Graduate Course Syllabus

NEU/PSY 811 Advanced Behavioral Neuroscience
Spring of 2016


Tony Nunez


102 Giltner Hall or 230B Chittenden Hall (by appointment)


Voice mail

353-9066 or 355-0301


Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9:30 am to 10:50 am, 101 Giltner Hall


Background Information

Carlson, NR (2012) Physiology of Behavior 11th edition. Breedlove SM & Watson, NV (2013) Biological Psychology 7th edition (or equivalent current text books).

Course Content

Original Papers/Reviews: Sets 1-3 and target and integration articles.


In-Class Exams (60%), class presentation/outline (15%), proposal (15%), target articles discussions (10 %).

Learning Objectives

  1. To become familiar with current research in selected domains of behavioral neuroscience
  2. To develop skills in oral and written communication
  3. To develop skills for the critical reading of scientific research
  4. To develop grant writing skills

Course outline:

The core of the course includes three thematic units. Each unit starts with a historical overview and includes reading of review articles and class discussion of key research papers. The readings for Units 2 and 3 include articles that integrate the theme of Unit 1 with those of Units 2 and 3.    

Unit One: Learning and Memory: Set 1 January 12 – February 4

  • February 2: Unit One Target Articles Discussions (see Below)

February 9: In-class exam for Unit One (20%)

Unit Two: Sleep & Rhythms: Set 2 February 11 – March 3 (no class February 16)

  • March 1: Unit Two Target Articles Discussions

March 7 - 11: Spring Break

March 15: In-class exam for Unit Two (20%)

Unit Three: Reproduction in Context: Set 3 March 22– April 12 (no class on March 17)

  • The background reading for this unit should cover text-book chapters on feeding behavior/energy balance as well as reproduction.
  • April 7: Unit Three Target Articles Discussions

April 14: In-class exam for Unit Three (20%)

Class Presentations: April 19 – April 28 (see Below)

  • A sentence outline with references is due the day of the presentation (provide copies for all class participants)
  • Discussion of Class Presentations and Grant Proposal March 31 (see McPherson, 2001)
  • Topic selections with two core references are due one week prior to the start of the presentations (April 5)

Pre-doctoral Grant Proposal: Due Tuesday of finals (May 3)

Proposal Outline and Page Limits:

  1. Research and Professional Experience (as a narrative, not just a set of bullets): What have you done to prepare for a career in science/research? What is the topic of your dissertation or current project? Include a list of publications/conference presentations and awards (2-page limit*).
  2. Sponsor/Institution: Why do you want to work with the sponsoring investigator? What is ideal about the selected laboratory and institution?  The sponsor may be a scientist from MSU, but your proposal may also identify a sponsor from another institution (2-page limit).
  3. Research Approach: This section should include a brief review of the literature, a set of specific aims, and a description of experiments to achieve those specific aims. The proposal should include work to be completed in three years. The proposed research may be related (but not identical) to your current research project or to work done in previous laboratory rotations. Aim to present the research plan as hypotheses-driven, rather than descriptive or exploratory; see article by McPherson at the end of the reading list (6-page limit).
    The research approach must include a discussion of how the proposed training and research activities relates to the field of Behavioral Neuroscience.
  4. Literature Cited: Provide a complete list of the papers cited in the proposal with full bibliographical information (no page limit).
  5. Training Potential: Explain how the proposed research will complement your current and past training. Describe any activity (e.g., seminars, workshops, short-courses) during the three years of support that will add to the training potential of the research experience. An important component of this section is to describe training plans in areas related to the responsible conduct of research and research ethics. Consider framing this section as an individual development plan; visit  (2-pagelimit).
  6. Broader Impact: Explain the significance of this research and training plan in the context of current challenges faced in important domains such as human health, conservation, climate change and economic sustainability. What is innovative about the research and training plan? (1-page limit)

* All page limits are for single-spaced format.

Target Articles Discussions

In addition to the regular readings, there will be two target articles for discussion for each of the three units. All of us will read the selected articles, but 2 -3 class participants will be responsible for leading a structured discussion of each of the two articles; full class time will be devoted to these presentations/discussions on February 2, March 1 and April 7. For each article the group responsible for its content will prepare a discussion/presentation that will cover the following:

  1. An explanation of the rationale, method and major findings of the article, including supplemental materials associated with the publication. When preparing this section, assume that the rest of the class has read the paper once, but not as carefully as you did.
  2.  A discussion of how the material of the article relates to the rest of the content of the pertinent unit (challenges, contradictions, confirmations of perspectives presented in class and/or the assigned readings).
  3. A summary of the accomplishments and significance of the article’s content that would be accessible and interesting to the general public.

