studies. Course Director: Irwin Lucki

NGG 578 (BIOL 488; also NGG 600-008 and NGG 600-009) Advanced Topics in Behavioral Genetics (Spring - even years). The first half of this course focuses on the use of genetic techniques to study the molecular and cellular bases of behavior. Reverse genetic approaches utilizing gene knockout and transgenic technology and forward genetic approaches using mutagenesis and quantitative genetic techniques will be discussed, as well as application of these studies to different model organisms. Genetic approaches to behavior and complex disease in humans will be illustrated with a lecture on neurodegenerative disorders.

The second half of this survey course will provide an introduction to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. The class will include clinical descriptions of autism and as well as closely related disorders, such as Fragile X syndrome, for which there are now well developed model systems. It will be team taught by experts in each of the content areas covered, including psychology, neurology, genetics, animal modeling, cognitive neuroscience. The scope will be from genes, to brain, to behavior to treatment. Course Directors: Ted Abel, Maja Bucan, and Bob Schultz

NGG 584 Neurobiology of Sleep & Circadian Rhythms (Fall of even-numbered years). The objectives of this course are to discuss and evaluate mechanisms controlling sleep and circadian rhythms; to survey novel approaches to investigations in these areas; indicate the clinical relevance of these ideas where possible. About half the course consists of core lectures on basic rhythms, sleep, and their natural substrates. The rest of the lectures are devoted to special topics which change from year to year. Course Directors: David Raizen, Max Kelz

NGG 594 Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience (Spring - every year). This course surveys recent theoretical models of neural function. Students will be introduced to the basic techniques of modelling and computer simulation. Topics include models of synaptic plasticity, neuronal processing and oscillations, and models of various brain regions including cortex, thalamus, cerebellum, and hippocampus. Particular emphasis will be placed on models of the visual system from development to perceptual phenomena such as structure-from-motion, shape-from-shading, and stereopsis. Higher level processes including cortical integreation will be considered. Applied neural network models of Hopfield, Sejnowski, and parallel distributed processing will also be presented. Course Director: Vijay Balasubramanian

NGG 597 Neural Development, Regeneration and Repair (Fall - every year). The goal of this course is to examine the principles underlying nervous system development. This is not a survey course in Developmental Neurobiology. Rather, the course will focus on selected topics, for which we will discuss the molecular and cellular strategies employed in different model organisms. Topics may include Formation of Neural Tissue; Specification of Neural Cell Types; Cell Migration; Synapse Formation. Each week includes two 1.5 hrs classes, of which the first 30 minutes will consist of a faculty presented introduction/background to this class's topic. The background will vary with each topic, and rather than providing a comprehensive overview of the current field, will focus mostly on the biological principles . The introduction/background will be followed by a discussion of one paper. Each week includes two classes lectures and a small group discussion in which one or two important papers are analyzed in detail. Course Director: Greg Bashaw

NGG 600-008 Behavioral Genetics of Psychiatric Disorders. Refer to the first section of the NGG 578 Course Description. Course Directors: Ted Abel and Maja Bucan

NGG 600-009 Neurodevelopmental Disorders. Refer to the second section of the NGG 578 Course Description. Course Director: Bob Schultz

NGG 600-010 Neurobiology of Disease: Pathophysiology of Neuroinflammation and Infection in the CNS (Spring of even-numbered years). This cross-disciplinary module will address common CNS inflammatory and infectious diseases from the standpoints of clinical neurological syndromes and current basic scientific research in mechanisms of pathogenesis.  Among the common CNS infections faced by neurologists, HIV and other viral infections of the brain (particularly herpes simplex virus and measles) can cause either subacute or chronic debilitating neurological syndromes that offer particular challenges for diagnosis and treatment.  Other serious CNS infections include bacterial and viral meningitis, abscesses, lyme infection, and syphilis.  Often the clinical presentation is highly variable for each of these, and diagnosis depends upon careful clinical, neuroradiographic and serological testing.  Bacterial infections are one example where mechanisms of tissue entry and induction of pathological immune and cellular responses have been intensively investigated at a basic science level, leading to discovery of new therapeutic interventions.  Similar research has led to adjunctive therapy for HIV infection of the CNS. Course Directors: Dennis Kolson and Kelly Jordan-Sciutto

