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Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities

Remote Ready Biology Learning Activities has 50 remote-ready activities, which work for either your classroom or remote teaching.

Biology 202, Neurobiology and Behavior, Spring 1998


Course instructor: Paul Grobstein Room 106, 526-5098,


Prospectus: The objective of this course is to introduce you to the prospects and problems of trying to understand behavior in terms of nervous system function, and to involve you in ongoing thinking along these lines. It is a comprehensive treatment neither of research on the nervous system nor of that on behavior, but rather a consideration of the relations between the two. As such, it is largely a course on how to identify and investigate probelms, rather than one intended to convey a predefined body of information, and may be of interest to students expecting to do more advanced work in any of a variety of fields. Biweekly lecture/dicussions will provide you with useful observational and coneptual foundations from which you can proceed to explore interests of your own. You will do so by additional readings, discussion, and writing.

Organization: The class will meet biweekly for lecture/discussions as shown on the accompanying Course Schedule. In addition to active participation in those sessions, students will spend additional time on reading and on preparation of weekly short essays and of three longer papers (see below). These three papers will replace examinations in this course. I will be happy to meet individually with students at mutually convenient times, as shown on a weekly calender and sign-up sheet outside my office.

Readings: A cardinal principle of this course is that material is best mastered by becoming actively involved with it, by looking at it from a variety of points of view, using each to weigh the usefulness of others. Readings are intended to provide these additional points of view.

The required text for this course is Foundations of Neurobiology, by Fred Delcomyn, which you should purchase from the bookstore. Chapter assignments are shown on the course schedule. Your should read these chapers over quickly, to get a sense of how they relate to material in lecture/discussions and your own interests, read them a second time somewhat more carefully to be sure you know what the author's perspective is, and then return to them as needed to help you clarify particular issues of concern to you.

Scientific American articles provide additional points of view on a variety of subjects related to this course. A list of relevant Scientific American articles, which are on reserve in Collier Science Library, is provided below. Occasional assignments will be made from this list, which should serve also as a starting point for further reading on subjects of interest to you. Students wanting more details on basic cellular processes or relevant aspects of the vertebrate nervous system may wish to supplement assigned readings with appropriate chapters from Kandel and Schwartz, Principles of Neural Science, which is also on reserve in the Collier Library. Recent issues of Scientific american, the journal Trends in Neuroscience, and Annual Reviews of Neuroscience (all available in Collier Library) are good starting places for further reading on many aspects of neurobiology and behavior.

The World Wide Web provides an additional accessible, large, and constantly evolving set of resources which can be conveniently explored beginning at the course website. This material is particularly suitable for exploring aspects of brain and behavior which are of special interest to you, and will provide the basis for your longer papers, so you should plan to spend a significant amount of time exploring the web and becoming familiar with its organization, strengths, and limitations.

Writing: Mastery of scientific observations and concepts, and their interrelationships, is greatly facilitated by writing about them, and clear writing is essential to the sharing of perspectives on which science depends. To develop your skills, as well as to share ideas among course participants, you will write weekly short essays, as well as three longer papers, which will be posted on the course website.

Weekly essays should be a page or less, written on (or copied to) an electronic forum area which can be reached from the course website. Each week a question related to the material discussed that week will be posed for short responses. Alternatively, you are free to write about any subject which the week's discussions raised in your mind. A major objective of these essays is to encourage sharing of both ideas and questions. Hence, the weekly essays will not be graded.

The three longer papers will be based on exploration of WWW materials on subjects related to neurobiology and behavior which are of particular interest to you. The first two of these papers (see Course Schedule for due dates) should be three to four pages in length. The third paper, to be done in lieu of a final exam and due at the end of exam period, should be six to seven pages. Papers should be submitted both as a typed deraft and in an electronic form suitable for posting. Each should be an informed, clear, and interesting discussion, using materials on the web as references, which exhibits the concern for both observations and rigorous interpretation which is fundamental to science. It is expected that the papers will become increasingly sophisticated as the semester proceeds, so you may choose either to write on three different topics or to rework a given topic with increasing sophistication. If needed, I'm happy to meet with students to discuss topic choices, and/or concerns, technical or otherwise, about posting material on the web.

Evaluation and Grades: Papers will be evaluated in terms of conceptual logic and rigor, appropriate attention to the relations between observations and conclusions, clarity of presentation, and evidence of serious intellectual interest in and engagement with the material presented. Almost all interesting subjects in the area of brain and behavior require attention to observations at a variety of levels of organization, ranging from the molecular and cellular through the organismal and social, and papers will, as appropriate, be evaluated in these terms as well. Each paper will be graded on a ten point scale, with seven corresponding to acceptable on most counts and ten to exceptional on all counts. Scores on the three papers will be combined, with the final paper given twice the weight of each of the first two. The combined paper score will contribute eight percent to a course total, with general class participation, including weekly issues, contributing the balance. Course totals in the vicinity of 90 percent and above will translate into final grades of 4.0, those in the vicinity of 75 and above into final grades of 3.0, those in the vicinity of 60 and above into final grades of 2.0. Final scores above 50 percent are needed to pass the course. No single measure can adequately reflect the distinctive efforts and achievements of any individual taking a given course, not can your grade in any given course be taken as an adequate indicator of your likely performance in other contexts. You should therefore always regard your scores as only one measure of your performance, taking into account as well your distinctive objectives and your own sense of what you have achieved in relation to them. Should you have questions about the significance of your scores in relation to personal progress or career objectives, your instructor would be happy to discuss these with you (as well as to provide to others any additional information which might usefully extend that available from your course grade). 


