BIOL 437
Neural Flexibility: plasticity, modulation and evolution Fall 2024
Division III

Class Details

Animals must adapt their behaviors to match their environment in order to survive and reproduce. How does the nervous system mediate behavioral change that occurs in seconds, hours, months, or millions of years? In this course we will use a comparative approach to explore how neural circuits control behavioral flexibility over a range of timescales. We will first discuss circuits that control behavioral switches that occur very rapidly based on environmental and social stimuli. Next, we will consider the role that internal state and identity play in modulating neuronal circuits over an organism’s lifetime to influence behavioral decisions. Finally, we will examine how evolution tinkers with neural circuits to lead to behavioral change over very long timescales. Throughout the course we will explore how modifications to neural circuits–including connectivity, synaptic plasticity, neuromodulation and neuron physiology–can lead to differences in behavior and ask if there are connections between common mechanisms underlying behavioral change across timescales. Discussions and assignments in this course will focus on reading and critically evaluating primary scientific literature.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 12
Expected: 12
Class#: 1153
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation and three to five papers of length 3-5 pages each
Prerequisites: BIOL 212 or BIOL 205
Enrollment Preferences: senior Biology majors who have not taken a 400-level course
Distributions: Division III
Attributes: NSCI Group A Electives

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