Neurobiology Curriculum

In pursuing an AOC in Neurobiology at New College, you have two optional tracks:

• Track 1 involves courses in Neurobiology, Brain Behavior and Evolution, and Vertebrate Neuroanatomy with at least two labs associated with these courses.


• Track 2 involves two of the above disciplines along with labs and a Social Sciences offering in neurobiology.

As with all majors at New College, students studying Neurobiology are required to complete a senior thesis or project prior to graduation.

To detailed requirements about our Neurobiology AOC, check out our general catalog.

Here’s a list of recent course offerings in Neurobiology:
Please note that this is only a sample list of the course offerings in Neurobiology. For a detailed list of classes by semester, click here

Animal Behavior Lecture
Analysis of behavior integrating the concepts of levels of behavioral organization and the developmental history of behavior. The adaptive significance of behavior and its evolution in a variety of vertebrate and invertebrate animals will be considered. Social behavioral mechanisms will also be considered at selected levels of psychological complexity. Concepts and theories of behavioral ecology and the interface between behavior and ecology will be critically analyzed. The developing field of cognitive ethology and animal cognition will be reviewed and discussed. The overall approach of the course will be to contrast and compare formulations of ethology and comparative psychology with regard to their influences on methodology and the types of hypotheses generated by each viewpoint.

Animal Behavior Lab
Experimental techniques of behavioral analysis in laboratory and field will be introduced. Students will become familiar with the techniques of behavioral observation in the field in the ethological tradition. They will learn how to construct an ethogram, design a field study, analyze data and write a research article. Instrumental conditioning will be covered in the laboratory using the shuttle-box avoidance paradigm. A Coulbourn Instruments computerized stimulus presentation and data analysis system is available for use with fish as experimental subjects and other taxa as well. Students will be required to prepare grant proposals for independent projects that will be carried out during the second module.

Applied Bioinformatics Lab
In this computer laboratory class, we will explore practical methods to extract information from biological datasets using R and Bioconductor. Using data from current public repositories, we will apply techniques for data mining and classification to make and validate predictions about biological processes. The focus will be on developing a practical toolset for aggregating, reshaping, analyzing, and presenting biological data, combining information across data types where possible. In the second module, students will apply these tools in independent projects.

Animal Communication
Squawk, whistle, bleat, chirrup, and click. Animals communicate in a wide variety of ways, with varying levels of control, and to suit multiple needs from territorial defense to courtship to synchronization. However, the frameworks employed to analyze these communication systems are surprisingly controversial, e.g., how important is the concept of information in analyzing animal communication? Might it be misleading us? In this small advanced seminar, we’ll read literature on animal communication theory as well as investigating some specific species’ communication systems.

Animal Learning and Cognition
The course will begin with a consideration of the foundations of animal learning in the 17th century philosophical debates concerning nativist vs. empiricist explanations of mind followed by a discussion of the influence of Darwin’s ideas on the evolution of intelligence. The remainder of the course will be divided between learning theory and cognition. Learning theory approaches to animal intelligence dominated the first half of the twentieth century and included such topics as habituation, sensitization, classical conditioning, and instrumental conditioning. Cognitive approaches have become more influential in contemporary studies of animal intelligence. We will discuss how these approaches have been applied to learning, memory, navigation, foraging, and timing.

Diseases and Disorders of the Nervous System
The major goals of the course are 1) to understand current theories of and basic research on the major disease of the human brain and nervous system, 2) to grasp the current state of knowledge regarding treatments or cures, and 3) develop critical scientific reading and writing skills. The course will provide students with a broad exposure to major neuropathologies. The topics to be covered will include common neurological and psychiatric diseases, neurodegenerative disorders, and developmental disorders and infectious diseases that affect the nervous system. Each week we will focus on a different nervous system disorder. Classes will consist of an hour lecture followed by a 30 minute discussion of recent research, twice a week. Readings will be based on the fifth edition of “Principles of Neural Science” (2011) edited by Eric Kandel and selected primary research papers. Class evaluations will be based on the combination of participation, short writing assignments, performance on the midterm, final paper, and final presentation. At the end of this course, students will be familiar with the major challenges facing clinical neuroscience and feel comfortable writing about research

Introductory Psychology Seminar: The Sensory World of Animals
Animals exist in different sensory worlds than humans. For example, honeybees can locate their food sources using polarized light and homing pigeons navigate using the earth’s magnetic field. Dolphins discriminate objects and bats capture insects using reflected sound. Some fish detect changes in movements in water on a nanometer scale and sharks can detect electrical signals from the neural activity of prey. Students will be introduced to the behavioral and physiological evidence that provides a glimpse of these other worlds of animals. This is a writing-intensive course and part of New College's Seminars in Critical Thinking; it is recommended to students who want to improve their critical thinking and writing skills.

Neurobiology Lecture
An advanced course dealing with the general features of nervous systems and the principles of neural organization educed from a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate model preparations. The neural substrate of various behavioral adaptations will be considered as well as the role of sensory mechanisms in these adaptations. A detailed analysis of the adequate stimuli, transduction, coding and transmission characteristics of various sensory systems will be carried out.

Neurobiology Lab
An experimental analysis of the physiology of neural and sensory systems. Electro physiological stimulation and recording techniques will be utilized to study the operating characteristics of selected model preparations. A Power Lab system is available for online recordings, display and processing of neural signals. Each student will be expected to learn to operate the equipment and carry out individual projects. Lab partners schedule 3 hr sessions to fit in with their class schedule.

Principles of Bioinformatics
This intermediate level course will cover topics in the generation and analysis of large biological datasets, including sequence analysis, gene expression, protein folding, biological networks and databases, and biomedical applications. To better understand the processes that link genome structure and function, we will focus on common principles that apply regardless of data type or computational method. Students will also develop a grant application proposing methods to study a biological topic of interest.

Sensation and Perception
This course explores the sensory and perceptual processes involved in determining the properties of physical stimuli. Initially, we will discuss psychophysics, the study of the relationship between psychological phenomena and physical events. We will continue with reviews of vision and audition. A specific emphasis will be placed on applications of psychological and biological knowledge to perceptual analysis of two-dimensional visual images and music. No prior academic experience with art or music is required.

Sensory Biology of Fishes Lecture
This upper-level course will examine the anatomy, physiology, development, and evolution of the sensory systems of fishes and the behaviors for which they are utilized. We will explore vision, smell, taste, mechanoreception (lateral line, touch), hearing, electroreception, and magnetoreception. This course will consist of lectures and student-led discussions of recent research papers.

Sensory Biology of Fishes Lab
This hands-on laboratory course is designed to complement the topics covered in the Sensory Biology of Fishes lecture. We will explore the use of sensory information in fish behaviors, such as feeding, reproduction, and communication and learn how to quantitatively measure animal behavior. This course will be divided into units, as experiments are expected to require several lab sessions to complete. A written report of the results will be required at the completion of each unit.

Sensory Processes of Marine Mammals
Marine mammals reentered the aquatic world from terrestrial habitats. They evolved sensory systems adapted to this new environment. In this advanced seminar we will emphasize auditory, visual, and tactile senses, but will also consider chemical, electrical, and magnetic senses. We will focus on the sensory abilities of dolphins, seals and sea lions, and manatees, but also consider other animals including baleen whales, dugongs, and otters. 

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Of all New College science graduates since 1967, roughly one-third have earned an M.D. or Ph.D.

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