Interdisciplinary Course: This course combines biology and electronics using a hands-on, scaffolding approach. This approach is three-pronged: (1) perform experiments using electrodes to detect actual neuronal activity in a living system, (2) learn the underlying biology of how that aspect of the nervous system works, and (3) build mechanical and/or electrical models.

Course Description:

It is said that understanding the human brain is one of the last frontiers; this course you will take a step toward that goal. You will take an adventure that is thought only possible in fictional writing like Frankenstein and along the way you will learn electronics, experimental techniques and neurobiology. We will explore the fascinating topic of how the brain and peripheral nervous system work by studying the electrical signals that encode neuronal messages, how sensory inputs are detected and how motor outputs are executed, and how the brain processes and creates meaning of your experience.

By building models, doing experiments and studying the biology you will investigate the following in the first semester of the class:

  • How do your sensory neurons collect, encode and transmit information about your environment for you?
  • How do your motor neurons get activated and how do they control the contraction of your muscles, allowing you to respond to your environment?
  • How fast do signals actually travel within neurons?
  • How does the nervous system “tune out” a stimulus that continues for an extended period?
  • In the second semester, we will examine:
  • How does the brain create your perception of reality?
  • How do medicinal and recreational drugs alter neuron function?
  • How does learning work and what is memory?
  • What is going on when things go wrong (like schizophrenia)?

Prerequisites: Completion of Physics with a B or better or by special approval from the teachers. This is a junior level course, but sophomores and seniors are welcome.

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