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Neuroscience teaching in the Biology cursus

Neuroscience is fascinating, because it deals with the material basis of our own personality and conscious experience. For this reason it touches on a tremendous range of disciplines. The emphasis in the biology cursus is naturally on neurobiology, which is already very broad, ranging from cellular and molecular neurobiology and neurogenetics to systems level neurophysiology. But there is a logical progression from these subjects to understanding the cerebral basis of human and animal psychology, as well as the causes of brain dysfunction in neurological and psychiatric diseases. For example, understanding memory involves molecular dissection of how memories are stored at individual synapses, morphological tracing of memory circuits, electrophysiological analysis of how memory is accessed, computer modeling to test theories about how the system works and behavioural studies of the memory phenomenon itself. All these levels of analysis are also involved in understanding clinical conditions of memory loss such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Bachelor in Biology

Compulsory courses in neuroscience for the first two years of the Bachelor in Biology course (semesters 1 à 4)

1st year (semester 1) - 8 hours of Introduction to neuroscience: histology and function of the central and peripheral nervous systems. - A. Volterra

2nd year (semester 4) - 28 hours “Introduction to Neurosciences”:
A. Lüthi, A. Volterra, F. Tschudi-Monnet, P. Clarke
Excitability and neuronal communication (10 h)
Development and organization of the nervous system (4 h)
Perception of the external world: example of somesthesia (4 h)
Voluntary and involuntary action (4 h)
Learning and memory (4 h)
From brain to soul (2 h)

Neurobiology course as part of the optional thematic module “Physiology of complex systems”, in the 3rd year (semester 6)

- Glials cells (6 h) A. Volterra et al.
- Wiring of the brain (6 h) J.P. Hornung et al.
- Plasticity of complex systems: somesthesia and pain (6h) I. Décosterd, E. Welker et al.
- Sleep (6h) A. Lüthi et al.
- Seminars (2h of discussions of publications)
- Neuroanatomy demonstration (4h)

Optional courses in neuroscience (semesters 3-6) – for students in 2nd year (semesters 3, 4) and 3rd year (semesters 5, 6)

The aim of these optional courses is to enable students to widen their horizon before choosing their masters option, to deepen their knowledge in particular domains and to develop their analytic capacity and critical sense.

- Sleep and circadian rhythms : from molecules to performance (14 h) - P. Franken
- Muscles: from nervous control to sports training (10 h lectures and 4 h practicals) F. Tschudi-Monnet
- From cerebral functions to behaviour (14 h lectures and 14 h practicals) R. Stoop et al.
- Desire, pleasure and dependence: a modern history of addiction (14 h lectures) B. Boutrel
- Psychopharmacology: from the synapse to the therapeutic response (14 h lectures) C. Eap
- Psychopharmacology: from the synapse to mental activity and the therapeutic response (14 h seminars) B. Boutrel

Master of Science in Medical Biology

Semester 7 – Course of neuroscience

From memory to memory loss: Alzheimer’s disease (20h)
A. Volterra, G. Leuba et al.
Ten two-hour sessions on:
1. Cerebral circuits linked to memory and attention: aging and Alzheimer’s disease – two different situations?
2. Epidemiology and clinical treatment of Alzheimer’s disease; what can brain imagery contribute?
3. Etiopathological cascade and risk factors linked to the ß-amyloid protein
4. Proteopathies (Tau protein, neuronal cytoskeleton) and “aggresome” (ubiquitin) : key pathological composants?
5. Molecular mechanisms of memory: from genes to synapses, functions and dysfunctions
6. Transgenic models: Alzheimer’s as a disease of synaptic function
7. The role of glial cells: neuroinflammation in Alzheimer’s disease
8. Current pharmacotherapy
9. Therapeutic hopes: vaccines etc. - the strategy of a biopharmaceutical company
10. Journal Club – recent breakthroughs

Semester 8 - Neuroscience specialty - six advanced modules:

1. Cellular mechanisms associated with the formation and the maturation of the brain (20 h) J.P. Hornung et al
2. Sensory functions (22 h) E. Welker et al.
3. Neuron-glia biology (24 h) A. Volterra et al.
4. Modulation of synaptic transmission (16 h) R. Regazzi, D. Fasshauer et al.
5. Natural and pathological neuronal death (16 h) P. Clarke et al.
6. Introduction to psychiatric neuroscience (20 h) F. Schenk et al.

N.B. Most of the above information concerns the study plan for 2009-2010 and will be updated when the plan for 2010-2011 is finalized. The information for semester 7 is already for 2010-2011.

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