Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


7.03 Genetics
7.05 General Biochemistry
7.06 Cell Biology
7.28 Molecular Biology

Course Summary

How do we find our favorite store in the mall? And how do we remember where we parked our car? By using simple animal models and sophisticated electrophysiological, biochemical and molecular biological methods, neuroscientists over the past 40 years have found fascinating answers to these questions. In this course we will discover how innovative technologies combined with profound hypotheses have given rise to our current understanding of neuroscience. We will study both new and classical primary research papers with a focus on the plasticity between synapses in a brain structure called the hippocampus, which is believed to underlie the ability to create and retrieve certain classes of memories. We will discuss the basic electrical properties of neurons and how they fire. We will see how firing properties can change with experience, and we will study the biochemical basis of these changes. We will learn how molecular biology can be used to specifically change the biochemical properties of brain circuits, and we will see how these circuits form a representation of space giving rise to complex behaviors in living animals. A special emphasis will be given to understanding why specific experiments were done and how to design experiments that will answer the questions you have about the brain.

The course consists of weekly meetings during which primary research papers will be discussed. These papers will be introduced in the previous meeting and should be read prior to the class. Each week one or two questions will be distributed with the papers. Brief answers to the questions should be emailed to the instructor by the evening prior to discussion of the papers. The classes are designed to promote discussion of the papers. Students will be expected to be able to explain the material in the papers.


The course has a pass/fail grade. To pass, students are expected to attend class, demonstrate fluency in the course material, and complete the assignments described on the Assignments page.


1 Introduction

2 Scientific reading, writing and learning mechanisms of simple invertebrates Cake assignment due
3 Synaptic plasticity in rodent hippocampal slices

4 Molecular mechanisms underlying LTP

5 Complicating the model of LTP

6 The Morris water maze

7 Place cells Literature search assignment due
8 Field trip

9 NMDA receptors and place cells

10 Hippocampal representation of space in contextual fear conditioning

11 Synaptic tagging Essay due
12 Other aspects of place cells

13 Does LTP really happen in the brain?

14 Schemas’ of memory

Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2007
Learning Resource Types
notes Lecture Notes
assignment Written Assignments