Course Descriptions


030. Neurobiology of Brain Disorders. (C) Dichter. Freshman Seminar. Living World Sector.
The human brain is clearly the most complicated and magical organ in the body. We don’t completely understand how it works, but we do know, unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, the human brain is prone to failure, either by acute injury, chronic degeneration, genetic flaws in its composition, or unknown disturbances in its behavior. Diseases of the brain can take many forms but are all uniformly devastating for individuals, families, and our society, and are also very costly. This course will explore the ways in which various brain disorders (both neurological and psychiatric) manifest themselves and discuss their underlying neurobiological mechanisms. In addition, the social and economic impact of these diseases on society will be considered, as well as some well publicized political issues surrounding many of these brain disorders.

050. Forensic Neuroscience and Brain Imaging. (C) Langleben. Freshman Seminar. Living World Sector.
Legal systems have attempted to evaluate and measure human behavior long before psychology, psychiatry and neuroscience were scientific disciplines. Current legal systems rely on behavioral science in both criminal and civil litigation.  For example, intent is a prerequisite of criminal responsibility, motive is used to identify likely suspects, and mental illness or cognitive ability can be a defense to crime or a mitigating factor in a death penalty determination as well as a reason to deny a parent custody of a child. In the last decade, there has been substantial progress in behavioral neuroscience; a development not lost on the court system.  Brain imaging techniques--such as functional and structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Positron Emission Tomography--have become part of all phases of legal proceedings and have forced  courts to reconsider the use of behavioral science and the role of juries in courtroom decision-making. The goal of this course is to enable students to understand the present and the potential future role of behavioral neuroscience evidence in the justice system. The introductory part of the course will provide students with a very basic introduction to the judicial system and courtroom evidence and to the behavioral neuroscience constructs and techniques that are critical to law, such as motivation, violence, empathy, deception and morality. Students will then be asked to critically evaluate the use of brain imaging and other quantitative neuroscience techniques as evidence in representative legal cases. For each case studied, small teams of students will be assigned to serve as neuroscience advisors on each side of the case and will argue the strengths and weaknesses of the neuroscience evidence at issue. Students will be asked to prepare written arguments outlining the neuroscience evidence, present their arguments in class, and defend them against the opposing team. Case presentations will be followed by class and instructor comments. Performance evaluation will be based on students’ oral case presentation (40%) and the written term paper (60%) developed from their case presentation. Through this course, students will learn the basic concepts in behavioral neuroscience, medical imaging and scientific legal evidence, and will develop the ability to critically evaluate neuroscience data in forensic and legal settings. This course is open to all undergraduate students and will be of particular interest to students with interest in law, neuroscience, criminology and psychology. Background in science or biology is helpful but is not required.

060 Music and the Brain. (A)  Kaplan.  Freshman Seminar.  Living World Sector.  Course Syllabus
Every human culture that has ever been described makes some form of music. The musics of different cultures cover a wide range of styles, but also display fascinating similarities, and a number of features are shared by even the most disparate musical traditions. Within our own culture, music is inescapable-there are very few individuals who do not listen to some form of music every day and far more who listen to music virtually all day long. Appreciation of music comes very early: newborns prefer music to normal speech and mothers all over the world sing to their babies in a fundamentally similar way. And yet, despite this seeming ubiquity, the real origin and purpose of music remains unknown. Music is obviously related to language, but how? Why do so many cultures make music in such fundamentally similar ways? What goes into the formation of music "taste" and preferences? Does music have survival value, or is it merely "auditory cheesecake", a superfluous byproduct of evolution as some critics have maintained? What is the nature of musical ability and how do musicians differ from non-musicians? In this course, we will look for answers by looking at the brain. Almost 200 years of scientific research into brain mechanisms underlying the production and appreciation of music is beginning to shed light on these and other questions. Although the sciences and the arts are often seen as entirely separate or even in opposition, studying the brain is actually telling us a lot about music, and studying music is telling us just as much about the brain.


100-Level Courses

109. (BIOL219, PSYC109) Introduction to Brain and Behavior. (C) McLean, Kane. Living World Sector (All Classes). Course Syllabus
Introduction to the structure and function of the vertebrate nervous system. We begin with the cellular basis of neuronal activities, then discuss the physiological bases of motor control, sensory systems, motivated behaviors, and higher mental processes. This course is intended for students interested in the neurobiology of behavior, ranging from animal behaviors to clinical disorders. 

