Coursework

 

The Neurobiology Graduate Training Program provides a number required and elective courses for its students. The first-year curriculum emphasizes coursework, but also allows students to spend about half of their time in laboratory rotations. Students select their thesis advisors at the end of their first year.

Required first-year courses:

Required second-year courses:

Additional information:


NEUROBIO 751 (NEUROSCI 751): Neuroscience Bootcamp
A two-week immersive lecture, discussion and laboratory course. Bootcamp is designed to (1) provide a common knowledge base of neuroscience fundamentals; (2) demystify the tools of the discipline - providing hands-on experience with techniques that are commonly used to explore cellular/molecular, circuits and cognitive neuroscience.

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Laboratory Rotations: NEUROBIO 793 Research in Neurobiology (Independent Study)
Students are required to complete two lab rotations and strongly encouraged to do three rotations in their first year (September-December, January-April, May-August). One important role of the rotations is to allow "trial marriages" between students and potential mentors. In addition, the rotations acquaint students with current research in Neurobiology and offer opportunities to develop proficiencies in a variety of techniques.

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NEUROBIO 719: Concepts in Neuroscience I
The goal of this course is to introduce graduate students to the basic principles underlying cellular and molecular neurobiology. The first part of the course covers the cellular mechanisms of neurophysiology. The second part covers molecular mechanisms of synaptic signaling, plasticity, axon guidance, and neural regeneration. An interactive discussion-based format focused on key discoveries in these areas of research, including analysis of original papers, will allow students to learn how the brain encodes, transmits, and stores information as well as form neural circuits.

  • 719A Neuronal Excitability - The electric excitability of neurons is mediated by ion channels. First, we will give an overview of the human ion channel set and discuss the basic structure and functions of ion channels. We will show how the function of ion channels is measured and analyzed. We will analyze the 3D crystal structures of a few ion channels in greater detail. In the second week we will begin with a review of the basic electrical properties of cell membranes, and then focus in-depth on what remains the archetypal study of neuronal excitability in the field: that of the axonal action potential by Alan Hodgkin and Andrew Huxley in a series of papers published in 1952.
  • 719B Synaptic Transmission - As the focal point of communication between neurons, the synapse is an essential adaptation of the nervous system that contains a wide variety of unique proteins and functional specializations. In this module, we will cover the structure and function of the synapse, from the dynamics of presynaptic vesicle release through the postsynaptic response to neurotransmitter, and the essential proteins and molecules that mediate these processes. Finally, we will discuss how these elements can be tailored to fit the needs of different circuits.
  • 719C Neuronal Cell Biology - Fundamentals of basic cell biology as well as cellular specializations that are exaggerated in neurons. Topics include polarized protein trafficking, organelle motility, cytoskeleton organization, synaptic scaffolds, intracellular signaling cascades and cell-to-cell communication, including communication between neurons and non-neuronal cells. Also the molecular machinery of the synapse that permits its rapid structural and functional plasticity
  • 719D Brain Development – How the brain is wired during development is a fundamental question of neurobiology. In this module, we will discuss the molecular mechanisms that sculpt brain patterning and axon guidance, the regulation of neurogenesis, how the synapse is formed, and how sensory information guides the development of the brain in early postnatal life.
  • 719E Neural Plasticity - Plasticity is one of the most unique features of the brain, mediating the ability of this organ to learn from its environment. In this module we will explore molecular and cellular mechanisms of the stimulus-inducible changes in synaptic strength (long-term depression and long-term potentiation; LTP and LTD) that are key models for learning and memory. We will review the signal transduction pathways that convert neuronal activity into changes in synaptic structure and function and we will explore the contexts in which synaptic and circuit plasticity contributes to changes in brain function and behavior.

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NEUROBIO 720: Concepts in Neuroscience II
The principles of organization of neurons into functional circuits is examined through a series of 5 distinct modules, listed below. All five modules required for first-year neurobiology students.

