Updated June 2 nd, 2011

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Updated June 2nd, 2011

Duke TIP Summer Studies Program 2011


Duke University West, Term 1

Instructor: Arianna Tamvacakis

Teaching Assistant: Claire Ober

Required materials: notebook or loose-leaf paper; pens and pencils.

Texts and other materials will be supplied by TIP.

Course description and objectives:

One of science’s final frontiers lies within our own bodies: the human nervous system. Neuroscience is the interdisciplinary study of the nervous system, incorporating such fields as anatomy, physiology, biology, ethology, pharmacology, pathology, philosophy, and psychology, to name a few. The job of the neuroscientist is to understand how information from the environment is translated into sensations, thoughts, and behaviors. Neuroscientists today grapple with complex problems such as: how does the brain learn, what is the neural basis of consciousness, and what underlies debilitating neurological disorders and diseases?

The purpose of this course is to utilize critical thought to understand and integrate properties of the human nervous system. To this end, students will analyze various aspects of neuroscience to study human nervous system functions and disorders.
The objectives of this course are that students will:

  • Understand the anatomy and physiology of the nervous system and its components.

  • Gain exposure to some of the many aspects of neuroscience.

  • Analyze human behaviors in the context of nervous system anatomy and physiology.

  • Synthesize and evaluate theories explaining how the nervous system functions.


  • Develop social and team work skills through group discussions and presentations.

  • Develop critical reading skills using scientific research articles and undergraduate-level texts.

  • Develop critical thinking habits by considering complex issues related to neuroscience.

  • Analyze moral and ethical issues related to neuroscience.

  • Access information via online biomedical databases.

Assignments and Evaluations:

This course will be presented as a series of topics, starting with basic nervous system anatomy and building up to complex issues of cognitive neuroscience. Important components of the course will be the ability to think critically about a given topic, to research a topic independently, and to present one’s results orally. Assignments will include critical evaluation of texts, short videos, and primary research articles presented via discussions, writing assignments, research projects, and presentations. While assignments will not be graded and no exams will be given, students will be evaluated on their use of critical thinking and their ability to communicate their understanding of course material to others.

The ultimate objective of the course is to facilitate a connection between the student and neuroscience. Even if students do not later choose a career in science, the teamwork and critical thinking skills gained from this course will benefit them many years into the future.
Detailed syllabus:

Week 1: Cellular and Gross Nervous System Anatomy and Physiology; Sensory and Motor systems.

Monday June 13th

Introductions and cellular neuroscience

9am – 12pm: Introductions

  1. Students, instructor, and T.A. will introduce themselves. Students will fill out a brief questionnaire, and go over classroom conduct rules, who to speak to if they have a problem, etc.

  2. Group discussion: what does “neuroscience” mean? T.A. and instructor will write key words on the board while having students talk about how they define “neuroscience” to illustrate that it is a term that can mean many things to many different people.

  3. Introduce “journal” concept.

1pm – 4pm: Anatomy and physiology of a neuron

  1. Introduce neuronal anatomy.

  2. Introduce neuronal physiology.

  3. Group discussion: students describe how a neuron transmits a simple piece of information, such as touch, in their own words.

  4. Introduce neurotransmitters and receptors.

  5. Group activity: 3-D neurons. Students construct a neuron and see how an “action potential” travels down its axon to cause neurotransmitter release. Have groups of 4-5 build a neuron, then line them up in a chain and have them “transmit information”.

  6. Return to class, where students will summarize what they did, and how an action potential moves down a nerve.

Evening session:

Reading assignment: the anatomy of the central nervous system. Carlson p 69, 82-96.

Tuesday June 14th

Gross anatomy of the brain

9am – 12pm: Anatomy of the human brain

  1. Discussion/questions from yesterday’s reading material and class.

  2. Introduction to central nervous system anatomy: the lobes of the brain and their functions. The cerebellum, brainstem, and spinal cord functions will also be discussed.

  3. Introduction to the cortex.

    1. Sensory and motor homunculi.

    2. Phineas Gage and the role of the frontal cortex and limbic system in behavior.

    3. The role of the left and right cerebrums in communication and sensation; split brain patients.

  4. Students will break into three discussion groups to discuss a specific question regarding one of the topics listed above. Each group will explain what they discussed to the other two groups.