160. ABCS of Everyday Neuroscience. (C) Flanagan-Cato. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109
This course is an opportunity for undergraduates to share their interest and enthusiasm for neuroscience with students in grades 9-12 attending urban public schools in West Philadelphia. The course will allow Penn students to develop their science communication and teaching skills. Students will prepare neuroscience demonstrations, hands-on activities, and assessment tools. In parallel, the course aims to engage local high school students, increasing their interest and knowledge in science, and ultimately promoting lifelong science literacy. 


200 and 300-level courses

217. (PSYC117) Visual Neuroscience. (C) McLean. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109, PSYC 001, COGS 001 or VLST 101. Course Syllabus
An introduction to the scientific study of vision, with an emphasis on the biological substrate and its relation to behavior. Topics will typically include physiological optics, transduction of light, visual thresholds, anatomy and physiology of the visual pathways, retinal processing, properties of visual cortex, and color vision.

227. (PSYC127) Physiology of Motivated Behaviors. (C) Grill. Gen Req V: May be counted towards the General Requirement in Living World (Class of 2009 and prior). Course Syllabus
This course focuses on evaluating the experiments that have sought to establish links between brain structure (the activity of specific brain circuits) and behavioral function (the control of particular motivated and emotional behaviors). Students are exposed to concepts from regulatory physiology, systems neuroscience, pharmacology, and endocrinology and read textbooks as well as original source materials. The course focuses on the following behaviors: feeding, sex, fear, anxiety, the appetite for salt, and food aversion. The course also considers the neurochemical control of responses with an eye towards evaluating the development of drug treatments for: obesity, anorexia/cachexia, vomiting, sexual dysfunction, anxiety disorders, and depression.

233. Neuroethology. (C)  McLean. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109. Course Syllabus
An introduction to the experimental analysis of natural animal behavior, and its neurobiological basis. Behavior is examined in an evolutionary and ecological context, and questions are focused on the neural processes that allow animals to carry out critical activities such as locating prey and finding mates. The course is comparative and strives to identify common principles in sensory and motor processing and brain function. 

240. Chronobiology and Sleep. (B) Raizen. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109. Students may not use both BBB 040 and 240 towards BBB major or minor. Course Syllabus
Topics to be covered include basic principles of chronobiology; neuroscience mechanisms of circadian rhythms and sleep; phylogeny and ontengeny of sleep; human sleep and sleep disorders; circadian dysfunction; circadian and sleep homeostatic influences in human health and safety.

249. (PSYC149) Cognitive Neuroscience. (C) Epstein. Sector V: May be counted towards the Sector Requirement in Living World (Class of 2010 and following). Prerequisite(s): PSYC 001 or BIBB 109. Course Syllabus
The study of the neuronal systems that underlie human perception, memory and language; and of the pathological syndromes that result from damage to these systems.

251. (BIOL251) Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology. (A) Abel/Kaplan/Schmidt. Prerequisite(s): BIOL 101 and 102 or 121. Course Syllabus
Cellular physiology of neurons and excitable cells; molecular neurobiology and development. Topics include: action potential generation; synaptic transmission; molecular and physiological studies of ion channels; second messengers; simple neural circuits; synaptic plasticity; learning and memory; and neural development.

260. Neuroendocrinology. (C) Flanagan-Cato. Prerequisite(s): BBB 109, one year of Introductory Biology, or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
This course is designed to examine the various roles played by the nervous and endocrine systems in controlling both physiological processes and behavior. First, the course will build a foundation in the concepts of neural and endocrine system function. Then we will discuss how these mechanisms form the biological underpinnings of various behaviors and their relevant physiological correlates. We will focus on sexual and parental behaviors, aggression and ingestion. The readings will include both textbook chapters and selected journal articles from primary scientific literature.

269. Autonomic Physiology. (A) Heerding. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
This course will introduce the student to the functioning of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is critically involved in the maintenance of body homeostasis through regulation of behavior and physiology. The course will begin with a review the basic anatomy and physiology of the ANS including the sympathetic, parasympathetic and enteric divisions. The mechanisms by which the ANS regulates peripheral tissues will be discussed, including reflex and regulatory functions, as will the effect of drugs which modulate ANS activity. The role of the ANS in regulating behavior will be addressed in the context of thirst, salt appetite and food intake.

270. Drugs, Brain and Mind. (B) Kane. Prerequisite(s): Introductory Biology and Psychology, BIBB 109. Course Syllabus
The course will begin with a review of basic concepts in pharmacology including: routes of drug administration, drug metabolism, the dose response curve, tolerance and sensitization. Following a brief overview of cellular foundations of neuropharmacology (cell biology, synaptic and receptor function), the course will focus on various classes of drugs used to treat neuropsychiatric disorders including, among others, depression, schizophrenia and anxiety. We will additionally consider mechanisms mediating the mind-altering, addictive and neurotoxic effects of abused drugs.