DateSubjectText readingAssignments Due
20 JanThe problem, and methods of explorationChapters 1-3
22 JanNeuroanatomy - Inputs and outputs "
27 JanNeuroanatomy - The central nervous system " weekly essay
29 JanNeurophysiology IChapters 4-8
3 FebNeurophysiology II "weekly essay
5 FebNeurochemistry "
10 FebReflexology and central pattern generationChapters 15-18weekly essay
12 FebCentral pattern generation and corollary discharge "
17 FebFeedback processing "weekly essay
19 FebMuscle mechanics, motor synergies, and distributed control weekly short essay
24 FebVolunary movement "FIRST SHORT PAPER
INPUT PROCESSING (Sensory processing)
26 FebCoding, filtering, and feature detectionChapters 9-14
3 MarchMapping and stereopsis "weekly essay
5 MarchColor vision "
17 MarchPreattentive and attentive vision "
19 MarchPopulation coding, parallel and distributed processingChapters 19-21
24 MarchSuperimposed maps and activity-gated divergence "weekly essay
26 MarchGestalts and choices "
31 MarchAfference, expectation, and internal feedback "weekly essay
2 AprilLocal and global phenomena - choice, attention, sleep/wakeChapter 25weekly essay
7 AprilExtrinsic vs. intrinsic factors "SECOND SHORT PAPER
9 AprilMultiple global control mechanisms "
THE "I-FUNCTION" (Conscious processing)
14 AprilEncephalization and the cortical problem(Supplementary Reading)weekly essay
16 AprilAwareness and self-awareness "
21 AprilVoluntary action and will "weekly essay
23 AprilThe reality of the innateChapters 22-24
28 AprilForms of neuronal lability, learning and memory "weekly essay
30 AprilIndividuality and creativity "
Final paper due last day of exam period



Bentley, D. and Hoy, R. The neurobiology of cricket song. May, 1974.
Stevens, C.F. The neuron. September, 1979.
Iverson, L.L. The chemistry of the brain. September, 1979.
Bloom, F.E. Neuropeptides. October, 1981.
Nauta, W.J.H. and Feirtag, M. The organization of the brain. September, 1979.*

Output processing

Merton, P.A. How we control the contraction of our muscles. May, 1972.
Wilson, D.M. The flight control system of the locust. May, 1968.
Pearson, The control of walking. December, 1976.
Bizzi, E. The coordination of eye-head movement. October, 1974.
Heller, H.C., Crawshaw, L.I., and Hammel, H.T. The thermostat of vertebrate animals. August, 1978.
Evarts, E.V. Brain mechanisms of movement. September, 1979.
Melzack, R. Phantom limbs. April, 1992

Input processing

Ratliff, F. Color and contrast. June, 1972.
Michael, C.R. Retinal processing of visual images. May, 1969.
Hubel, D.H. and Wiesel, T.N. Brain mechanisms of vision. September, 1979.*
Pettigrew, J.D. The neurophysiology of binocular vision. August, 1972.
Rushton, W.A.H. Visual pigments and color blindness. March, 1975.
Land, E.H. The retinex theory of color vision. December, 1977.*
Ramachandran, V.S. Perceiving shape from shading. August, 1988.*
Treisman, A. Features and objects in visual processing. November, 1986.*
Ramachandran, V.S. Blind spots. May, 1992.
Freeman, W.J. The physiology of perception. February, 1992.

The sensorimotor interface - Directed movement

Ewert, J.-P. The neural basis of visually guided behavior. March, 1974.
Brownell, P.H. Prey detection by the sand scorpion. December, 1984.
Shettleworth, S.J. Memory in food-hoarding birds. March, 1983.

Modulation and internal drive

Wurtz, R.H., Goldberg, M.E. and Robinson, D.L. Brain mechanisms of visual attention. June, 1982.
Lent, C.M, and Dickinson, M.H. The neurobiology of feeding in leeches. June, 1988.
Jouvet, M. The states of sleep. February, 1967.
Gwinner, E. Internal rhythms in bird migration. April, 1986.
McEwen, B.S. Interactions between hormones and nerve tissue. July, 1976.
Kety, S.S. Disorders of the human brain. September, 1979.
Wurtman, R.J, and Wurtman, J.J. Carbohydrates and depression. January, 1989.

Nested interface systems

Jerison, H.J. Paleoneurology and the evolution of mind. January, 1976.*
Cooper, L.A. and Shepher, R.N. Turning something over in the mind. December, 1984.*
Gazzaniga, M. The split brain in man. August, 1967.
Mattley, M.T. Slips of the tongue. September, 1985.
Morrson, A.R. A window on the sleeping brain. April, 1983.*
Luria, A.R. The functional organization of the brain. March, 1970.
Geshwind, N. Specializations of the human brain. September, 1979*.
Weiss, J. Unconscious mental functioning. March, 1990.

Genesis of neural function and behavior

Sperry, R.W. The eye and the brain. May, 1956.
Bickerton, D. Creole languages. July, 1983.
Cowan, W.M. The development of the brain. September, 1979.*
Kandel, E.R. Small systems of neurons. September, 1979.
Routenberg, A. The reward system of the brain. November, 1978*.
Gould, J.L. and Marler, P. Learning by instinct. January, 1987.
Mishkin, M. and Appenzeller, T. The anatomy of memory. June, 1987. *

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