9.04 | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate

Sensory Systems


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week; 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course examines the neural bases of visual and auditory processing for perception and sensorimotor control, focusing on physiological and anatomical studies of the mammalian nervous system as well as behavioral studies of animals and humans. Visual pattern, color and depth perception, auditory responses and speech coding, and spatial localization are studied.

The first thirteen lectures are devoted to the organization of the visual system and eye-movement control. Topics covered during those lectures are: the retina, the lateral geniculate nucleus and the visual cortex, the parallel channels of the visual system, the processing of color, motion, depth and form, and the neural control of visually guided eye movements. The ten lectures that follow the midterm exam focus on audition. At the end of the semester, the last two sessions will provide an overview of the auditory and visual systems.


Written report on vision 10
Midterm exam 25
Written report on audition 10
Final exam (15% vision + 40% audition) 55


1 Introduction to course; Visual system  
2 Basic layout of the retina  
3 The lateral geniculate nucleus and visual cortex  
4 The ON and OFF channels  
5 The Midget and Parasol channels  
6 Adaptation and color  
7 Depth perception  
8 Form perception  
9 Illusions and visual prosthesis  
10 The neural control of visually guided eye movements, part 1  
11 The neural control of visually guided eye movements, part 2  
12 Motion perception and pursuit eye movements  
13 Overview of vision  
  Exam Midterm exam
14 Sound: External, middle, and inner ears  
15 Hair Cells: Transduction, electrophysiology and “cochlear amplifier”  
16 Auditory Nerve; Psychophysics of frequency resolution  
17 Cochlear Nucleus: Tonotopy, unit types and cell types  
18 Hearing loss and cochlear implants. Demonstration by implant user  
19 Descending systems and reflexes: OC efferents and middle ear muscles  
20 Sound Localization, part 1: Psychophysics and neural circuits  
21 Sound localization, part 2: Superior olivary complex and inferior colliculus  
22 Auditory cortex, Part 1: General physiology and role in sound localization  
23 Auditory cortex, Part 2: Language; bats and echolocation  
24 Eaton-Peabody lab tour at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary  
25 Review of visual system Auditory system written report due
26 Review of auditory system  
  Exam Final exam & Visual system written report due

Course Info

Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments
Instructor Insights