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Biology 202, Neurobiology and Behavior, Spring 2000


Course instructor: Paul Grobstein Room 106, 526-5098, pgrobste@brynmawr.edu

Website: http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro00

Prospectus: The objective of this course is to introduce you to the prospects and problems of trying to understand behavior in terms of nervous system function, and to involve you in ongoing thinking along these lines. It is a comprehensive treatment neither of research on the nervous system nor of that on behavior, but rather a consideration of the relations between the two. As such, it is largely a course on how to identify and investigate problems, rather than one intended to convey a predefined body of information, and may be of interest to students expecting to do more advanced work in any of a variety of fields. Lecture/discussions will provide you with useful observational and conceptual foundations from which you can proceed to explore interests of your own. You will do so by additional readings, discussion, and writing.

Organization: The class will meet twice a week for lecture/discussions as shown on the accompanying Course Schedule. In addition to active participation in those sessions, students will spend additional time on reading and on preparation of weekly short essays and of three longer papers (see below). These three papers will replace examinations in this course. I will be happy to meet individually with students at mutually convenient times, easily easily arranged by email or by checking with me before or after class sessions.

Readings: A cardinal principle of this course is that material is best mastered by becoming actively involved with it, by looking at it from a variety of points of view, using each to weigh the usefulness of others. Readings are an important source of these additional points of view.

There is no required text for this course. You should, however, plan to spend two to three hours a week on related readings. A list of relevant Scientific American articles is provided below. These are available, within the TriCollege community, through the TriCollege Electronic Reserve on the course home page (as well as, in some cases, directly on-line from Scientific American). Recent issues of Scientific American, the journal Trends in Neuroscience, and Annual Reviews of Neuroscience (all available in Collier Library) are good starting places for further reading on many aspects of neurobiology and behavior. So too are occasional articles appearing in the Science Times section of the New York Times (Tuesdays) and in the New York Review of Books. Students wanting more details on basic cellular processes or relevant aspects of the vertebrate nervous system may wish to spend some time with Kandel, Schwartz, and Jessel, Principles of Neural Science, which is on reserve in the Collier Library.

A number of quite good books on various aspects of neurobiology and behavior, written at levels appropriate for this course, have appeared in recent years (and continue to appear. These are a source of additional useful perspectives. A Course Evolving Book list is available from the course home page. With permission of the instructor a review of one such book can be substituted for one of the two shorter web research papers required for this course (see below).

The World Wide Web provides an additional accessible, large, and constantly evolving set of resources which can be conveniently explored beginning at the course website. This material is particularly suitable for exploring aspects of brain and behavior which are of special interest to you, and will provide the basis for your longer papers, so you should plan to spend a significant amount of time exploring the web and becoming familiar with its organization, strengths, and limitations. A Course Evolving Web Resource List is available from the course home page to help you get started, and you are invited to contribute to its evolution as you discover sites of interest to you and potentially to others. Another good starting point, also accessible from the course home page is the Brain and Behavior section of Serendip.

Writing: Mastery of scientific observations and concepts, and their interrelationships, is greatly facilitated by writing about them, and clear writing is essential to the sharing of perspectives on which science depends. To develop your skills, as well as to share ideas among course participants, you will write weekly short essays, as well as three longer papers, which will be posted on the course website.

Weekly essays should be a page or less, written on (or copied to) an electronic forum area which can be reached from the course website. Each week a question related to the material discussed that week will be posed for short responses. Alternatively, you are free to write about any subject which the week's discussions raised in your mind. A major objective of these essays is to encourage sharing of both ideas and questions. Hence, the weekly essays will not be graded.

The three longer papers will be based on exploration of WWW materials on subjects related to neurobiology and behavior which are of particular interest to you. The first two of these papers (see Course Schedule for due dates) should be three to four pages in length. The third paper, to be done in lieu of a final exam and due at the end of exam period, should be six to seven pages. Papers should be submitted both as a typed deraft and in an electronic form suitable for posting (see information for web projects, on the course home page). Each should be an informed, clear, and interesting discussion, using materials on the web as references, which exhibits the concern for both observations and rigorous interpretation which is fundamental to science. It is expected that the papers will become increasingly sophisticated as the semester proceeds, so you may choose either to write on three different topics or to rework a given topic with increasing sophistication. If needed, I'm happy to meet with students to discuss topic choices, and/or concerns, technical or otherwise, about posting material on the web.

