Biological Bases of Learning and Memory

Nerve cells grown in culture as seen under a microscope. Nerve cells appear as tan threads on a brown background. Round tan beads on these threads are the synapses, the connections between nerve cells.

In this micrograph of neurons grown in culture, the tan threads are nerve cells, and the round tan beads are synapses, the connections that form between nerve cells. Changes in these connections are believed to underlie learning and memory (Image from the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, National Institute of General Medical Sciences).


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2014



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Course Features

Course Description

How does the brain come to learn whether a stimulus is annoying, rewarding or neutral? How does remembering how to ride a bicycle differ from remembering scenes from a movie? In this course, students will explore the concept that learning and memory have a physical basis that can be observed as biochemical, physiological and/or morphological changes to neural tissue. Our goal will be to understand the strategies and techniques biologists use to search for the memory trace: the "holy grail" of modern neuroscience.

This course is one of many Advanced Undergraduate Seminars offered by the Biology Department at MIT. These seminars are tailored for students with an interest in using primary research literature to discuss and learn about current biological research in a highly interactive setting. Many instructors of the Advanced Undergraduate Seminars are postdoctoral scientists with a strong interest in teaching.

Makuch, Lauren, and Jaichandar Subramanian. 7.343 Biological Bases of Learning and Memory, Spring 2014. (MIT OpenCourseWare: Massachusetts Institute of Technology), (Accessed). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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