BIOL 306 (Fall)

Neural Basis of Behaviour

J. Sakata (Coordinator) N4/8 (514) 398-3636
J. Dent N4/7A (514) 398-3724
3 credits (3-0-6)
PHYS 102 or PHYS 142 and BIOL 201 or ANAT 212 / BIOC 212 or NSCI 200

This course examines the structure and function of neurons and neural circuits, with emphasis on the role of the nervous system in animal behaviour.  A variety of animal models is considered.  Highlights from the history of the field are integrated with the most recent experimental findings.

Basic Neurophysiology (6 lectures)
We will explore the mathematical biophysics of excitable cells and how they use membrane potential to store and transmit information. Topics include the ionic mechanisms underlying the electrical activity of nerve cells, the cellular mechanisms of synaptic transmission, and the impact of these basic mechanisms on the operation of neural circuits.

Sensory and motor systems (23 lectures)
This section explores concepts of neural information processing using a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate model systems. The focus is on peripheral and central processes underlying well-defined behaviours. The fruitfulness of multidisciplinary approaches is stressed, ranging from physics and behavioural experimentation to electrophysiology and computational neuroscience.

Neurogenetics (8 lectures)
We will survey examples of behaviours whose genetic basis has been elucidated. The emphasis is on integration of genes, neurophysiology, circuits and behaviour to generate a deep understanding of how nervous systems evolve and how they can be manipulated on the genetic level. Topics will include: sleep, circadian rhythms, aggression and sexual behavior.

A detailed listing of lecture topics from the most recent offering of the course is available on Minerva.


Recommended textbook: Nerve Cells and Animal Behaviour, 2010, P.J. Simmons & D. Young.
Three lectures weekly.
Midterm examination, final examination
McGill University values academic integrity. Therefore all students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures (see for more information).
Last update: March 21, 2017