Evaluation and Grades: Papers will be evaluated in terms of conceptual logic and rigor, appropriate attention to the relations between observations and conclusions, clarity of presentation, and evidence of serious intellectual interest in and engagement with the material presented. Almost all interesting subjects in the area of brain and behavior require attention to observations at a variety of levels of organization, ranging from the molecular and cellular through the organismal and social, and papers will, as appropriate, be evaluated in these terms as well. Each paper will be graded on a ten point scale, with seven corresponding to acceptable on most counts and ten to exceptional on all counts. Scores on the three papers will be combined, with the final paper given twice the weight of each of the first two. The combined paper score will contribute eight percent to a course total, with general class participation, including weekly essays, contributing the balance. Course totals in the vicinity of 90 percent and above will translate into final grades of 4.0, those in the vicinity of 75 and above into final grades of 3.0, those in the vicinity of 60 and above into final grades of 2.0. Final scores above 50 percent are needed to pass the course. No single measure can adequately reflect the distinctive efforts and achievements of any individual taking a given course, not can your grade in any given course be taken as an adequate indicator of your likely performance in other contexts. You should therefore always regard your scores as only one measure of your performance, taking into account as well your distinctive objectives and your own sense of what you have achieved in relation to them. Should you have questions about the significance of your scores in relation to personal progress or career objectives, your instructor would be happy to discuss these with you (as well as to provide to others any additional information which might usefully extend that available from your course grade). 


DateSubjectAssignments Due
18 JanThe problem, and methods of exploration
20 JanNeuroanatomy - Inputs and outputs
25 JanNeuroanatomy - The central nervous system weekly essay
27 JanNeurophysiology I
1 FebNeurophysiology IIweekly essay
3 FebNeurochemistry
8 FebReflexology and central pattern generationweekly essay
10 FebCentral pattern generation and corollary discharge
15 FebFeedback processingweekly essay
17 FebMuscle mechanics, motor synergies, and distributed control
22 FebVolunary movementFIRST SHORT PAPER
INPUT PROCESSING (Sensory processing)
24 FebCoding, filtering, and feature detection
29 FebMapping and stereopsisweekly essay
2 MarchColor vision
14 MarchPreattentive and attentive visionweekly essay
16 MarchPopulation coding, parallel and distributed processing
21 MarchSuperimposed maps and activity-gated divergenceweekly essay
23 MarchGestalts and choices
28 MarchAfference, expectation, and internal feedbackweekly essay
30 MarchLocal and global phenomena - choice, attention, sleep/wakeweekly essay
4 AprilExtrinsic vs. intrinsic factorsSECOND SHORT PAPER
6 AprilMultiple global control mechanisms
THE "I-FUNCTION" (Conscious processing)
11 AprilEncephalization and the cortical problemweekly essay
13 AprilAwareness and self-awareness
18 AprilVoluntary action and willweekly essay
20 AprilThe reality of the innate
25 AprilForms of neuronal lability, learning and memoryweekly essay
27 AprilIndividuality and creativity
due last day of exam period


The list below includes a number of articles which relate specifically to successive sections of the course as outlined in the Lecture Schedule above. These articles are available, within the TriCollege community, via Electronic Reserve. Following this is an alphabetical list of additional, more recent relevant articles which are not on reserve but are, in some cases, available on-line from Scientific American.


Bentley, D. and Hoy, R. The neurobiology of cricket song. May, 1974.
Stevens, C.F. The neuron. September, 1979.
Iverson, L.L. The chemistry of the brain. September, 1979.
Bloom, F.E. Neuropeptides. October, 1981.
Nauta, W.J.H. and Feirtag, M. The organization of the brain. September, 1979.

Output processing

Merton, P.A. How we control the contraction of our muscles. May, 1972.
Wilson, D.M. The flight control system of the locust. May, 1968.
Pearson, The control of walking. December, 1976.
Bizzi, E. The coordination of eye-head movement. October, 1974.
Heller, H.C., Crawshaw, L.I., and Hammel, H.T. The thermostat of vertebrate animals. August, 1978.
Evarts, E.V. Brain mechanisms of movement. September, 1979.
Melzack, R. Phantom limbs. April, 1992

Input processing

Ratliff, F. Color and contrast. June, 1972.
Michael, C.R. Retinal processing of visual images. May, 1969.
Hubel, D.H. and Wiesel, T.N. Brain mechanisms of vision. September, 1979.
Pettigrew, J.D. The neurophysiology of binocular vision. August, 1972.
Rushton, W.A.H. Visual pigments and color blindness. March, 1975.
Land, E.H. The retinex theory of color vision. December, 1977.
Ramachandran, V.S. Perceiving shape from shading. August, 1988.
Treisman, A. Features and objects in visual processing. November, 1986.
Ramachandran, V.S. Blind spots. May, 1992.
Freeman, W.J. The physiology of perception. February, 1992.

