Neurons & Synapses
Course infoSchedule
Course moduleNWI-BB094
Credits (ECTS)6
Category02 (Introductory with prior knowledge)
Language of instructionEnglish
Offered byRadboud University; Faculty of Science; BioWetenschappen;
dr. N. Kogo
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. R.J.A. van Wezel
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. R.J.A. van Wezel
Other course modules lecturer
prof. dr. R.J.A. van Wezel
Other course modules lecturer
Contactperson for the course
prof. dr. R.J.A. van Wezel
Other course modules lecturer
Academic year2021
KW4  (11/04/2022 to 31/08/2022)
Starting block
Course mode
Registration using OSIRISYes
Course open to students from other facultiesYes
Waiting listNo
Placement procedure-
Expected learning outcomes
By the end of the course, students who successfully complete the course will be able to
  1. recognize the different classes of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous system;  compare and contrast the mammalian neurons with their counterparts in the non-mammalian organisms.
  2. explain the structural, molecular, cellular and functional differences among the different types of neurons.
  3. describe the molecular basis of communication across neurons; categorize the forms of synaptic communication.
  4. compare and contrast electrical and chemical synapses.
  5. critique the principal mechanisms of spatial and temporal integration in neurons, explain the differences between dendritic and somatic integration of information.  
  6. identify the different forms of synaptic plasticity and define the principal mechanisms neuronal plasticity in the nervous system.
  7. illustrate how changes in synaptic communication alter information processing in neuronal networks.
  8. define the neuronal and synaptic mechanisms of brain disorders.
Course Organisation: The course includes three complementary modules:
  1. Classroom lectures aim to involve the students in the learning process actively.  To do so we have prepared presentation files that include all the key information that will be discussed in the classroom. These presentations will be available for download on the Brightspace before each lecture. In the classroom, we will actively discuss the content, answer any questions you might have and promote active learning with examples.  At the end of each lecture there will be a small quiz that won’t be graded.  The questions will help to test yourself to see what aspects of the lecture requires closer post-lecture self-study. During lectures, we will also perform computer simulations to help you implement concepts and knowledge you learn in the classroom and experiment with model neurons and networks. The simulation environment that we will deploy is the NEURONIFY, a cross-platform freeware developed by Dragly et al (2017; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5355897/).  The software is compatible with Linux (UBUNTU tested), MAC, Windows, Android, and IOS, thus it can run on personal computers, tablets, and phones.  It has a rich set of tutorials that will ensure a rapid learning curve. All computer simulations will be performed in the classroom, see the schedule for their timing and the specific focus in each computer practical. Please download the software before the first class online at http://ovilab.net/neuronify/ or from the app store of your choice, as we will use the software already in the first lecture.  If you are programming savvy, you can also download the source code at https://github.com/CINPLA/neuronify to compile your own version.
  2. As Neurobiology is a vast and fast-moving field, being able to read the primary literature is a crucial component of lifelong learning.  Therefore we prepared a critical reading and reading comprehension (CRRC) module that aims to help you gain experience in reading primary research articles and writing an Abstract (or also known as the Summary section of the manuscript).  For this module, you are expected to write an abstract for a research paper already published in a peer-reviewed journal or available as a preprint on archive servers (e.g. arxiv, bioarxiv).  We will follow the guidelines of the journal Nature, see https://goo.gl/BFs5XG for a detailed annotated example, a copy of which is provided on the next page.  After you draft your first version of the abstract you are encouraged to get feedback from your colleagues. Within two weeks after submission of your abstract, you will receive two anonymous abstracts that you will be expected to review, criticize and grade.  After the review period, your own abstract’s reviews and the grade you received from this section will be available on the Brightspace.
  3. Group presentations will help you use the knowledge you have acquired in the classroom in a more advanced context.  As a part of a small team that consists of ~6 students, you will study research articles focusing on a brain disorder, assigned to you, and prepare a presentation that is 20 minutes long.  You will present your findings to the class in a standardized format shared with you during the first class. 

Instructional Modes

Presumed foreknowledge
Brain & Behaviour
Test information
The final grade is based on the following three elements:
  • exam, counts for 60%, minimum grade 5.0
  • CRRC, counts for 20%, no minimum grade
  • group presentation, counts for 20%, no minimum grade
  • Specifics
    This course is designed for 2nd-year undergraduate students with an interest in Neurobiology. The course focuses on the structure, organization, classification, and function of neurons and synapses. Course Materials There is no required textbook, however, we will use the Principles of Neural Science by Kandel et al. as the primary resource book in this course. All course materials, including the slides covered in each lecture, will be available on the Brightspace. All exam questions will come from the materials covered in the lectures. Should you require any additional background material, there are several general-purpose neurobiology textbooks, including but not limited to Principles of Neurobiology by Liqun Luo, Neuroscience by Dale Purves et al., and Understanding the Brain by Dowling. Pubmed maintains a library of electronic books freely accessible to everyone. You can search their catalog and book contents at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books. An earlier edition of the Neuroscience textbook by D.Purves is available http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK10799/. -- Please note that the book by Kandel et al is the common textbook for courses in the Neurobiology specialisation.
    Recommended materials
    Principles of Neural Science by Kandel et al.

    Instructional modes
    Attendance MandatoryYes

    Digital Exam
    Test weight0
    Test typeDigital exam with CIRRUS
    OpportunitiesBlock KW4, Block KW4

    Final Grade
    Test weight1
    OpportunitiesBlock KW4, Block KW4