This is a group assignment and a single grade will be assigned to all members of each group. Each presentation is limited to 25 minutes/ article. The format used to accomplish (1), (2) and (3) and the work distribution among group members is the decision of the group. Dates for the presentations will be randomly determined, but you are free to trade dates among yourselves.

Individual Class Presentations

Each class member will prepare a class presentation to cover a topic in neuroscience that relates to behavioral neuroscience.  Different from the Target Articles Discussions (see above), these will be individual presentations of 15 - 20 minutes with 5 minutes for discussion.  The topic you select may be the same or very similar to the main theme of your proposal. However, keep in mind that your primary goal here is to teach us about something you know very well; thus, the presentation is likely to be more like the background, significance and broader impact sections of your proposal. A sentence outline with citations and a reference list is due the day of your presentation for distribution to all class participants. Late in the term (March 31st), class time will be reserved to discuss the class presentations and the grant proposal.  Presentations are scheduled for April 19, 21, 26 and 28. Dates for the presentations will be randomly determined, but you are free to trade dates among yourselves.


Unit One Readings

  • Eichenbaum, H. and Cohen, N.J. (2014) Can we reconcile the declarative memory and spatial navigation views on hippocampal function? Neuron, 83: 764 – 770.
  • Packard, M. (2009) Exhumed from thought: basal ganglia and response learning in the plus-maze. Behavioural Brain Research, 199: 24-31.
  • Eichenbaum, H. et al. (2015) Memory and space: Towards an understanding of the cognitive map. The Journal of Neuroscience, 35: 13904 – 13911.

Unit One Target Articles (for February 2)

  • Miller, JF et al. (2013) Neural activity in human hippocampal formation reveals the spatial context of retrieved memories. Science, 342: 1111 – 1114.
  • Forcelli, P.A. et al. (2014) Memory loss in a nonnavigational spatial task after hippocampal inactivation in monkeys. PNAS, 111: 4315 – 4320.

Unit Two Readings

  • Ko CH and Takahashi, JS (2006) Molecular components of the mammalian circadian clock Human Molecular Genetics 15: R271 – R277.
  • Silver, R. and Kriegsfeld, L.J. (2014) Circadian rhythms have broad implications for understanding brain and behavior. European Journal of Neuroscience, 39: 1-15.
  • Welsh DK et al. (2010) Suprachiasmatic nucleus: Cell autonomy and networks properties. Annual Review of Physiology, 72: 551 – 577.
  • Saper CB et al. (2010) Sleep state switching. Neuron, 22: 1023 – 1042.

Unit Two Target Articles (for March 1 )

  • Florian C et al. (2011) Astrocyte-derived adenosine and A1 receptor activity contribute to sleep loss-induced deficits in hippocampal synaptic plasticity and memory in mice. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31: 6956 – 6962.
  • Hayashi, Y et al. (2015) Cells of a common developmental origin regulate REM/non-REM sleep and wakefulness in mice. Science, 350: 957 – 961.                    

Unit Three Readings

  • Wallen K (2001) Sex and context: hormones and primate sexual motivation. Hormones and Behavior, 40: 339 – 357.
  • Anderson DJ (2012) Optogenetics, sex, and violence in the brain: implications for Psychiatry. Biological Psychiatry, 71: 1081 – 1089.
  • Wade, GN and Jones, JE (2004) Neuroendocrinology of nutritional infertility. American Journal of Physiology, 287: R1277 – R1296.
  • Schneider, JE et al. (2013) When do we eat? Ingestive behavior, survival, and reproductive success. Hormones and Behavior, 702 – 728.

Unit Three Target Articles (for April 7)

  • Abdulhay, A. et al. (2014) Estrous cycle fluctuations in sex and ingestive behavior are accentuated by exercise or cold ambient temperatures. Hormones and Behavior, 66: 135 – 147.
  • Roney JR and Simmons ZL (2013) Hormonal predictors of sexual motivation in natural menstrual cycles. Hormones and Behavior, 63: 636 – 645.

Integration Articles

Unit 1 and Unit 2

  • Fernandez, F. et al. (2014) Dysrhythmia in the suprachiasmatic nucleus inhibits memory processing. Science, 346: 854 – 857. (Read by February 25)

Unit 1 and Unit 3

  • Henderson YO et al. (2013) Hippocampal neurons inhibit meal onset. Hippocampus, 23: 100 – 107. (Read by April 5)

Article to Read Before Framing your Proposal

  • McPherson GR (2001) Teaching & learning the scientific method. The American Biology Teacher, 63: 242 – 245.