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The Adaptable Mind - How Neural Plasticity Shapes our Brains

Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.

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Course Description

We all know that our lives are shaped by the experiences we have in the world, but how are these adaptations physically manifested in our brains? The answer - neural plasticity. In this course students will discover the molecular underpinnings of plasticity, which allow us to learn, remember, and adapt.

Plasticity is an essential mechanism of the normal functioning brain and when plasticity doesn't function as expected, often we can get diseases. Furthermore, certain drugs are able to hijack the plasticity of the brain to induce a state of dependence. During each class period we will discuss one specific plasticity related topic in detail. We will start with a basic overview of neuronal properties such as synaptic transmission and neuroanatomy, as these subjects are important in any study of neuroscience. Subsequent class topics will include molecular memory mechanisms, fear learning, schizophrenia, and addictive drugs. Each topic will be covered in depth, including an interactive discussion of relevant primary scientific literature. This combination will allow students to learn not only what we know about plasticity, but also how we know it.

By the end of the course students will understand:

  • the molecular mechanisms in the brain that underlie synaptic plasticity
  • the disease-related consequences of aberrant plasticity
  • the mechanisms by which addictive drugs alter the brain
  • how to read and evaluate scientific literature
  • the types of experiments used to study plasticity

High school biology is a prerequisite. high school chemistry is recommended but not required.

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