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Senior Capstone Experience in Neuroscience and Behavior

NS&B 360
Spring 2011
Section: 01  
Course Cluster: Service-Learning

This course is designed to provide a cohesive and interactive experience for senior Neuroscience and Behavior Majors, through research and teaching projects. An integrative approach will be used to study interactions between the brain and the environment. The readings and classroom discussions will lead up to preparing modules that can be taught to high school students for Brain Awareness Week. Students will delve into scientific literature in three selected topics this semester that are designed to bring together diverse topics covered in many courses in the major. For each topic, students will be required to write short reviews of papers that they read and contribute to classroom discussions. The final project involves a service-learning component in which students prepare neuroscience and the brain units and take their presentations into local high schools. Students are encouraged to explore use of different sensory modalities in their school presentation and to incorporate approaches that take into account learning disabilities and different learning styles.

PART 1: How does neural activity transform visuospatial, tonotopic, or somatosensory maps in the brain? The focus will include examples from different sensory systems. Foundation readings on the development and structure of these different systems form the basis for further discussions of rewiring of the brain after sensory deprivation or brain damage. Examples will include changes in maps at the cellular and molecular levels after sensory deprivation or altered sensory experience during early critical periods.

PART 2: What neural circuits mediate specialized functions of the human visual system in cognitive tasks such as face recognition or motion detection? There has been a long-standing debate whether distinctive cognitive abilities arise from specialized cortical areas, or from widespread and simultaneous processing in distributed neural networks. Are these networks altered in cognitive disorders or learning disabilities? Readings will include both sides of the debate, and evidence from research using functional neuroimaging in human subjects as well as electrophysiological and anatomical studies in animals.

PART 3: How do exercise and the environment influence the structure of the primate hippocampus and memory? Readings will include related papers on the anatomy, physiology, and molecular biology of the hippocampus, exercise induced changes in adult neurogenesis, growth factors, and regional blood flow in the brain. Abnormal hippocampal function in epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease will be discussed as well. Our guest speaker for this topic is Dr. Windy Suzuki from New York University, who will present her research on the role of exercise in improving memory and hippocampal function.

PART 4: Service learning projects in local high schools. Students will adapt an existing learning module or prepare a new module on one of these or related topics, giver their presentation to the class, receive feedback, and then take their presentations out into local high schools. Students will be responsible for creating demonstrations and models, videotaping or podcasting their presentations, and assaying student mastery of the concepts. These projects will be used in public and private high schools to celebrate Brain Awareness Week.

Essential Capabilities: Information Literacy, Speaking
The course involves speaking - students lead discussions in classes and make oral presentations.
The students read the primary literature extensively and discuss the readings with experts in the field.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: NSM NS&B
Course Format: Lecture / DiscussionGrading Mode: Student Option
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: [NS&B213 or BIOL213 or PSYC240]
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (CIS)(NS&B)
Past Enrollment Probability: Not Available

Last Updated on MAY-19-2024
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