Writing Assignment 1

Write a description of the major contributions of 3-5 neuroscientists. Emphasize the ideas that they contributed and the experiments that led to their discoveries or claims. You may also critique their work. It would be best to have some continuity among the neuroscientists you describe so you can develop the historical flow of ideas. You may choose from the following list, or discuss important figures of your own choosing. If in doubt, consult with the instructor or the teaching assistants. Do not include anyone who is still living.

Rene Descartes, Charles Bell, Francoise Magendie, Ivan Sechenov, Ivan Pavlov, Santiago Ramon y Cajal, Charles Scott Sherrington, Franz Joseph Gall, Gustav Fritsch and Eduard Hitzig, Vladimir Betz, Paul Broca, Karl Wernicke, Pierre Flourens, Karl Lashley, Walle J. H. Nauta.

The document should be 3-4 pages, single-sided, doublespaced, font size 11 or 12. If you include illustrations, please put them at the end of the document. Be sure to include references.

Concerning your sources: If you cite web sources, you must add something concerning the reliability of the source. Be sure to include at least one source that you found in print.

Writing Assignment 2

Ethologists describe a fixed action pattern (FAP) as a behavior that begins in response to a cue and is then carried out to completion. It's completion does not require any additional sensory feedback other than the initial stimulus, although sensory input may still modulate the response. Some examples given in lecture include smiling and walking in humans. Some examples in animals include prey avoidance or defensive behavior, or a toad catching a fly with its tongue.

We can generally represent the sequence of events as shown below, keeping in mind that modulation or gating of the response can occur at any stage:

Stimulus -> activation of sensory receptors -> input pathways -> CNS -> output pathways -> action

Choose an example of a FAP from the animal kingdom and evaluate current research on the evolution of the behavior you choose. Develop your thesis (an analytical question, opinion, or argument) from a topic related to the evolution of the FAP. (We've attached a list of some ideas to get you started in developing a thesis.)

In the first part of your paper, include a clear description of the neural circuit underlying the behavior, and address the following questions related to its discovery:

  • What were the experimenters' predictions?
  • How did they test those predictions?
  • What were their results?
  • What did they conclude from their results?
  • Do you agree with their conclusions? Why or why not?

In the second part of your paper, discuss current opinion on the evolution of the behavior. Make sure you provide enough evidence to support your thesis. What selective pressures might have shaped evolution of the FAP? Is the behavior in fact adaptive? Are there any theories for how changes in the neural circuit came about?

Your sources should consist of at least 2 peer-reviewed journals and at least 2 books (other than the textbook). Internet references will not be accepted.

You must turn in a printed copy of your thesis statement and an annotated bibliography of your sources in class. For the annotated bibliography, provide for each source a 1-3 sentence explanation of why the source is relevant.

Note: Your next writing assignment will be a rewrite of this paper. However, this paper is not meant to be a draft - it is meant to be a final version.