Selected Topics in Brain Science

MRI scan of the human brain


Cellular and Molecular Mechanisms of Disease

The module covers the following areas: (i) genetics of CNS disorders, (ii) brain metabolism, neurotransmission & neurodegeneration, (iii) autoimmune disease and repair mechanisms.

The aim of the module is to provide students with an understanding of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of disease. This material provides the theoretical basis for topics explored in other modules on the programme.

At the end of the module the students will have an understanding of (i) the genetics of disorders of the central nervous system, (ii) brain metabolism, neurotransmitters and neurodegeneration & (iii) Autoimmune disease and repair mechanisms. This understanding will be supported by workshops on laboratory techniques, brain anatomy, basic cell science & neuropathology.

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Introduction to the Brain and Imaging the Brain 

The module will introduce students to the central nervous system and to the functional localization of different parts of the brain. Particular emphasis will be placed on brain structures known to be involved in language processing. Students will learn about the different imaging technologies currently in use (MRI and fMRI, ERP and MEG and TMS), their relative strengths and weaknesses; the principles upon which they are based; the research designs employed by them; and the interpretation of brain images derived from their use. The module will be taught by researchers who are experts in their field.  

The objective of the module is to enable students to read, understand and evaluate journal articles that report studies based on lesion analysis and imaging technologies and provide the base for carrying out similar work for their project and/or in their future career.

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Structure and Measurement of the Human Brain 

This module outlines basic neuroanatomy and measurement of the human and animal brain. Students will be taught physiological and structural principles underlying the anatomical organization of the brain and the functional segregation of higher cognitive functions, starting from the cellular level (synapses, action potentials) and working up to a more detailed consideration of the major anatomical divisions. Neurotransmitter systems and their role in defining functional architecture will be described. Major functional circuits will be outlined, with an emphasis on their anatomical organization and connectivity. Aspects of how to measure the brain will be discussed. 

Through the course, students are expected to develop knowledge and understanding of: - Basic neuroanatomy - Physiological and structural principles of the animal and human brain - Major neurotransmitter systems - Major functional divisions in the brain, including their anatomical organization and connectivity - How the brain can be measured and visualized.

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Introduction to Cognitive Science 

This module introduces the foundations of cognitive science, highlighting its interdisciplinary nature. A historical review will include seminal work in computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, psychology and philosophy. The central metaphor of the mind as an information processor will be introduced, and various computational models of cognition discussed, raising questions of cognitive architecture, modularity, symbolic versus connectionist representation, algorithms for learning and reasoning etc. Philosophical issues will also be explored, including classical theories and current debates in the philosophy of mind. 

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Principles of Cognition 

This module outlines general theoretical principles that underlie cognitive processes across many domains, ranging from perception and memory, to reasoning and decision making. The focus will be on general, quantitative regularities, and the degree to which theories focusing on specific cognitive scientific topics can be constrained by such principles. There will be particular emphasis on understanding cognitive principles that are relevant to theories of decision making. The course will also deal with the issue of which mental processes are subject to general theoretical principles, and which must be understood one-by-one.  

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Molecular Pharmacology 

The course deals with the quantitative principles that underlie the study of the action of drugs at receptors beginning with the physical chemical principles which underlie drug-receptor interactions. The molecular nature of receptors is considered in detail and a critical and quantitative approach to the analysis and interpretation of pharmacological data is developed. On completion of the course, students should have a detailed knowledge of the following topics 1) Use of the Law of Mass Action to quantify the interaction of drugs and receptors 2) The action of agonists and antagonists and the concept of efficacy 3) Ion channel receptors and their regulation and block 4) Receptor structure 5) Radioligand binding.

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Developmental Neurobiology 

The course will cover early development of the nervous system (including induction and initial patterning of the CNS, neural progenitors, and genetic analysis of laterality in the developing CNS), origin of neural phenotypes (including organizer patterning in the CNS, migration of cortical neurons and motor circuitry in the developing spinal cord), peripheral development (including neurogenesis and neuron-glial switch, and regulation of Schwann cell development and differentiation), and axons, synapses and circuits (including axon guidance in the visual system of Drosophila, axon outgrowth: Ca2+ in growth cones, and early motor neurone-target interactions). 

The students will become familiar with the cutting edge research done at UCL into Developmental Neurobiology. They will grasp and understand the knowledge of the research in this field as it progresses. They will learn about the initial patterning of the nervous system, neuronal differentiation and specification, axon guidance mechanisms and the initial formation of synapses during development. The module will be organized roughly in accordance with the ontogeny of development itself.

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Page last modified on 05 mar 13 14:23