The sensorimotor interface - Directed movement

Ewert, J.-P. The neural basis of visually guided behavior. March, 1974.
Brownell, P.H. Prey detection by the sand scorpion. December, 1984.
Shettleworth, S.J. Memory in food-hoarding birds. March, 1983.

Modulation and internal drive

Wurtz, R.H., Goldberg, M.E. and Robinson, D.L. Brain mechanisms of visual attention. June, 1982.
Lent, C.M, and Dickinson, M.H. The neurobiology of feeding in leeches. June, 1988.
Jouvet, M. The states of sleep. February, 1967.
Gwinner, E. Internal rhythms in bird migration. April, 1986.
McEwen, B.S. Interactions between hormones and nerve tissue. July, 1976.
Kety, S.S. Disorders of the human brain. September, 1979.
Wurtman, R.J, and Wurtman, J.J. Carbohydrates and depression. January, 1989.

Nested interface systems

Jerison, H.J. Paleoneurology and the evolution of mind. January, 1976.
Cooper, L.A. and Shepher, R.N. Turning something over in the mind. December, 1984.
Gazzaniga, M. The split brain in man. August, 1967.
Mattley, M.T. Slips of the tongue. September, 1985.
Morrson, A.R. A window on the sleeping brain. April, 1983.
Luria, A.R. The functional organization of the brain. March, 1970.
Geshwind, N. Specializations of the human brain. September, 1979.
Weiss, J. Unconscious mental functioning. March, 1990.

Genesis of neural function and behavior

Sperry, R.W. The eye and the brain. May, 1956.
Bickerton, D. Creole languages. July, 1983.
Cowan, W.M. The development of the brain. September, 1979.
Kandel, E.R. Small systems of neurons. September, 1979.
Routenberg, A. The reward system of the brain. November, 1978.
Gould, J.L. and Marler, P. Learning by instinct. January, 1987.
Mishkin, M. and Appenzeller, T. The anatomy of memory. June, 1987.

Additional more recent articles (not on reserve)

Barkley, R.A. Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Sept. 1998
Beardsley. T. The machinery of thought. Aug. 1997
Brown, J.L. and Pollitt, E. How malnutritioon affects intellectual development. Feb. 1996
Brown, W.A. The placebo effect. Jan. 1998
Casti, J.L. Confronting science's logical limits. Oct. 1996
Copeland, B.J. and Proudfoot, D. Alan Turing's forgotten ideas in computer science. April, 1999
Damasio, A.R. How the brain creates the mind. Dec, 1999.
Damon, W. The moral development of children. Aug, 1999
Dawson, J.W.Jr. Godel and the limits of logic. June, 1999
Dugastin, L.A. and Godin. J.-G. J. How females choose their mates. April, 1998
Gibbs. W.W. Gaining on fat. Aug. 1996
Gazzaniga, M.S. The split brain revisited. July, 1998
Grillner, S. Neural networks in vertebrate locomotion. Jan. 1996
Horgan, J. Why Freud isn't dead. Dec. 1996
Kearney, J.T. Training the Olympic athlete June 1996
Kempermann, G. and Gage, F.H. New nerve cells for the adult brain. May, 1999
Kennedy, J.M. How the blind draw. Jan. 1997.
Kleinman, A. and Cohen, A. Psychiatry's global challenge. March, 1997
Lenhoff, H.M., Wang, P.P., Greenberg, R., and Bellugi, U. Williams Syndrome and the brain. Dec. 1997
Loftus, E.F. Creating false memories. Sept. 1997
Logothetis, N.K. Vision: a window on consciousness. Nov, 1999
Losick, R. and Kaiser, D. Why and how bacteria communicate. Feb. 1997
Lusted, H.S. and Knapp, R.B. Controlling computers with neural signals Oct. 1996
McDonald, J.W. Repairing the damaged spinal cord. Sept, 1999
Myers, D.G. and Diener, E. The pursuit of happiness. May 1996.
Nemeroff, C.B. The neurobiology of depression. June, 1998.
Plomin, R. and DeFries, J.C. The genetics of cognitive abilities and disabilities. May, 1998
Shaywitz, S.E. Dyslexia. Nov. 1996
Siegel, J.M. Narcolepsy. Jan, 2000
de Waal, Frans B.M. The end of nature versus nurture. Dec, 1999
Webb, Barbara. A cricket robot. Dec. 1996
Youdim, M.B.H. and Riederer. Understanding Parkinson's disease. Jan. 1997
Zill, S.N. and Seyfarth, E. Exoskeletal sensors for walking. July 1996

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