Molecular Mechanisms of Learning and Memory Sample Syllabus
Professor Tom Carew
The goals of the course are threefold:
• Gain a basic understanding of the molecular approaches used in the analysis of learning and memory
• Learn to critically evaluate and present original literature in the field
• Learn to work as a member of a team in preparing and presenting Project Proposals
The course will be focused on three powerful model systems that have provided seminal insights into the molecular architecture of learning and memory: (i) Aplysia, (ii) Drosophila, and (iii) the Hippocampus. In the first part of the course (Classes 1-4), I will provide lectures giving the background and fundamentals for each of the model systems. The second part of the course (Classes 5-13) will be comprised of three “cycles” (an Aplysia cycle, a Drosophila cycle, and a Hippocampal cycle).
Each cycle will have three parts (each taking one day of class time):
• The first day will consist of student-led discussions of original literature (which I will provide; typically three papers per class). All students will be responsible for all papers. Students will take turns discussing the major findings of each paper, followed by a general discussion of the combined papers by the whole class.
• For the second and third days of each cycle, students will be divided into teams (roughly 4 students per team). The ultimate goal of each team is to (i) take what was discussed in the original literature sections, coupled with my lectures and any other material each team chooses, and (ii) develop a Project Proposal describing in as much detail as possible the next experimental steps each team would take to advance the field, using the model system for that cycle.
Towards that end:
- The second day of each cycle will be a brainstorming session in class, wherein each team will cluster together and plan their Project Proposal. I will circulate among the teams throughout the session to answer questions and facilitate discussions.
- The third day of each cycle will be the presentation of each team’s Project Proposal, followed by a general discussion of all the proposals.
Two final points: (i) The composition of the teams will change for each cycle, and (ii) I will provide popcorn during all team presentations.
There will be only one exam in the course. It will be a take-home exam consisting of 2-3 questions. Students will answer only one question of their choosing. The exam answer can be no longer than 5 pages (double spaced, Arial 11 font). The exam will be posted on the class website on the morning of Tuesday during exam week. Your answer must be returned to me (by email) no later than 5 pm on Thursday of that week.
The majority of a student’s grade (80%) will be determined by three factors: (i) preparation for class, (ii) engagement and participation in discussions, and (iii) the quality of oral presentations (e.g., on Days 1 and 3 of each cycle). In addition, the final exam will contribute 20% to a student’s final grade.
Class 1 (1) Course goals and structure; (2) Learning and Memory: an Overview (3) Introduction to the molecular vocabulary of learning and memory
Class 2 Model System I: Synaptic and molecular analysis of memory in Aplysia
Class 3 Model System II: Behavioral genetic analysis of memory in Drosophila
Class 4 Model System III: Long-term synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus
CYCLE 1: APLYSIA
Class 5 Spring Break
Class 6 APLYSIA I: Student-led discussions of original papers
Class 7 APLYSIA II: Breakout sessions - team brainstorming for Project Proposals
Class 8 APLYSIA III: Team presentations of Project Proposals
CYCLE 2: DROSOPHILA
Class 9 DROSOPHILA I: Student-led discussions of original papers
Class 10 DROSOPHILA II: Breakout sessions - team brainstorming for Project Proposals
Class 12 DROSOPHILA III: Team presentations of Project Proposals
CYCLE 3: HIPPOCAMPUS
Class 13 HIPPOCAMPUS I: Student-led discussions of original papers
Class 14 HIPPOCAMPUS II: Breakout sessions - team brainstorming for Project Proposals
Class 15 HIPPOCAMPUS III: Team presentations of Project Proposals