BIOL 389 (Winter)

Laboratory in Neurobiology

J. Dent (Coordinator)
(514) 398-3724
M. Hendricks
(514) 398-6581
T. Ohyama TBA (514) 398-2124
3 credits (1-5-3)
BIOL 306 or NEUR 310 or NSCI 200 or PHGY 311 or permission of instructor.
The main objective of the course is to allow students to experience first hand how neurobiological questions are asked and answered. In each of the following three course sections, you will first be introduced to the relevant experimental techniques and then conduct a small independent research project.

1) Optogenetic control of behaviour (4 labs). “Optogenetics” refers to a set of tools and methods that allow for the activation or inhibition of neurons using light. Genes encoding ion channels that open in response to specific wavelengths of light, originally isolated from microorganisms, are expressed in neurons, causing them to be become light sensitive. You will use transgenic fruit fly larvae expressing optogenetic channels in different classes of neurons to test hypotheses about the role of specific neural circuits in locomotory and navigation behaviours.

2) Intrinsic and network properties of identified neurons (4 labs). In many invertebrate animals, such as the leech, which will be used here, neurons are individually identifiable based on their morphology and physiology. You will learn to perform intracellular recordings from specific neurons in the leech nervous system and how to determine the electrical properties of nerve cells in a quantitative manner using basic biophysical experiments. Finally, in an experiment designed by yourself, you will have the opportunity to study the role of specific ion channels and synaptic input for the electrical activity of individual neurons.

3) Synaptic plasticity (4 labs). Using a mammalian in vitro preparation, you will use extracellular stimulation combined with field recordings to study long-term potentiation (LTP) and/or long-term depression (LTD) at synapses; mechanisms believed to be the cellular basis of learning and memory. With input from the instructor and colleagues, you will then design and conduct experiments to delve more deeply into the mechanistic underpinnings of synaptic plasticity.

Selected journal articles.
1 hour lecture, 5 hours laboratory; students work in pairs.
The grade will be based on three written laboratory reports, each of which follows the format of published journal articles.
Last update: March 22, 2017

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