Dominick P. Purpura Department of Neuroscience

Graduate Courses


In This Section

The faculty and students of the Department of Neuroscience are investigating a wide range of nervous system operations in the developing and mature organism.  Organizational levels range from molecules and neurons to neural systems and cognitive functions.

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience 

Developmental Neuroscience 

Systems Neuroscience 

Cell Biology of Neuronal Function 

Neurobiology of Brain Disease 

Qualifying Exam 

Thesis Defense 


Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience

Course Leader:
Dr. Kamran Khodakhah 

Credits/Class Meetings: 5 semester hours in the form of three 2 hour meetings per week for a total of approximately 45 presentations. A number of lectures may be devoted to invited speakers from outside the Medical School, and presentations by the students. 

Suitability for 1st Year Students: First year students and MSTP are encouraged.

Suggested Background Reading/Experience: "Principles of Neuroscience" by Kandel and Schwartz and Jessell, and "From Neuron to Brain: A Cellular and Molecular Approach to the Function of the Nervous System"(4th Edition) by A. Robert Martin, Bruce G. Wallace, Paul A. Fuchs, John G. Nicholls

Course Description: The course offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the nervous system. The class format consists of a combination of formal and informal lectures together with student presentations. A major emphasis is made on interactive class discussion. The course is demanding and requires active student participation during the class.




Developmental Neuroscience

Course Leaders:
Dr. Florence Marlow 

Credits/Class Meetings: 5 semester hours/three 1.5 hour meetings per week for a total of approximately 37 classes.

Prerequisite Background: Undergraduate courses in Developmental Biology, Molecular Genetics and Neuroscience are recommended but not required.

Suggested Background Reading/Experience: Fundamental Neuroscience, Zigmond et al.,; Principles of Neuroscience, Kandel and Schwartz.

Suitability for 1st Year Students: Recommended for 1st year students. 

Course Description: This course will cover the cellular and molecular principles underlying the construction of a functioning nervous system.  The course will begin with overviews of neurogenesis, neural patterning and axon guidance, and an introduction to neuroembryology.  Subsequent classes will focus on neural induction, patterning of the neuraxis, stem cell biology, growth factors/cytokines and relevant signaling mechanisms, neurogenesis and gliogenesis, forebrain development, neuronal cell death, axon guidance mechanisms, synapse assembly and neural circuit formation. Throughout the course, insights gained from both vertebrate and invertebrate model systems will be discussed.

Grading will be based on participation in course director-facilitated Student Synopsis and Discussion classes and Student Study Sections, as well as on a written Grant Proposal.  There are eight Student Synopsis and Discussion classes interspersed with faculty lectures.  During these classes, students are expected to summarize the main points of the preceding two or three lectures, as well as present and discuss key papers in these areas.  Each student in the class will be required to write an original grant proposal on a topic in Developmental Neuroscience.  There will be two Student Study Sections during the semester.  At these study sections, students will critique their classmates’ grant proposals.  After each study section, students will have the opportunity to revise their grant proposal based on the recommendations of their peers.  The final revision of the grant proposal will be turned in on the last day of class in lieu of a final exam and will be graded by the course directors.


Systems Neuroscience

Course Leaders:
Dr. Jose Luis Pena
Dr. Adam Kohn 

Credits/Class Meetings: 5 credits/three 1.5 hour meetings per week for a total of approximately 30 class sessions

Prerequisite Background: You must have completed and passed the Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience course (special cases should contact course leaders).

Suggested Background Reading/Experience: Principles of Neural Science (Kandel, Schwartz & Jessell, Eds.), The Cognitive Neurosciences III (Gazzaniga, Ed.), Theoretical Neuroscience (Dayan & Abbott, Eds.).

Suitability for 1st Year Students: Suitable for 1st year students.

Course Description:
Scope: The course will explore how complex neural systems integrate afferent information and direct efferent outflow. The overall goal will be to explore higher order functions, such as the structure and function of neural systems underlying sensation and movement, learning and memory at the sensory and motor levels, as well as higher-level cognitive processes including object perception and attention. At every stage we will build on a firm understanding of the underlying physiology and anatomical structure. Principal areas of interest will be on hierarchical neural systems, the plasticity of neural networks, serial and parallel neural processing, cognition and computational modeling.

Format: The course will be divided into four modules: 

  1. Principles of neural systems 
  2. Neural bases of sensation 
  3. Neural bases of behavior 
  4. Higher order functions and cognition 
Each module will contain an initial series of didactic lectures introducing key facts and concepts, as well as class participation sessions focused on pre-assigned questions and relevant research papers. Techniques will be illustrated by demonstration.


Grading: The grade will be based on class participation and a term paper in the form of a grant proposal. The midterm exam will involve critiquing classmates’ grant proposals.  


Cell Biology of Neuronal Function

Course Leaders:
Dr. Anna Francesconi
Dr. Bryen Jordan 

Credits/Class Meetings: 1.5 credits/three 1.5 hour meetings per week for a total of approximately 18 class sessions

Prerequisite Background: No prerequisite; previous attendance of the neuroscience MCN Course encouraged but not required.

Suitability for 1st Year Students: Recommended for 1st Year Students

Course Description: We will consider the neuronal specific adaptations of organelles and pathways that regulate proteostasis. In-depth review of mechanisms underlying protein synthesis, recycling and degradation in neurons; mechanisms of polarized trafficking underlying protein localization at specific locations during neuronal differentiation and in mature neurons; neuronal homeostatic adaptations to activity-dependent changes in the intact circuitry; molecular basis of activity-dependent synapse remodeling under physiopathological conditions.


Neurobiology of Brain Disease

Course Leader:
Dr. Fred Lado 

Credits/Class Meetings: 4 credits

Prerequisite Background: It is recommended that students complete Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience before taking this course.

Suitability for 1st Year Students: Yes

Course Description:NBD is a survey course intended to acquaint graduate students in Neuroscience to the clinical symptoms and neurobiological basis of a spectrum of diseases affecting the function of the human nervous system. The focus of the course will be on the physiological mechanisms of disease causing hyper‐, hypo‐ or altered activity mainly – though not exclusively ‐ at the cellular and circuit level, but will also touch on vascular and degenerative mechanisms. The main goal of the course will be to identify and discuss how the changes in cellular and subcellular physiology result in the clinical symptoms characterizing particular diseases, such as epilepsy, migraine, multiple sclerosis, or myasthenia.

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