1pm – 4pm: Anatomy of the human brain, continued

  1. Questions/discussion from this morning.

  2. The “thinking cap” activity – students will make a 3-d representation of their brain showing the lobes and their basic functions, and write two functions about each area discussed in class.

  3. Students present their thinking caps.

  4. Introduction to methods in neuroscience.

Evening session:

Students take the “left brain or right brain quiz”, write in their journal about their results, and answer a critical thought question about brain function.

Wednesday June 15th

Sensory systems I

9am – 12pm: Human senses.

  1. Discussion of evening session assignment.

  2. Introduction to human neural sensory systems.

  3. Group debate: consider senses such as sense of time, sense of pain, reading emotions in others, hunger; or non-human senses, like sonar. Talk about what each of these senses are, and debate whether or not they fall under one of the six sensory systems previously discussed.

  4. Introduction to sensory physiology. Discuss how information travels to the brain from the outside world – refer to neuronal anatomy and action potentials from the first day of class. Students will discuss how action potential signaling allows for sensory perception.

1pm – 4pm: Sensory system posters

  1. Brief lecture on how to give a good oral presentation.

  2. Form six groups of 2-3 students. Let students decide which group they want based on topic. Each group prepares a poster using art and information found online to showcase their sensory system and its associated parts of the brain. The posters will be presented tomorrow morning in class.

Evening session: Continue group work and poster. Students should be prepared to use their poster to teach each other about their assigned sensory system tomorrow.

Thursday June 16th

Sensory systems II

9am – 12pm: Group presentations and introduction to Ramashandran’s theory of synesthesia.

  1. Each group presents their poster to the class.

  2. Group thought question: students will work together in small groups to discuss a thought question about sensory physiology.

  3. Introduction to the concept of synesthesia.

  4. YouTube video of person with synesthesia describing symptoms.

  5. Introduction to Ramashandran’s theory of connectivity and competing theories, followed by discussion.

  6. Introduce plasticity of sensory areas and the phantom limb phenomenon.

1pm – 4pm: When sensory systems go awry.

  1. Continue from this morning – finish up talk about synesthesia.

  2. Introduce loss of proprioception in some humans and discuss related concepts.

  3. Reading and writing assignment: “The Disembodied Lady” by Oliver Sacks. Students will answer a critical thought question after reading the vignette.

Evening session: Carlson’s “Control of Movement” writing assignment.

Friday June 17th

Motor system

9am – 12pm: Introduction to the neural control of movement.

  1. Discuss yesterday’s writing assignments, and answer student questions about preceding material.

  2. The different ways we move – are laughing, talking, or breathing “movements”? Students will discuss the idea of what constitutes movement.

  3. Introduction to the neural control of movement.

  4. Parkinson’s disease.

  5. Carlson p135 – Parkinson’s disease and movement, followed by group discussion.

1pm – 4pm: Movement, continued

  1. Review concepts from this morning.

  2. Alien hand syndrome: synthesize concepts by thinking about what this disorder tell us about the “normal” roles of the human motor and premotor cortices?

  3. Tourrette’s Syndrome

  4. Reading assignment: “Witty Ticcy Ray”.

Saturday June 18th

Sensorimotor systems

9am – 12pm: Sensorimotor systems, the scientific method, and efference copy.

  1. Introduce areas of the brain that integrate information.

  2. Introduction to scientific method.

  3. The vestibulo-ocular experiment. Students will hypothesize about the effects of prism glasses on hand-eye coordination using information presented in class, then test their hypotheses by collecting data and writing conclusions about their experiment.

  4. Students will present their findings in class.

  5. Introduce efference copy concept.

  6. Have a group discussion on how sensory and motor systems integrate.

  7. Questions from students.

  8. If there’s time left over, students can present their thinking caps and relate areas of their brain to concepts learned in the past week.

Week 2: Behavioral and cognitive neuroscience

Monday June 20th

Learning and memory

9am – 12pm: Introduction to learning and memory

  1. Introduction to learning and memory at the cellular level and Kandel’s theory of learning.

  2. Introduction to the role of the hippocampus, the cerebellum, and other areas involved with learning.

  3. Discuss the difference between learning and memory.

  4. Introduction to different types of learning, including student discussion of ways that learning occurs.

  5. Case study: patient H.M. Show a short YouTube video of H.M. interacting with a doctor, and discuss how this case contributed to our understanding of learning and memory.