  • 720A Neuroanatomy – Overview of the general plan for the vertebrate nervous system and survey of the functional anatomy of the human brain. Hands-on examination of human brain specimens with guided explorations of external and internal brain structures and their vascular anatomy. Dissections of human brains to facilitate discovery, with use of interactive digital media to explore the gross anatomy of the central nervous system and the organization of the major neural systems underlying sensory, motor and cognitive function.
  • 720B Sensory Processing: Representations and Computations – A major function of the nervous system is to generate perceptions based on input from sensory organs. This module explores how populations of neurons represent sensory information and perform computations on those signals. This question is considered at a variety of levels of the visual and auditory pathways and spans domains of inquiry from circuits to cognition.
  • 720C Sensory-Motor Integration – Much of our motor activity is directed by sensory inputs. In this module, we cover the basic principles of how the brain processes and transforms sensory inputs in the service of the planning and coordination of movements. We will consider the function of both cortical and subcortical areas in motor control. Topics include the roles of the parietal and frontal cortices, movement coordination by the cerebellum, and the principles of motor skill learning. Examples are heavily drawn from eye movements while drawing parallels to other motor effector systems. Course sessions include some lecture material, but also include class discussion of strategically-chosen historical and current papers.
  • 720D Learning and Memory – Our capacity to form memories and learn new behaviors is critical to survival, in part because these processes permit rapid adaptation and behavioral flexibility in the face of environmental change. In this module, we examine memory and learning by considering processes ranging from classical conditioning to spatial navigation to the cultural transmission of behaviors such as speech. These complex phenomena are viewed from cellular, circuit and systems perspectives.
  • 720E Circuits and Computation – Computational neuroscience seeks to describe brains and nervous systems as information processing units that have evolved to perform the complex computations needed to solve the difficult problem humans and animals face on a daily basis. In 1976, David Marr and Tomaso Poggio summarized the computational approach to neuroscience as consisting of three complimentary levels of analysis: the computational level, the algorithmic level, and the physical level. The computational level is concerned with identifying a specific problem that an animal is trying to solve. The algorithmic level is concerned with generating an understanding of how the animal represents the problem and how the solution to that problem is generated. The physical level is concerned with the precise means by which neurons and neural circuits implement the solution in order to generate behavior. In this module, we explore computational approach to neuroscience and introduce the information theoretic tools upon which it is based. Emphasis is placed on models of neural encoding and decoding, signal detection theory, decision theory, and model neural circuits that perform evidence integration, object tracking, and binary choice.

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NEUROBIO 762: Neurobiology of Disease
Discuss given disease of the nervous system. One or two students working with a designated faculty member are responsible for an introduction (20-25 minutes) followed by a discussion of key primary papers on the subject. Two or three articles provided at least a week in advance provide a framework for discussion. Diseases covered currently include: ALS, Alzheimer's, CNS neoplasms, Epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, retinitis pigmentosa, and stroke. We discuss key features of the disease, etiology and pathogenetic mechanisms of the disease, models available and the evidence establishing the validity of the models & therapies.

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NEUROBIO 726:  Neurobiology Journal Club (Seminar)
Once a month, first and second year neurobiology graduate students meet to hold a student-run journal club to discuss the work of an invited seminar speaker from an outside institution.  On the following Tuesday, the students attend the seminar then have lunch with the speaker. 

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NEUROBIO 790: Student Seminar
Preparation and presentation of seminars to students and faculty on topics of broad interest in neurobiology.

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NEUROBIO 710 (CELLBIO 710):  Scientific Writing: Papers and Grant Writing Workshop
Introduction to grant and fellowship writing; writing assignment of two proposal topics; evaluation and critique of proposal by fellow students.

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NEUROBIO 735 Quantitative Approaches in Neurobiology 
The three modules of this course provides 1) basic training in computer programming (using Matlab), 2) grounding in the principles of statistics needed for neurobiology, and 3) an introduction to computational neuroscience.

  • The Programming module assumes students are familiar with basic principles of computer programming at the level of an introductory undergraduate course (variables, loops, functions). Students without this background should consult with the instructor, as materials covering these concepts are available online and should be completed prior to the start of class. Classwork focuses on real-world examples of neuroscience data analysis from loading data to producing figures.
  • The Statistics module provides a firm grounding in the principles on which statistical analysis of neuroscience data is based. 
  • The Theory model gives the students experience in developing simple computational models of neurons or of the nervous system.

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NEUROBIO 733 Experimental Design and Biostatistics for Basic Biomedical Scientists

The use and importance of statistical methods in laboratory science, with an emphasis on the “nuts and bolts” of experimental design, hypothesis testing, and statistical inference. Central tendency and dispersion, Gaussian and Non-Gaussian distribution, parametric and non-parametric tests, uni- and multivariate, ANOVA and regression procedures are covered. Students present their own data and literature examples in addition to lectures.