310. Laboratory in the Structure of the Nervous System. (B) McLean. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus  A laboratory course designed to familiarize the student with the fundamental gross and histological organization of the brain. The mammalian brain will be dissected and its microscopic anatomy examined using standard slide sets. Comparative brain material will be introduced, where appropriate, to demonstrate basic structural-functional correlations. Offered through LPS.

350. Developmental Neurobiology. (C) McGurk. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 and BIOL 101, or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus  This course will focus on cellular and molecular mechanisms of the organogenesis of the central nervous system. A goal of the course will be to understand the form, function and pathology of the adult nervous system in terms of antecedent developmental processes. Examples of the relationship of CNS pathology to developmental processes will be considered.

399. Sponsored Research. (C) Standing Faculty. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 and permission of the BBB Director.
Individual research of an experimental nature with a member of the standing faculty leading to a written paper. The grade is based primary on a serious term paper describing original research carried out by the student. Students must submit a proposal prior to registering. During the semester, students must attend two seminars led by the BBB Director or Associate Director to discuss planning an independent research project, ethical concerns in research and writing a scientific paper. Attendance at the meetings is mandatory. Students wishing to do research in hospitals with investigators who are not standing faculty at Penn should inquire about College 99 at the College Advising Office. Students doing more than one credit of independent study will be required to present a poster at the annual BBB Symposium.


400-level courses

417. Visual Processing. (C) Rust. Prerequisite: BIBB 109, BIBB 249 or PSYC 217, or permission of instructor. Course Syllabus
This seminar will focus on how visual information is processed by the eye and the brain to produce visual perception. These issues will be explored through lectures and student presentations of journal articles, combined with Matlab-based tutorials and exercises. The course requires no prior knowledge of visual processing, math of computer programming.

420. Smell and Taste. (C) Lewandowski. Prerequisite(s): Introductory Psychology and Biology, BIBB 109. PSYC 111 (Perception) preferred.
All organisms respond to chemicals in their environment.  This chemosensation guides diverse behaviors such as a feeding, avoiding predators, sex, and social interactions. This course will provide a broad survey of our current understanding of taste and smell, focusing on insect and rodent model systems as well as studies in humans.  The course will begin with a review of chemical signal transduction mechanisms, and build to an exploration of the cortical integration of chemical signals and chemical guided behaviors. Class time will emphasize primary literature, discussion, and student presentations. The goal is to reach an integrated understanding of the physiology and psychology of chemical sensory systems. In the process, students will learn to read and critically evaluate data from primary research articles.

421. Functional Imaging of the Human Brain. (B) Newberg. Prerequisite: BIBB 109. Course Syllabus
The ability to utilize different imaging techniques in disciplines such as psychology, psychiatry, neurology, and cognitive neurosciences is a growing field and presents many interesting problems and possibilities. This course is an upper level seminar course for individuals pursuing one of the above mentioned fields and/or premedical course work. The course would provide a detailed overview of functional brain imaging and its potential uses. Issues regarding advantages and disadvantages of different modalities, study design image analysis and interpretation, and how each of these relates to various neurological and psychological phonomena will be discussed. The classes will cover the following specific topics in this general time frame: Introduction to functional brain function, basics of nuclear medicine imaging (including instrumentation, image acquisition, and radiopharmaceuticals for positron emission tomography and single photon emission computed tomography), imaging of neurological disorders, imaging of psychological disorders, introduction to activation studies, image analysis and statistical problems, study design, literature review, journal article presentation, tour of Penn imaging facilities, interpretation of imaging studies, implications for clinical and research, and implications for understand the human mind and consciousness.

430. Neurobiological Basis of Autism. (C) Staff. Prerequisites: Introductory Biology, BIBB 109. Course syllabus. 
This course examines the neurobiological processes underlying autism spectrum disorders. In this seminar style course, we will first examine the brain phenotypes associated with ASD, in addition to investigating the genetic and environmental contributions to the etiology and pathophysiology of Autism Spectrum disorders (ASD). After an initial examination of clinical literature and research, we will focus on animal models of ASD, including those of syndromic causes of autism (Rett syndrome, Tuberous Sclerosis, Fragile X) and investigate changes in neurotransmitter systems and synaptic dysfunctions in the brain in these models. Offered through LPS.

442. (BIOL 442, PSYC 421, NGG 575) Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. (C) Staff. Prerequisite(s): BIOL 251/BIBB 251 and PSYC 001, or permission of instructor. Course Syllabus
This course focuses on the current state of our knowledge about the neurobiological basis of learning and memory. A combination of lectures and student seminars will explore the molecular and cellular basis of learning in invertebrates from a behavioral and neural perspective.

