University of Pittsburgh

Department of Neuroscience

Course Descriptions

NROSCI 0080 – Brain and Behavior

This course will examine how the internal and external environments act upon the brain to produce perceptions, control body functions, and generate behavior. Basic principles of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, and neurochemistry will be discussed to develop an understanding of how these biological factors underlie human brain function. Topics will include learning and memory, emotions, and neurological and neuropsychiatric disorders.

NROSCI 0081 – Drugs and Behavior

This course provides a general background in the fields of neuroscience and psychopharmacology. The course examines the behavioral effects and biological mechanisms of action of the major groups of psychoactive drugs. Lectures will focus on a discussion of psychoactive drugs that are commonly abused such as amphetamines and alcohol. Theories of drug addiction will also be evaluated. Later lectures will focus on a discussion of drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia and depression. Theories of the neurobiological basis of these illnesses will also be discussed. In general, the course will focus on such questions as—How is our behavior affected by these drugs? Where and how in the nervous system do these drugs act to alter our behavior? What insights does this information provide us about normal and abnormal brain function?

NROSCI 0083 – UHC Brain and Behavior

This course examines the function of the mammalian nervous system. Specific topics include sensation, movement, sleep and wakefulness, hunger, thirst, and various neurological and psychiatric disorders. One class meeting per week will discuss some of the original research articles presented in the general lectures. This course has no prerequisites, although BIOSC 0150 or its equivalent is recommended.

NROSCI 1000 – Intro to Neuroscience

This course examines the anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology of the central and peripheral divisions of the nervous system. Specific topics covered include neuronal function, synaptic transmission, sensory processing, movement, sleep and wakefulness, hunger, thirst, caloric and body fluid homeostasis, recovery of function after brain damage, and various neurological and psychiatric disorders.

NROSCI 1003 – UHC Intro to Neuroscience

This course is identical to NROSCI 1000, but it includes an additional weekly, 90-minute class meeting for purposes of discussing some of the original research articles presented in the general lectures.

NROSCI 1011 Functional Neuroanatomy

This course covers the basic structure of the central nervous system from spinal cord to cerebral cortex. The major sensory, motor and integrative neural systems of the human brain are discussed. Based on an understanding of normal neural connections and brain function, the anatomical and physiological basis of various neurological disorders is explored.

NROSCI 1012 Neurophysiology

In this course we will examine the functioning of neurons and synapses, the basic units responsible for fast communication within the nervous system. The course will focus on the elegant use of electrical mechanisms by the nervous system, and on the powerful quantitative approach to scientific investigation that is fundamental to neurophysiology. Topics that will be addressed include: principles of electric current flow exploited by the nervous system; the basis of the resting potential of neurons; the structure and function of voltage-gated and neurotransmitter-gated ion channels; generation and propagation of action potentials; the physiology of fast synaptic communication.

NROSCI 1013 UHC Functional Neuroanatomy

Honors Functional Neuroanatomy will examine in detail current knowledge of the structure and function of the human nervous system and how circuits directly contribute to human behavior. Students will learn how structure forms the basis for
function and how precision in comprehending and articulating detailed information
is vital for expertise in neuroscience. Subjects to be covered include: neurocytology, development, gross structure, sensory systems, motor control, and integrative neural
systems. The material will also be considered for how alterations in structure and
function contribute to neurological and psychiatric disorders.

NROSCI 1014 Speaking of Science

This course fulfills an advanced elective requirement for undergraduate majors. You will learn strategies for giving presentations about science to both a scientific audience and a public audience. Topics covered will include (1) how to engage your audience (2) the art of breaking down your message (3) tips for how to make clear, interesting slides, and (4) pointers on presentation style. All audiences want to learn interesting new scientific information and have it delivered as a good story in an understandable manner by a personable, easy to approach person. You want to emphasize your message, stay focused, and convey the importance of your message while being interesting, maintaining the attention of the audience and making the learning process enjoyable. Guest speakers will provide background information about various uses of scientific information in the public domain. Communication skills, including knowing your audience and why they are interested in the information you are speaking about, how to translate scientific jargon into understandable concepts for the public, and how to keep the audience engaged will be discussed. Pointers will be given on answering questions, being conversational, and conveying the big picture. Students will give a number of presentations in this course and learn to receive and give feedback effectively.

NROSCI 1017 – Synaptic Transmission

This course will examine the mechanisms by which neurotransmitters are synthesized and released and the biochemistry of synaptic responses. Basic physiological, biochemical, and morphological characteristics of neuronal transmission will be discussed. An emphasis will be placed on the experimental approaches used to examine these processes.

NROSCI 1026 Foundations of Clinical Neurophysiology

This is a three credit advanced elective course. The lectures will cover the fundamental and basic principles used in the practice of Clinical Neurophysiology with the goal of providing an overview of both basic science and clinical topics relevant to performing intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring in a surgical setting. Topics will include anatomy and physiology of the motor and sensory systems and the theoretical basis of electroencephalography, sensory and motor evoked potentials, electromyography, transcranial doppler and compound action potentials. Students will be able to explain the practical applications of these techniques in the diagnosis of nervous system disorders and in the continuous monitoring of the integrity of the human nervous system during surgical procedures.