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Graduate Student Teaching

Students are required to teach for a minimum of one semester. This experience is an important part of training for a career in neurobiology. Student teaching will vary as courses in the department evolve, but can be expected to include the Boot Camp, graduate neurobiology courses, or undergraduate neurobiology courses.

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Elective Courses

NEUROBIO 795 Special Topics in Neurobiology
This course is a series of 2-week intensive mini-courses that cover a small area of the field of neuroscience intensively through critical reading of the literature and instructor guidance. Example topics would include: cerebellar learning; mechanisms of navigation; epigenetic control of neural function; the neuroscience of autism. Each mini-course will have a different faculty instructor selected from the Neurobiology Graduate Training Faculty. Students may enroll in Neurobio 795 multiple times and will receive one credit for each mini-course they complete successfully.

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NEUROBIO  702 Basic Neurobiology
Medical neuroscience, clinical neuroanatomy, and biological psychiatry for first-year medical students only. This course replaces the Neurobiology of Disease course requirement for medical students who elect to pursue a doctoral degree in the Neurobiology Training Program. Instructional approach: team-based learning methods, with frequent readiness assessments, application exercises, neuroanatomy laboratories, patient-interviews, and clinical problem-solving sessions.

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NEUROBIO 755 Neurotoxicology
Adverse effects of drugs and toxicants on the central and peripheral nervous system; target sites and pathophysiological aspects of neurotoxicity; factors affecting neurotoxicity, screening and assessment of neurotoxicity in humans; experimental methodology for detection and screening of chemicals for neurotoxicity.

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NEUROBIO 759S Principles in Cognitive Neuroscience
Introduction to the cognitive neuroscience of emotion, social cognition, executive function, development, and consciousness. Topics also include cognitive disorders, and computer modeling. Highlights current theories, methodological advances, and controversies. Students evaluate and synthesize findings across a variety of research techniques.

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NEUROBIO  760S Principles in Cognitive Neuroscience II
Introduction to the cognitive neuroscience of emotion, social cognition, executive function, development, and consciousness.  Topics also include cognitive disorders, and computer modeling.  Highlights current theories, methodological advances, and controversies.  Students evaluate and synthesize findings across a variety of research techniques. 

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NEUROBIO 859 Neuronal Cell Signaling
Using primary literature, this course covers current topics in neuronal cell signaling, with special emphasis on related diseases as well as the biochemical, molecular, and cellular methods used in these studies. The format of the course includes both student-led presentations reviewing current knowledge on each topic and a journal club discussion of a research paper. The instructor assists students in choosing the topics and facilitates the discussion. At the end of the course each student prepares a grant proposal outlining next steps for the topic researched. Students are expected to have a strong background in neuroscience, and permission of the instructor is required to register.

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NEUROBIO  881 Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
The course covers all aspects of functional magnetic resonance imaging, from its basic principles in physics, engineering, biophysics, and physiology; through computational, analytic, and signal processing issues; to its applications in neurobiology and cognitive neuroscience. The course consists of weekly lectures and integrated laboratory sessions. Lectures are given by BIAC faculty, and incorporate primary readings in the field to encourage discussion. The laboratory sessions involve analysis of fMRI data sets that illustrate issues discussed in the lectures. Students gain experience both in the theoretical principles of fMRI and in the practical aspects of experimental design and data analysis.

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Additional Neuroscience Courses at Duke

Biology

  • Bio 227S Current Topics in Sensory Biology
  • Bio 240 Development of Neural Circuits
  • Bio 241S Biology of Nervous System Diseases

Biomedical Engineering

  • BME 301L Electrophysiology
  • BME 303 Modern Diagnostic Imaging Systems
  • BME 502 Neural Signal Acquisition
  • BME 503 Computational Neuroengineering
  • BME 504 Fundamentals of Electrical Stimulation of the Nervous System
  • BME 511 Theoretical Electrophysiology
  • BME 513 Nonlinear Dynamics in Electrophysiology
  • BME 515 Neural Prosthetic Systems
  • BME 545 Acoustics and Hearing

Cell Biology

  • Cellbio 503 Introduciton to Physiology
  • Cellbio 551 Cell and Molecular Biology

Math

  • Math 561 Scientific Computing I
  • Math 577 Mathematical Modeling

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