Neuroscience

2023-24

117 Pleasure and Addiction

​This course will explore the brain mechanisms underlying motivated behaviors and the dysfunctions that can lead to addictive and compulsive behaviors. Why can some people be casual gamblers while others are hooked into a spiral of addiction after just one betting experience? Are these the same brain circuits as those affected by drugs, and can we look to them to also understand eating disorders, pathological social media use, etc.? The course will use a neurobiological orientation to study the neurocircuitry and neurochemistry underlying addiction in its many forms. We will explore topics in motivation considering theories of motivation and addiction; how drugs such as opiates, stimulants, and depressants function in the brain to lead to addictive behaviors; and how cravings, hedonics, and withdrawal influence addiction. We will also explore the roles of stress, fear, and inflammation in the development of addiction. The neural systems underlying basic learning processes such as conditioning and habit formation will be reviewed and we will assess how they become dysfunctional in addiction. Finally, what is the role of decision-making in sustaining or resisting addiction—why is the decision to quit, made with the strongest of convictions, often not enough? The merits and limitations of current approaches to treatment will be evaluated with the goal of finding what more is needed and ways to achieve it. The readings and discussions will be based on primary research articles published in scientific journals. ​This course is for non-science majors and will not count toward the Neuroscience major.

Spring semester. Professor Baird

245 Systems Neuroscience

The course will survey behavioral neurobiological systems. Students will explore recent research findings in areas pertaining to the role of neural circuits in several behavioral processes including but not limited to echolocation, mating, prey location, flight control, spatial navigation, song development in birds, mineral appetites, social functions, aggression, and learning and memory mechanisms in several species. Through instructor supervision, discussion, group presentations, and peer review, each student develops a specific research project that results in a research proposal. The course will place significant emphasis on the development of writing skills. Key goals of the course are to prepare juniors for upper-level seminars and to provide an intensive literature-research and writing experience. This course will count as a Group A/List A elective course for the neuroscience major.

Limited to juniors and seniors who have taken NEUR 226 or NEUR 213/214 or consent of the instructor. Limited to 18 students. Fall semester. Professor Baird.

2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2022

313 Social Neuroendocrinology with Lab

(See BIOL 313)

317 Appetite

(Offered as NEUR 317 and PSYC 317) Although the ingestive act per se is clear and simple, understanding the multifarious influences that are distilled into the decision at any given moment to eat, or not to eat, remains a ponderous challenge for scientists. The obesity epidemic of the last several decades continues to spread across the globe, leading to a rise in metabolic diseases and more pressing need than ever to understand the neurobiological controls of eating and body weight. Through a broad survey of neurobiological research literature, we will explore how various neurobiological systems and behavioral processes influence eating and body weight, including metabolism, neural mechanisms of hunger and satiety, metabolic disorders, dieting, pica, failure to thrive, starvation, taste preference and aversion, obesity, anxiety and depression, food taboos, and all eating disorders. Strong emphasis will be placed on biological mechanisms and controlled laboratory research with both human and animal subjects.

Requisite: PSYC212 or NEUR 213. Limited to 20 students. Open to juniors and seniors. Fall semester. Prof. Baird.  

Other years: Offered in Fall 2022, Fall 2023, Spring 2025

498, 499D Senior Departmental Honors

Research in an area relevant to neuroscience, under the direction of a faculty member, and preparation of a thesis based upon the research.

Spring semester. The Committee.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015, Spring 2016, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025

Senior Departmental Honors Courses

498D, 499 Senior Departmental Honors

Research in an area relevant to neuroscience, under the direction of a faculty member, and preparation of a thesis based upon the research.

Spring semester. The Committee.

Other years: Offered in Spring 2013, Spring 2017, Spring 2018, Spring 2019, Spring 2020, Spring 2021, Spring 2022, Spring 2023, Spring 2025