Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Introduction to Neuroscience or any equivalent course is sufficient. If you have not taken any neuroscience course but have some basic knowledge of the nervous system, please consult with me at the beginning of the semester.


Glia (Greek for "glue"), the non-neuronal elements of the nervous system, were first identified in 1846 by the anatomist Rudolph Virchow. Since then, glial cells have been regarded as passive nervous system components that provide insulation and tropic support for neurons. This view has been challenged in the last few years, and we now know that glial cells actively control synapse formation, synapse function and synaptic plasticity. In the mammalian nervous system, glial cells outnumber neurons by a factor of ten, reflecting the importance of these cells. Thus, it seems essential that we understand the functions of these cells and rethink our view of the nervous system as we learn more about the dynamic connections among neuronal and glial cells.

The main goal of this seminar will be to study the nervous system from the perspective of neuron-glia interactions. In each class, we will focus on one type of glial cell and discuss its origin, classification and function within the nervous system. Current findings concerning diseases associated with each type of glial cell will be discussed. Topics will include the behavior of glial cells in diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), HIV-associated dementia (HAD), Alzheimer's Disease (AD), ischemia, hypoxia and epilepsy. We will also discuss the role of glial cells as neural stem cells in the adult brain and their importance in the effective rebuilding of damaged brains after injury or disease-associated neurodegeneration. The class will include a field trip to a medical school to observe clinical research concerning glial disorders.

Format and Aim

Two papers from the primary research literature will be discussed each week. One will relate to the function of a specific glial cell type and the other will discuss a disease related to that function. In each class, we will focus on one type of glia cell and learn its origin, classification and function.

The aim of this class is to familiarize students with critical thinking and scientific evaluation of the primary research literature. Students are expected to read the assigned papers in detail and suggest two questions for discussions before each class.


This course will be graded pass/fail. Attendance at and active participation in all classes and completion of the written and oral assignments will be the main base of evaluation. Please note that if you miss a class you will need to do a makeup assignment. Because class discussion is the focus of this course, you are strongly encouraged not to miss any classes.

Weekly Assignment

You are required to read both assigned papers and email to the instructor two questions for class discussion per paper before noon on the day of the class.


1Overview of the class, introduction to glia and use of Pubmed 
2Myelination in the peripheral nervous system (PNS): Schwann cells 
3Myelination in the central nervous system (CNS): Oligodendrocytes 
4The Nogo hypothesis 
5Neuregulin-1 and schizophrenia 
6Field trip 
7CNS Astrocytes, part I: Interactions with oligodendrocytes 
8CNS Astrocytes, part II: Neuromodulation and Alzheimer's diseaseFirst term paper due
9CNS Astrocytes, part III: Synaptogenesis and epilepsy 
10CNS Astrocytes, part IV: The role of glial cells in adult neurogenesis 
11CNS Astrocytes, part V: Gliomas 
12Microglia of the CNS 
132nd assignment: Oral presentations