NSCI 327, Cellular, Neurophysiological and Pharmacological Neuroscience, SPRING 2008

Prerequistes: NSCI 210, PSYC 375.


INSTRUCTOR: M Cloud, K Blackwell,

Contact Information: mcloud1@gmu.edu, avrama@gmu.edu, 993-4381

Office Hours: Thurs, 4:15 - 5:15 pm, or by appointment

Office Location: Krasnow Institute, Room 105, and adjacent lounge.


Course Objectives: This is a core neuroscience course that presents basic concepts of cellular and

molecular level neuroscience. It is an in depth survey of neuronal functions, including cellular

anatomy and membrane functions, electrical properties of neurons, intercellular and intracellular

signaling, brain metabolism, the molecular biology of sensory processing, and cellular basis of

plasticity. By the end of the course the students will have a comprehensive understanding of the

molecular functioning of neurons.


Text: Neuroscience 4/e, Purves et al




Week 1            Chapter 1 Homework due Jan 28 Answers

Jan 19:            Course overview, organization of the nervous system, amino acids and proteins Lecture

Jan 21:            Neuron anatomy and structure, cytoskeleton Lecture


Week 2 Homework due Feb 4 Answers

Jan 26              Chapter 2: 25-36; Resting potential, Nernst Equation; Measurement Techniques Lecture

Jan 28              Chapter 4: 74-83; Membrane transporters Lecture


Week 3 Homework due Feb 11 Answers

Feb 2               Chapter 2: 36-37; Chapter 3: 41-49: Action Potential and Voltage Clamp Lecture

Feb 4               Chapter 4: 61-74; Ion Channel Structure and Function Lecture


Week 4

Feb 9               Snow Day!

Feb 11             Snow Day!


Week 5 Homework due Feb 25 Answers

Feb 16             Tutorials: Action Potential Firing Patterns; Calcium Channels Lecture

Feb 18             Chapter 3: 49-59; Passive and Active Propagation of Potential Lecture


Week 6 Homework due Mar 2 Answers

Feb 23             Potassium Channels Lecture

Feb 25             Review, Commercials Commercial Results


Week 7 Homework due Mar 18

Mar 2             Exam 1: Chapters 1-4 Exam Results Answers

Mar 4             Chapter 5: 85-106; Synaptic transmission, pre-synaptic release Lecture


Week 8            Spring Break


Week 9 Homework due Mar 25

Mar 16             Chapter 5: 106-117; Synaptic transmission, Post-synaptic receptors and potentials Lecture

Mar 18             Chapter 6: 119-151; Synaptic transmission, neurotransmitters and synthesis Lecture


Week 10 Homework due April 1

Mar 23            Chapter 6: 119-151; Synaptic transmission, neurotransmitters and synthesis

Mar 25            Chapter 7: 153-163; Molecular signaling, indirect synaptic transmission Lecture


Week 11

Mar 30            Chapter 7: 164-176; Molecular signaling, indirect synaptic transmission Lecture

Apr 1           Review, commercials Exam 2 Study Guide Commercials Results


Week 12 Homework due April 15

Apr 6            Exam 2: Chapters 5-7 Exam Results Answers

Apr 8               Chapter 8: 177-203; Synaptic plasticity, Learning and Memory Lecture


Week 13 Homework due April 22

Apr 13               Chapter 8: 177-203; Synaptic plasticity, Learning and Memory Lecture

Apr 15               Chapter 9: 207-217; Mechanotransduction (somatosensory) Lecture


Week 14 Homework due April 29

Apr 20             Chapter 11: 253-286; Phototransduction (vision) Lecture

Apr 22             Chapter 11: 253-286; Phototransduction (vision) Lecture


Week 15 Homework due May 6

Apr 27             Chapter 13: 313-332; Mechanotransduction (Hearing) Lecture

Apr 29             Chapter 15: 353-378, 384-389; Chemotransduction (taste and smell) Lecture


Week 16

May 4            Chapter 15: 353-378, 384-389; Chemotransduction (taste and smell)

May 6             Review Lecture


Comprehensive Final Exam: Mon May 10 2:15 - 4:15


Overall Class Results including Grades


Important dates:


Last day to add: February 2

Last day to drop: February 19



Homework 20%

Mid-term Exams, 25% each

Final Exam 30%

Exams will be short answer, or fill in the blank.

Commercials are brief presentations (e.g. 5 minutes) by teams of one to four students.  The

commercial should “sell” the neuron on a particular ion channel or transporter (commercial 1),

synaptic receptor or receptor channel (commercial 2), or sensory cell (commercial 3).  Content

counts for 33%, verbal creativity counts for 33% and visual creativity counts for 33%.  Larger

teams are expected to have more entertaining commercials, but content is graded the same for all

teams.  Students form their own teams and each student in the team receives the same grade. If

students are not happy with all members of their team, the team composition can change for the

subsequent commercial.  Teams of two to three students are recommended, but students who are

unable to join a team, for example due to time or distance constraints, may create their own

commercials.  In this case, content will count for 50% and creativity for 50%.


Homework will consist of take home questions.


Policy regarding missed assignments: Homework is due by the end of class Thursday.  If an absence from class is anticipated, homework may be emailed, or sent in on-time with another student.  Make-up exams are not allowed, unless the student has written medical documentation for absence from an exam.


Grading policy: A score of 90 or above generally results in a grade of A- or above, 80 or above

corresponds to a B- or above, and 70 or above results in C- or above.  The numerical score is only a guideline, and is not absolute.  The final grades may be determined on a curve if this is to the students favor and justified in the opinion of the instructor.






All exams and reports must follow the guidelines of the GMU Honor Code as described in the GMU catalog.  Students may use books, notes, and other sources in preparing for exams and reports.  Other students may be consulted.  However, when taking exams, no books, notes, or student interaction will be allowed. Students may work together on homework, but each student must contribute and copying is not allowed.