Undergraduate Programs

Brain Rhythms in Cognition, Mental Health & Epilepsy

Course Code: NEUR 1750

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"Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances." Maya Angelou.

The brain, too, dances. Its rhythms are the result of millions of neurons coordinating each other's activity. This course will explore how these rhythms are generated, how they relate to our perception and cognition, and how they can be used to better understand and diagnose psychiatric and neurological disorders.

Our readings will range from historical reviews of brain rhythms to modern primary literature employing cutting-edge experimental neuroscience techniques. We will start with the basics and first learn how to record rhythms from the brain. We will then focus on gamma rhythms. These rhythms are associated with increased attention, sensory perception and faster reaction times, but are disrupted in many mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, depression and anxiety. Our goal will be to carefully read electrophysiology, optogenetics and psychophysics papers to understand the relationship between inhibitory neurons, gamma rhythms and behavior. We will then discuss the role of beta rhythms in Parkinson’s disease, as well as how brain rhythms are used to diagnose and understand epilepsy. Throughout the course we will remain focused on one central question: how can knowledge of neurons, rhythms and pathology eventually lead us towards better therapies for neuropsychiatric disorders?

The key objective of the course is to give students a detailed introduction to how science is planned, performed and critically evaluated. Students will learn to read papers with an open mind coupled with a healthy dose of skepticism. We will learn to think critically about the commonly encountered scenario where two approaches or two research groups do not converge on the same conclusions. How can disparate results fit together? What are the possible explanations and caveats? What are the shortcomings of one method or the advantages of another? What subsequent experiments could help clarify the findings? Students will also learn to synthesize a large number of research concepts and papers into a clear, lucid exposition.

NEUR 0010 (The Brain: An Introduction to Neuroscience) or equivalent knowledge is the only necessary prerequisite.

Course not open to Pre-Baccalaureate Students

This course is not scheduled yet.

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