1pm – 4pm: Addiction

  1. Introduction to addiction. Students will discuss what else besides drugs/alcohol can a human become addicted to?

  2. Neural correlates of addiction - nucleus accumbens, dopamine signaling.

  3. Reading – p614-618 of Carlson text.

  4. Idea synthesis: how are addiction and learning related?

Evening session: Thought question on learning and addiction.

Tuesday June 21st

Memory, emotions, and stress

9am – 12pm: Introduction to memory

  1. Briefly introduce the history of memory research. Students can discuss how they think memory is stored.

  2. Introduction to McGaugh’s emotional memory consolidation hypothesis. Ask students if they remember every-day events or emotionally salient events?

  3. Introduction to competing theories of memory consolidation.

  4. Introduction to competing theories of memory consolidation. “The Woman Who Cannot Forget” and YouTube clip of her daily life.

  5. Introduction to stress and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

  6. Introduction to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Can students relate PTSD to McGaugh’s emotional consolidation hypothesis discussed earlier?

  7. YouTube video of soldier describing PTSD.

  8. Discussion on the idea of evolutionary adaptation. Can students describe the adaptive nature of emotion and memory?

  9. Introduction to emotions and how they are expressed by humans.

  10. Introduction to neural correlates of emotions – amygdala, areas of the limbic system, mirror neurons, oxytocin, and vasopressin.

1pm – 4pm: Human emotions; the neural correlates of empathy

  1. Introduction to the connection between olfaction and emotions. Discuss as a group how the olfactory system works and how its connection to the limbic system facilitates association of smells, memories, and emotions.

  2. Olfaction and emotions activity. Students will smell each of 5 samples and write down whether they feel positively or negatively about these smells. We’ll tell them what each smell is after they’ve written down their emotional responses.

  3. Introduce empathy and its neural correlates, and psychopathy as the absence of empathy in some individuals.

  4. Psychopathic individual YouTube video and case study.

  5. Thought question – how do mirror neurons influence emotional behavior? Could psychopathic people have a deficit in mirror neuron function? Have students form groups of 2-3 and discuss, then write their responses separately.

Evening session: Continue writing assignment.

Wednesday June 22nd

Consciousness and Attention

9am – 12pm: Consciousness

  1. Review and discuss topics and writing assignment covered yesterday.

  2. Introduction to human consciousness. What have scientists done to try to find consciousness in the brain?

  3. Small group debate: how do students define consciousness? How are consciousness and memory related? Is H.M. “conscious”? Are non-human animals conscious? Does efference copy relate to consciousness? These topics and others will be used to facilitate class debates.

1pm – 4pm: Attention

  1. Introduction to neural correlates of attention; top-down vs. bottom up attention.

  2. Are some aspects of attention non-language oriented?

  3. Debate: do students think that consciousness is related to attention?

  4. Discuss attention deficit disorder.

  5. Discuss theory of attention w/ respect to autism.

  6. Briefly go over the concept of scientific journal articles, use of Pubmed and other journal article search engines, and strategies for reading them.

  7. Group reading assignment: “Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the context of autism spectrum disorders.” Five groups of 2-3 students will find the paper using Pubmed, then read the paper together and discuss the meaning of what they’ve read.

  8. Discussion about tomorrow’s field trip to the B.I.A.C.

Evening session:

Continue group reading and discussion.

Thursday June 23rd

9am – 12pm: Neural basis of language

  1. Introduction to the neural basis of language: reading, writing, comprehending, and speaking.

  2. Discussion and group reading assignment.

1pm – 4pm: Brain Imaging Field Trip

  1. Meet for class as usual and walk to the Duke University Brain Imaging and Analysis Center (BIAC).

  2. Meet with Dr. Belger for an introduction to brain imaging techniques.

  3. Tour the Brain Imaging facilities.

  4. Learn about how brain images are analyzed.

  5. Learn about how brain imaging is used to understand neurological disorders.

  6. Return to campus.

  7. Discussion on rules and safety practices for sheep brain dissections tomorrow.

Evening session:

Thought question assignment on the neural correlates of dreaming.