NROSCI 1027 – Topics in Neuroscience - Pro-Seminar

Program neuroscientists will present an overview of their respective research topics and initiate discussion of current research articles on that topic. Critical analysis of experiments and research is emphasized. Capstone course. Co-req course is NROSCI 1801


NROSCI 1028 Signaling Pathways in Synaptic Plasticity

This class focuses on signaling mechanisms, which underlie long-term synaptic plasticity. It will address the molecular pathways, which regulate thresholds for synaptic plasticity, the synaptic machinery for induction and expression of long-term synaptic plasticity and how it is converted to structural changes of the neural network, which might underlie the consolidation of memory. The presentations will be guided by experimental approaches, which have influenced the conceptual framework.

NROSCI 1030 – Psychiatric Disorders and Brain Function

This course examines the neurobiological basis of psychiatric disturbances (including schizophrenia, depression, Parkinson's disease, and Huntington's Chorea). The initial portion presents an overview of basic neuropharmacology, with an emphasis on recent findings of relevance to psychiatric disorders. The major portion consists of lectures on the anatomical, physiological, and neurochemical bases for specific psychiatric disturbances, and the mechanism of action of therapeutic drugs used in their treatment. A strong neuroscience background is required.

NROSCI 1032 – Functional Organization of Human Nervous System

The objective of this course is to present a detailed analysis of our understanding of the functional organization of the human brain. This is accomplished by discussing disturbances of function, which are found in neurological diseases. The disturbed function is then analyzed in the context of our understanding of the normal function of the brain as this is derived from study of the intact human brain and animal experimentation. The course progresses from simple problems of motor and sensory processing to complex functions such as memory, language and cognition. Students who do not meet the prerequisites and wish to enroll must obtain consent of the instructor.


NROSCI 1033 Neural Basis of Vision

This course is a one-term advanced elective focusing on one of the primary purposes of the nervous system; to take in information about the outside world and allow us to act based on that information.  As primates, the majority of our sensory information comes in through our visual system.  This course examines the neural basis of visual perception and action.  The course is divided into four units.  The first unit covers methods for studying visual perception and its neural basis and discusses the neural hardware that underlies our ability to see.  The second unit covers object recognition, cognitive factors that influence visual perception, and the how the way we are planning to use visual information affects the way it is encoded in the brain.  The third unit focuses on perceptual decision-making, using visual motion as a model system.  We will also touch on some data analysis methods for using psychophysical and neuronal data to figure out how we make decisions based on visual information.  The fourth unit will focus on perception of color and depth and on how visual perception develops after birth.  Throughout the course, we will focus on what neural mechanisms can tell us about how we perceive the visual world and on how we can design experiments to better understand the relationship between neural mechanisms and perception.

NROSCI 1034 – Neural Basis of Cognition

This course is a one-term advanced elective designed for students interested in learning about the neural basis of higher order cognitive functions, with an emphasis on cortical mechanisms. Topics will include: occipitotemporal mechanisms of visual perception; parietal mechanisms of spatial attention and vision for action; premotor mechanisms of action planning and movement execution; prefrontal mechanisms of working memory and behavioral control; hippocampal mechanisms of episodic memory; multimodal integration and cognitive effort.

NROSCI 1035 – Control of Movement

This course will discuss the neural control of our actions in detail, including planning of movement in the cortex, relay of motor commands to the brainstem and spinal cord, coordination of movement by the cerebellum and basal ganglia, adjustment of movement via brainstem and spinal cord reflexes, execution of movement through contraction of muscle fibers, and feedback about movement as mediated by corollary discharge circuits. The focus will be on basic science, supplemented by reviews of clinical issues. Course format will include lectures and discussions of original research papers. This course will meet in 115 Mellon Institute.

NROSCI 1036 – Neurobiology of Aging

This course examines age-related changes in neurobiological systems, including motor, sensory, cognitive, and neuroendocrine. Emphasis will be placed on distinguishing biochemical, molecular, physiological, and behavioral changes associated with normal aging versus changes associated with pathologic conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease. Introductory lectures will discuss different theories of aging, how aging is studied in the laboratory, and how these relate specifically to Neuroscience.

NROSCI 1040 – Biological Basis of Learning and Memory

This course is designed to provide an overview on the neural bases of memory and learning in humans and monkeys, as well as of simple learned behavior like classical conditioning in nonprimate animals. Topics covered include clinical studies on human amnesia, and experimental results obtained by anatomical, electrophysiological and biochemical techniques using vertebrate animals and isolated mammalian preparations.

