BIOL 312
Sensory Biology Fall 2022
Division III
Cross-listed NSCI 312
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Class Details

How do animals sense properties of the physical world? How do they convert physical or chemical energy to a signal within a cell that carries information? How is that information represented? What are the limits on what can be sensed? We will look for answers to these questions by investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms of sensory transduction and how these mechanisms constrain the types of information that the nervous system encodes and processes. We will also ask how natural selection shapes the type of sensory information that animals extract from the world, and what adaptations allow some species to have “special” senses. Some of the examples we will consider are: bat echolocation (hair cells in the ear), detecting visual motion (amacrine cells in the mammalian retina), the constant reshaping of the olfactory system (chemical mapping of odors), what makes a touch stimulus noxious, and enhanced color vision (in birds, bees, and shrimp). Laboratory exercises will focus on the nematode C. elegans, an important model system, to explore and extend how we understand touch, temperature sensation, chemosensation, and light sensation.
The Class: Format: lecture/laboratory
Limit: 24
Expected: 20
Class#: 1119
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Four take-home exams, an independent group research project (proposal, followed by results/discussion), presentation about a non-standard sensory system, many short online quizzes, and lab + class participation.
Prerequisites: BIOL 101 and either BIOL 212/NSCI 201 or BIOL 205
Enrollment Preferences: Preference to senior Biology majors who need a 300-level course; then to senior Neuroscience concentrators who need a Group A elective; then to Biology majors. Not open to students who have taken Biology 213.
Distributions: Division III
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
NSCI 312 Division III BIOL 312 Division III
Attributes: BIMO Interdepartmental Electives
NSCI Group A Electives

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