Friday June 24th

Sleep, dreaming, and sense of time; sheep brain dissection

9am – 12pm: Sleep and circadian rhythm

  1. Introduction to the brain during sleep.

  2. REM sleep behavior disorder – involvement of pons and spinal cord.

  3. Introduce the brain during dreaming.

  4. Reading from Carlson text and thought question assignment.

  5. How do humans sense time?

  6. Circadian clocks and sense of time in the brain.

1pm – 4pm: Sheep brain dissection

  1. Go over safety concerns.

  2. Students will work in pairs – one will dissect, the other will document the areas of the brain they identify based on comparisons with a human anatomical model.

  3. When all students finish dissection, we will discuss as a group similarities and differences between sheep brains and human brains, as well as what they observed.

Saturday June 25th

Brain-machine interfaces, neuroenhancement, and ethics.

9am – 12pm: Neuroenhancement

  1. Review what was learned this week.

  2. Brain computer interfaces for neural injury and the future for neuroenhancement.

  3. Other ways people use neuroenhancement currently, and what could be possible in the future?

  4. Debate: is neuroenhancement for personal gain morally correct?

Week 3: Neural disorders and diseases; student presentations

Monday June 27th

Schizophrenia and stroke

9am – 12pm: Schizophrenia

  1. Group reading – Ch 16 of Carlson text.

  2. Introduction to the neurological basis of schizophrenia.

  3. Schizophrenia YouTube video and discussion.

1pm – 4pm: “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”

  1. Students will read this vignette in class, form discussion groups of 3-4 to discuss what they’ve read, and answer a set of questions.

Evening session: Continue group reading assignment and finish answering questions. Students who volunteer for the case study will be given a script and briefed on their role by Claire.

Tuesday June 28th

Stroke case study

9am – 12pm: Stroke case study

  1. Discuss yesterday’s reading assignment as a class.

  2. Discussion on the concept of case studies and how neurologists use them to diagnose patients.

  3. Students, T.A., and instructor will act out the examination of a person who has had a stroke. Students will then work in teams of 4-5 to research stroke symptoms and diagnose the type of stroke and area of the brain it occurred in. Students will be given a list of clues, along with the patient’s symptoms, that will help guide their research.

1pm – 4pm: Case study research

  1. Student groups will continue research on the area of the brain affected in this morning’s case study and prepare a short informal presentation on the area(s) affected, what happened to the neurons in the region during the stroke, and what the normal function of the area affected is.

  2. Groups will compare their findings in informal class presentations.

Evening session: Reading assignment on hemispatial neglect and stroke.

Wednesday June 29th

Multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer ’s disease

9am – 12pm: Multiple sclerosis

  1. Introduction to multiple sclerosis.

  2. Multiple sclerosis section in Carlson text; groups of 3-4 students read and discuss.

  3. Discussion on how loss of myelin results in multiple sclerosis symptoms using concepts learned during the first week of class.

  4. Group discussion on reading.

1pm – 4pm: Alzheimer ’s disease

  1. Introduction to Alzheimer’s disease.

  2. Review of learning and memory from last week, now in the context of Alzheimer’s disease.

  3. Alzheimer’s disease section in Carlson text; groups of 3-4 students read and discuss.

  4. Group discussion on reading.

  5. Introduction to use of animal models in neurological diseases.

  6. Group debate about the relevance of animal models in the study of a human disease.

Evening session: Thought question and writing assignment on use of animal models in neuroscience.

Thursday June 30th

9am – 12pm: students work on individual presentations

  1. Individual presentation guidelines will be explained in class. Presentation will be in the medium chosen by the student, but will be limited to the supplies on hand, and students must present their project to the class on Friday.

  2. Online research time to pick special topic.

  3. Students will confirm their topic choice with instructor and T.A., and then begin research on that topic.

1pm – 4pm: Students continue work on individual presentations.

Evening session: Students finish their individual presentations.

Friday July 1st

9am – 12pm: Student presentations.

  1. Students will present their topics to the class.

1pm – 4pm: Student presentations and final wrap-up.

  1. Any remaining presentations will be given.

  2. Group discussion regarding the class, lingering questions, other issues will be discussed.

  3. Read and discuss the short paper “What is the mind?” by The Dalai Lama.

  4. Final questionnaire for students’ evaluations of class.

Saturday July 2nd

Final parent conferences.

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