460. (PSYC139) Neuroendocrinology Seminar. (B) Flanagan-Cato. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109, one year of Biology, or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
This course is an upper-level seminar, designed to examine the various roles played by the nervous and endocrine systems in controlling both physiological processes and behavior.  We will focus on sexual and parental behaviors, stress, metabolism, neuroendocrine-immune interactions, and mental health.  The format will be a mixture of lectures and journal club discussions based on recent primary literature in the field of neuroendocrinology.  Students will also write several short papers based on the clinical neuroendocrinology.

466. (BIOL 466) Molecular Genetics of Neurological Disease. (C) Bonini. Prerequisite(s): BIOL 221 is required; BIBB 251 and BIOL 421 are recommended.
This course will focus on the molecular basis of neurological diseases, exploring in detail key papers that cover topics including defining the disease genes, development of animal models that provide mechanistic insight, and seminal findings that reveal molecular understanding. Diseases covered will include neurological diseases of great focus today such as Alzheimer's, Fragile-X and autism, dementia, motor neuron degeneration, and microsatellite repeat expansion disorders. The course will provide a perspective from initial molecular determination through current status. Students will gain an understanding of how the molecular basis of a disease is discovered (from classical genetics to modern genomics) and how such diseases can be modeled in simple genetic systems for mechanistic insight. The course will be comprised of lectures with detailed analysis of primary literature and in-class activities. Grading will be based on class participation, exams, and written papers.

469. Stress Neuroscience. (C) Heerding. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109, one year of Biology, or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
Stress can be caused by a variety of conditions, ranging from low-level noise in the workplace to life-threatening situations and these stressors can cause changes in the physiology and behavior of individuals. This course will examine the neural mechanisms underlying physiological and emotional responses to stress in a journal club format. Topics to be covered include anxiety disorders, depression and other mood disorders, the differential effects of stress on males and females, the physiological effects of stress on the immune system and feeding behavior, the effects of maternal stress on offspring as well as strategies to mitigate the effects of stress.

470. Animal Models of Psychiatric Disorders. (C) Kane. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109, or Permission of Instructor.
This seminar will focus on the significant role that animal models play in the investigation of the pathophysiology of a variety of human neuropsychiatric disorders as well as their use in the development of treatments for these disorders. The course will focus on the use of genetically modified mice in the investigation of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), anxiety and affective disorders, schizophrenia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). There will be a specific emphasis on the limitations of such models. Class time will consist of short lectures, paper discussions via student-led presentations, and peer-review sessions. Emphasis will be placed on the critical analysis of primary literature. Students will be required to write several mini-reviews of the models under study as well as a formal research proposal on a model of their choice.

473. (PSYC 473) Neuroeconomics. (C) Kable. Prerequisite(s): PSYC 149, 153, or 165. Course Syllabus
This course will review recent research that combines psychological, economic and neuroscientific approaches to study human and animal decision-making. A particular focus will be on how evidence about the neural processes associated with choices might be used to constrain economic and psychological theories of decision-making. Topics covered will include decisions involving risk and uncertainty, reinforcement learning, strategic interactions and games, and social preferences.  

475. Neurodegenerative Diseases. (B) Lexow. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
This course will familiarize students with advances in our understanding of the clinical features and pathogenesis of a wide rage of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease and other dementias, prion diseases, Parkinson's disease and atypical parkinsonisms, neurodegenerative ataxias, motor neuron diseases, degenerative diseases with chorea, iron and copper disorders, and mitochondrial diseases. Students will analyze original research reports on a range of proposed pathological cellular processes that may represent steps in cell death pathways leading to neuron loss seen in these diseases. Representative topics will include accumulation of aberrant proteins, inflammatory response and release of neurotoxic cytokines, protein misfolding, protofibril formation, ubiquitin-proteosome system dysfunction, synaptic failure, excitotoxic insult, oxidative and nitrosative stress, mitochondrial injury and dysfunction, axonal and dendritic transport failure. Significant emphasis will be placed on the fast-expanding field exploring genetic contributions to neurodegenerative disease, as identification of genetic mutations pathogenic for familial neurodegenerative diseases has been a major driving force in neurodegenerative research and pointed researchers towards essential molecular process that may underlie these disorders. Strategies for therapeutic intervention in the management, prevention, and cure of neurodegenerative disease will be addressed. Offered through LPS.

