Module 023746 Neurobiology
VERSION: April 2002 for Autumn Term 2002

Summary: The course will focus on the central nervous system of animals, and mainly the vertebrate brain, developing from Module 630 which was primarily about the peripheral nervous system and invertebrates. We shall discuss visual perception, learning, memory, language and consciousness. Part of the course will consider models of the brain, particularly models of learning and memory and will include discussion about recent experiments relating to these theories.

Aims: to provide an understanding of the relation between nerve activity and behaviour, both at a simple level and at the more complex, self-aware levels, and to understand the methods for data acquisition and analysis. In particular:

the technical approaches to understanding brain function:

the organisation of simple and more complex systems the neurobiology of the human experience Web page index:

PREREQUISITES: Module 632 Nerve Brain and Movement is highly recommended

6 lectures: Chris Elliott

The aim of these lectures is to investigate the neural basis of behaviour, and how animals identify and use signals necessary for survival. A basic outline is provided by the book Nerve cells and animal behaviour by Simmons & Young OUP, second edition 1999

1. Crayfish escape behaviour

This relates the simple nerve action in the crayfish to the escape behaviour, describing how sensory stimuli trigger the behaviour, how the behaviour is evoked and how the crayfish ensures that self- evoked movement does not trigger the behaviour.

2. Bird Song and Owl hearing

After considering the physical properties of sound and its reception, this lecture describes the mechanisms for hearing and sound production in birds, and how this contributes to the evolution of dialects. The specialised nature of hearing in owls is considered in the context of neural maps of the world, especially the mechanisms by which they use 2 ears to construct a 3-d map of auditory space.

3. Echolocation in bats

Here the echolocation of bats is related to their hunting abilities, how they can locate objects and land; how they can discriminate food items and catch them accurately

4. Electric fish

These fish signal in murky water using electric impulses. The methods used by pulse and =wave fish will be described, and their abilities to distinguish self- from non-self generated signals characterised.

5.6 The Human Brain in health and disease; perception of pain

In this part of the course the basic anatomy of the human brain and its descending control of the spinal column will be outlined. The basic mechanisms of motor control will be discussed in the light of observations from damage and disease. On the sensory side, the perception of pain and its control by analgesics will be used as an example.

3 lectures - Peter Hogarth  
7, 8. Neurobiology of language

Speech perception. Roles of left and right hemispheres; neural basis of verbal memory; categorisation and word-blindness; aphasias; language structure and meaning.

9. Attention, awareness and consciousness

A closed exam at the beginning of term 8. The exam will last 1hr and 30 minutes, comprising 6 short answer questions and an essay question (to be answered from a choice of two).


9 Lectures: Chris Elliott, (1-6) Peter Hogarth (7-9). MAXIMUM NUMBERS: Limited only by size of lecture room   STUDENT WORKLOAD: Lectures: 9 Practicals: 0 Tutorials: 0

Total contact hours: 11

Private study: 79