NGG 615 Protein Conformation Diseases (Fall of odd-numbered years). Protein misfolding and aggregation has been associated with over 40 human diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, prion diseases, alpha(1)-antitrypsin deficiency, inclusion body myopathy, and systemic amyloidoses.  This course will include lectures, directed readings and student presentations to cover seminal and current papers on the cell biology of conformational diseases including topics such as protein folding and misfolding, protein degradation pathways, effects of protein aggregation on cell function, model systems to study protein aggregation and novel approaches to prevent protein aggregation. Course Director: Harry Ischiropoulos

NGG 618 Recovery After Neural Injury (Spring - odd years; Offered as:
NGG 600 002 - Mechanisms of Acute Neuronal Injury and Neuroprotection (.5 CU)
NGG 600 003 - Repair and Regeneration after Nervous System Injury (.5 CU))

The human nervous system is subject to several types of injury, (traumatic, ischemic, epileptic, demyelinating, and/or inflammatory, etc.) that cause serious functional deficits. The mechanisms used by the central and peripheral nervous systems for functional recovery from these injuries will be described in this course. The molecular and cellular pathobiology of CNS injury will be reviewed and methods to enhance functional recovery will be discussed in detail. These include the limitation of secondary neuronal damage by pharmacological manipulation (neuroprotection), the promotion of regeneration and plasticity, the application of bioengineering strategies, and the use of behavioral rehabilitative approaches. The course format is a combination of lecture, journal club style student presentations and classroom discussion. Course Director: Akiva Cohen


Previously Offered Courses (future status tbd):

NGG 587 Neurobiology of Disease. This course is designed to familiarize neuroscientists with basic information about a number of important neurological and psychiatric disease, focusing on a relatively brief clinical description of the condition and a more in depth discussion of what is currently understood about the basic pathobiology of the disorder. The course is divided into two parts: on Tuesday afternoons there will be a formal didactic teaching session. The first part of each lecture (1/2 hour to 1 hour) will be devoted to a discussion of the disease in question and the second part will consist of one or two student presentations (in lieu of a paper or exam) reviewing in depth one critical neuroscience component of the disease. Each student will work with the course director or an assigned faculty member to develop his/her lecture. On Thursday afternoons, a faculty member will present a research seminar or chalk talk describing the research he or she is conducting in that particular disease. Papers will be provided before the seminar so the students will be familiar with the research. It is expected that having a research seminar given after the introductory lecture will allow the students to become familiar in depth with at least one approach to each disease.

NGG 598 Advanced Systems Neuroscience. This course takes an integrative approach to the study of nervous system function. We will explore neural strategies used by different modalities to encode sensory information. Information coding in these systems will be analyzed at different levels, ranging from synaptic input analysis at single sensory neurons and their effect on local network processing to larger scale population analyses. In a few of the systems, we will also explore how sensory information is transformed into motor commands that specify specific behaviors. The course will consist of an introductory section to provide a conceptual framework for studying neural circuits at the systems level. This will be followed by four additional sections that each explores specific neural systems within the context of this conceptual framework. Prerequisite: Core III (NGG 573- Systems Neuroscience) or Permission of Course Director.

NGG 600-013 Convergent Functional Genomics of Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder. Psychotic illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorders are complex trait disorders that involve common and rare genetic variants, epigenetic effects and their interactions. These complex dysregulations impact on intracellular signaling pathways, which in turn modulate the function of neurons and glial cells and their interactions impacting on brain circuitry. The last decade has witnessed a tremendous progress in our search of candidate pathways for schizophrenia and bipolar disorders. Each week in this course, we will examine a candidate susceptibility pathway for schizophrenia or bipolar disorder with respect to their roles in the relevant pathways, their impact on neuronal function and finally their impact on circuitry. Candidate genes and pathways will include ANK-3, CaV1.2, dysbindin, neuregulin – erbB4, NMDA complexes.