Genetics and Molecular Mechanisms in Neurobiology Sample Syllabus
Professor Cristina Alberini
GOALS, STRUCTURE AND EVALUATION
The goals of the course are threefold:
• Gain a basic understanding of genetics and molecular mechanisms employed by the nervous system with a particular emphasis on those involved in complex brain functions, such as 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 the current knowledge of four important questions in the learning and memory field:
1-What types of molecular mechanisms and genetic regulation underlie brain functions?
2- How are they regulated in different brain cell types?
3- Which level of gene expression regulation underlies brain functions?
4- What types of molecular mechanisms are important for brain functions in early development?
I will provide lectures giving the background and fundamentals for each of the questions. In addition, the course will provide training for two active tasks that the student will learn:
The first will consist of learning to read and present original literature (which I will provide; typically, three papers per class). All students will be responsible for all papers and will be assigned to work in teams. Students will take turns discussing the major findings of each paper, followed by a general discussion of the combined papers by the whole class.
The second task will be also assigned to the same teams, which will take what was discussed in the original literature sections, coupled with my lectures and any other material each team chooses, and develop a Project Proposal describing in as much detail as possible the next experimental steps each team would take to advance the field, on the question under discussion. Towards that end, we will have two classes dedicated:
The first day will be a brainstorming session in class, wherein each team will cluster together and plan their Project Proposal. I will work with the teams throughout the session to answer questions and facilitate discussions. 2 o The second day will be the presentation of each team’s Project Proposal, followed by a general discussion of all the proposals.
There will be only one exam in the course. It will be a take-home exam consisting of one question. The exam answer can be no longer than 4 pages (double spaced, Arial 11 font).
This course will illustrate the genetics and molecular mechanisms used by the brain. We will discuss the types of molecular mechanisms and genetics that the brain cells, including neurons and glia, use to accomplish brain functions. We will particularly discuss these mechanisms in the context of development and memory where molecular mechanisms and genetics have been extensively studied. We will focus on research work done with fruit flies, rodents, and humans and study technical approaches that are currently used to address outstanding research questions. A special emphasis will be given to understanding why specific experiments were done and how to design experiments that will answer outstanding questions about the neurobiology of the brain.
1 Course goals and structure. Overview of topics to be discussed this year: genetics and molecular mechanisms used by: 1) different types of cells in the brain; 2) in brain development, and 3) in behavioral responses.
2 Molecular mechanisms used by neurons and astrocytes
3 No Class- President day
4 Student-led discussions of original papers
5 Molecular mechanisms of brain plasticity: transcription
6 Molecular mechanisms of brain plasticity: translation
7 Molecular mechanisms of brain plasticity: post-translational
8 Student-led discussions of original papers
9 Genetics and molecular mechanisms used in development: critical periods
10 Student-led discussions of original papers
11 Genetics in learning and memory-Drosophila
12 Spring Break- No Class
13 Genetics in learning and memory- Mouse
14 Team brainstorming to identify a research project
15 Team presentations of project proposals