479. Neural Systems & Behavior. (B) Schmidt. Prerequisite(s): BIOL 251/BIBB 251 and permission of instructor. Course Syllabus
This course will investigate neural processing at the systems level. Principles of how brains encode information will be explored in both sensory (e.g. visual, auditory, olfactory, etc.) and motor systems.  Neural encoding strategies will be discussed in relation to the specific behavioral needs of the animal.  Examples will be drawn from a variety of different model systems.

480. Biological Basis of Psychiatric Disorders. (C) Lexow. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
The contributions of basic sciences (neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, and neuropharmacology) to an understanding of behavior and behavioral disorders. Important psychiatric disorders are discussed primarily from the viewpoint of their biological aspects. Newer approaches to treatment with pharmacological agents are considered. Emphasis is placed on critical evaluation of research strategies and hypotheses. Offered through LPS.

SM 481. Behavioral Pharmacology. (B) Heerding. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
This seminar course reviews the behavioral effects of drugs in animals, the general biological and psychological principles of drug action, and the relationship between drugs that effect brain monoamine and opiate systems and their behavioral effects. Introductory material will be followed by advanced discussion of specific topics in journal club format.

SM 482. Clinical Psychopharmacology. (C) Lexow. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109 or 269 or 480 or Permission of Instructor. Course Syllabus
This course examines the history, rationale and putative mechanism of action of drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Emphasis is placed on neurobiological processes underlying psychopathology and pharmacological intervention. Drugs currently in use as well as new drugs in development will be covered. Strategies, techniques, issues and challenges of clinical psychopharmacological research will be addressed and new approaches to drug discovery, including the use of pharmacogenomics and proteomics to understand variability in drug response and identify new molecular drug targets, will be covered in depth. Specific drug classes to be considered include antidepressants, anxiolytics, typical and atypical antipsychotics, narcotic analgesics, sedative hypnotics, and antiepileptic medications. A contrasting theme throughout the course will be the use of drugs as probes to identify neural substrates of behavior. Offered through LPS.

SM 485. Signaling in Nerve and Muscle. (C) Hollingworth. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 251 or Permission of Instructor. 
This seminar course will expand and deepen knowledge gained in BIBB 251 about excitability in the nervous system and about how synapses function.  A new area of study will be skeletal and cardiac muscle which are both excitable tissues.  A particular focus of the course will be the roles which calcium ions play as second messengers in nerve, muscle and synapse.  We will learn about how calcium is handled in nerve and muscle and about the techniques used to study intra-cellular calcium.  The later part of the course will have a journal club format, based on the reading and presentation of original papers.  These will include papers on calcium related muscle diseases and on the integration of nerve and muscle signaling in animal motor behaviors.

SM 492. Experimental Methods in Synaptic Physiology. (C) Kaplan. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109, BIBB 251. Course Syllabus
In this seminar and lab course, a small number of students (12-20) meet once per week to discuss topics in synaptic physiology and to become proficient at sharp electrode techniques for intracellular recording, using isolated ganglia from the snail Heliosoma. The first part of each class will consist of discussion of weekly reading from the primary literature, with the remainder of the class devoted to hands-on experiments. After learning to record from and characterize single neurons, students will study synaptic transmission by stimulating incoming nerve trunks or by recording from pairs of interconnected neurons. As a midterm assignment, students will prepare and present a short research proposal using this model system, to be evaluated by the class. For the last half of the course, the class will work together on one or two of these proposals, meeting at the end of each class to pool our data, analyze the results and discuss their significance.

499. Senior Honors Thesis. (C) Standing Faculty. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 399, Permission of BIBB Director and a GPA of 3.5 or better.
Continuation of BIBB 399 research. Students are required to participate in the weekly honors seminar program run by the Director or Associate Director.  Students will discuss and present research findings, ethics concerns in research and careers in neuroscience. Selected faculty will also present research talks as part of the honors seminar program. Students will also be required to present their oral defense and a poster at the annual BBB Symposium.

585. Theoretical Neuroscience. (C) Balasubramanian. Prerequisite(s): BIBB 109. A knowledge of multi-variable calculus, linear algebra and differential equations is required (except by permission of the instructor).  Prior exposure to neuroscience and/or Matlab programming will be helpful. Course Syllabus
This course will develop theoretical and computational approaches to structural and functional organization in the brain.  The course will cover: (i) the basic biophysics of neural responses, (ii) neural coding and decoding with an emphasis on sensory systems,  (iii) approaches to the study of networks of neurons, (iv) models of adaptation, learning and memory, (v) models of decision making, and (vi) ideas that address why the brain is organized the way that it is.  The course will be appropriate for advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students. 


A complete description of all courses are listed in the Course Register.