BIO303: Neurobiology

Course Syllabus for "BIO303: Neurobiology"

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Neurobiology is all about the biology of our nervous system, from the spinal cord to the brain—and everything in between. The nervous system allows us to have conscious thoughts, enables us to learn, and gives us voluntary control of our muscles. Our understanding of neuroscience begins with the ancient Egyptians, who practiced surgical drilling to treat certain neurological disorders. The earliest philosophers believed that the heart (not the brain) was the center of consciousness and intelligence. As scientific knowledge matured and developed, philosophers disproved that belief but discovered that there is much more to neurobiology than “the brain.” Researchers found that there are literally hundreds of billions of nerves and other cells that cooperate and share information to make the nervous system work. Accordingly, neurobiology is an extremely complex field of study. This course is designed to provide you with an overview of the most important areas of neurobiological study. We will not pay much attention to those aspects of the nervous system that continue to baffle scientists today (and there are many!). After a general introduction and review of pertinent scientific concepts, we will take a look at cellular signaling (the way in which nerve cells communicate with one another). Next, you will learn about neuron development and plasticity, or the ways in which neurons adapt and shape their connections throughout our lifetimes. Lastly, we examine the larger systems of neurobiology, such as the sensory and motor systems, and take a look at the complex phenomena of memory and emotion.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of the basic biochemical concepts pertinent to cell biology;
  • identify the basic structure of the nerve cell, the various functions of different components of the nerve cells, and different types of nerve cells;
  • describe various different nervous systems;
  • describe the structure and function of the nervous systems;
  • explain how nerve cells propagate and transmit nervous impulses;
  • describe select diseases caused by malfunctioning or nerve cell death in parts of the nervous system;
  • explain how the nervous system responds to nerve damage or death and therapeutic measures;
  • describe how the nervous system is formed in the embryo and identify the role of various genes and hormonal regulators in that development process;
  • describe the structure and function of the brain and spinal cord; and
  • describe the structure and function of the somatic sensory system and the motor system.      

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    have access to a computer;

√    have continuous broadband internet access;

√    have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe ReaderorFlash);

√    have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer;

√    have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.);

√    be competent in the English language;

√    have read the Saylor Student Handbook; and

√    have completed the following courses listed in “The Core Program” of the Biology discipline as pre-requisites: BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology and BIO301: Cell Biology; BIO302: Human Anatomy (Unit 5 Nervous System). 

Course Information

Welcome to BIO303! Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.
Course Designer: Kathleen George
Primary Resources: This course is comprised of a range of different free, online materials. However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

  • The University of Texas: Neuroscience Online       
  • Biologymad.com: Nervous System
  • NCBI Bookshelf’s version of Sinauer Associates, Inc., Purves, Augustine, Fitzpatrick, et al.’s (ed.) Neuroscience, 2nd Edition

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned material. All units build on previous units, so it will be important to progress through the course in the order presented.
In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
Time Commitment: This course is the equivalent of a 3-credit semester long course, and should take you approximately 121.5 hours to complete. Unit 1 is primarily background, so may be completed in less time than other sections. Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself. For example, Unit 1 should take you 6 hours. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (a total of 2 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.3 (a total of 2 hours) on Tuesday night; etc.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.