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Introduction in the Neurosciences


Admission requirements

Basic cytology and molecular biology.


This course will be your introduction into the neurosciences, an ever expanding and exciting field of knowledge and research that encompasses virtually all scientific disciplines, from mathematic set theory through molecular biology to computerized image analysis. The nervous system is being studied in species at all levels of the animal kingdom, and in these species at the molecular, cellular and systems levels. Notwithstanding the vast effort that we put into understanding the nervous system at present even the simplest ones remain enigmatic.
During this course attention will be paid to both the structure and the function of the nervous system. Study of the structure of the nervous system will familiarize you with the anatomy of the human central nervous system, both at the macroscopic and at the microscopic levels. Through study of the function you will become familiar with the electrophysiology of the neuron, and with the interaction between sensors, neurons and effectors (which is, in fact, “behaviour”). The relation between structure and function will be emphasized by studying pathology of the nervous system; this will demonstrate how structural disturbances influence our interaction with the environment (yet another euphemism for “behaviour”).

The course is subdivided into four themes. The first theme “Neuroanatomy”, and the second theme “Neurophysiology” obviously deal with the basics. What does the brain look like to the naked eye, through a looking glass and through a microscope? Which components can be discerned and what are their names? Which cell types are present and how are these arranged? Which membrane characteristics make the neuron so special, and what are the consequent electrophysiological properties of the neuron, and its extensions? How does the neuron interact with other cells?
The third theme “Systematic and clinical neuroanatomy” is concerned with the motor control and sensory systems of the nervous system and the effect of (pathological) disturbances of these systems on our behaviour and sense of well-being. We will concentrate on three systems; the pyramidal system (the primary motor controlsystem), the somatosensory system related to the motor control system and on the extrapyramidal system (a series of [sub]cortical motor-control loops). These same systems, along with some of the special sensory systems (vision, hearing, equilibrium) will also feature among the subjects of the fourth theme, “Systematic Neurophysiology”. The function of various systems, ranging from the motor unit, along postural reflexes to the subconscious will be addressed in a series of physiological experiments.
Intermingled with these themes there will be lectures by LUMC researchers who will introduce the various flavours of neuroscience research performed at the Leiden University Medical Centre. The subjects of these lecteure were selected to match (as far as possible) the thematic topics. These lectures constitute an integral part of the course, as they address neuroscience subjects, but also constitute part of the line course BAST (Biomedical Academic Scientific Training), as they will train you to interact, in a symposium-like setting, with researchers active in the field.

Course objectives

  • To gain a general understanding of the central role of the nervous system in coordinating the interaction between the body it inhabits and the environment.

  • To know the anatomy of the central nervous system at both macroscopic and microscopic levels, and to some extent the anatomy of the peripheral nervous system.

  • To know about the properties specific to the neuronal cell membrane, and about the function of these properties in the interaction of the neuron with other neurons, and with sensor and effector organs.

  • To understand how sensorimotor integration is effected by the nervous system, and to be able to understand how disturbances of this system will affect its function.

  • To understand how the special senses transduce energy from the environment into “nervous energy”, and to understand some of the processing necessary for the perception of special sensory information.

  • To gain some insight in neuroscience research and its clinical application.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures 22 hrs

  • Interactive lectures 6 hrs

  • Seminars 5 hrs

  • Dissection practical 9 hrs

  • Physiology practical 16 hrs

  • Self study assignments 12 hrs

Assessment method

Written exam, 30 open-end questions, closed book.

Reading list

  • Bear, Connors and Paradiso; Neuroscience, Exploring the Brain; 3rd Ed. 2006, Baltimore, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; ISBN 0-7817-6003-8.

  • Boron & Boulpaep; Medical Physiology; 2nd Ed. 2009, Philadelphia, Elsevier Saunders; ISBN 978-1-4160-3115-4.