NROSCI 1041 – Developmental Neuroscience

This course is designed to provide an overview of principles that govern the developmental assembly of a complex nervous system. Topics covered include formation of neural tube and neural crest, birth and proliferation of neurons, cell migration, neuronal differentiation, synapse formation, and synaptic plasticity. These topics will be discussed in the context of experimental results obtained by anatomical, biochemical and electrophysiological techniques using vertebrate and invertebrate animals.

NROSCI 1042 – Neurochemical Basis Of Behavior

Neurochemistry is the study of the many chemicals – neurotransmitters, neuromodulators, hormones, and more – that influence the brain and nervous system. This class will focus on understanding the role of various neurochemicals in normal (and some abnormal) behavior, from behaviors that seem simple – like eating and sleeping – to complex cognition and social behavior. After an initial unit on neurochemical structure, classification, and signaling pathways, we will segue into topics including sleep and circadian rhythms; sex and social status; reward pathways and addiction; and decision-making. We will also examine the neurochemical basis of selected psychiatric disorders.

NROSCI 1046 Neural Plasticity

This class is designed to establish conceptual and technical foundations for undergrad and grad students who are interested in plasticity-associated neuroscience. Whereas the class will go through major findings in the plasticity field, the emphasis will be placed on why these findings are important, how these findings were made, and what challenges/debates these findings trigger.

NROSCI 1048 UHC Topics in Neuroscience Research

The goal of this course is to learn how to read articles in the field of neuroscience. Assigned readings are the original articles based on laboratory research that provided the source of information concerning three topics: (i) neuroplasticity, (ii) hunger and the brain’s control of food intake, and (iii) thirst and the brain’s control of fluid intake. The course meets for 2 hours weekly. The first hour is spent discussing the assigned article and the second hour is devoted to a lecture that provides background for the following week’s article. Grades will be based on the weekly homework assignments plus three exams covering the lecture material.

NROSCI 1049 Topics in Neuroscience Research

This course is required for all newly declared majors who have completed NROSCI 1000/1003 Introduction to Neuroscience earning a B- or better within the last year. This course will provide students with an overview of research conducted by Neuroscience faculty and familiarize students with potential research topics.

NROSCI 1070 UHC Human Physiology

This course will examine the function of the cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, gastrointestinal, immune, and reproductive systems. The systems will be considered in the context of the function of the body as a whole, and how they respond during challenges (e.g. exercise) and pathological states. Current research related to the functioning of these systems will be emphasized throughout the course. Lectures will be augmented by laboratories and problem based learning sessions. Please go to the Honors College for Special Permission.

NROSCI 1097 – Undergrad Teaching Experience

This course is intended for Neuroscience majors who wish to assist a particular professor in the teaching of a NROSCI core course or a NROSCI advanced elective. Permission is required for enrollment. Students must have received an A in a previous term for the course for which they wish to assist. Students must make arrangements with the professors with whom they wish to work. Permission slips may be obtained from the Neuroscience Undergraduate Office, A206 Langley Hall.

NROSCI 1111 – Functional Neuroanatomy Honors Practicum

This honors course supplements the material in the companion lecture course, NROSCI 1011, in two ways. In the initial laboratory portion of the course, human and animal brain tissue will be examined to provide students a first-hand knowledge of the structures that make up the brain and spinal cord. Subsequently, major journal articles that were key in establishing the scientific principles discussed in NROSCI 1011 will be reviewed. This portion of the course will allow students to gain insights into the methods that neuroscientists use to learn about the nervous system. This is a two-credit course. Please go to the Honors College for Special Permission.

NROSCI 1140 UHC Biological Basis of Behavior

This honors course will expose students to an in depth overview of a) the important phenomena and concepts in the areas of learning and memory, and b) the types of data that relate to these phenomena and concepts. The primary reading material will cover an extremely broad and complex subject matter. The goal is to provide a thorough understanding of the field of learning and memory that spans and integrates all three major components: 1) clinical perspectives, 2) behavioral processes and brain systems, and 3) cellular and molecular mechanisms.

NROSCI 1200 – Neuropharmacology of Addiction

This course is designed to provide an overview of the biological basis of addiction and the neuropharmacology of drugs of abuse and dependence, including basic principles of drug action as well as comprehensive coverage of the major classes of drugs (opioids, stimulants, nicotine, alcohol, sedatives, cannabis, hallucinogens). Students will study mechanisms of action, effects, pharmacokinetics as well as tolerance and dependence for each of these drugs/drug classes. The reasons for addiction including biological, genetic, cultural and other determinants will be discussed. Students will learn about laboratory-based methods used in addiction research, common pharmacotherapies used to manage alcohol and drug addiction, and consider public health issues associated with addiction.

NROSCI 1250Human Physiology

After a general introduction on cell biology, physiology of nerves and muscle, and intercellular communication, this course will survey the function of the following systems: cardiovascular, respiratory, renal, and gastrointestinal. Each system discussed will be integrated into the larger function of homeostasis and their adaptation during pathology and challenges (e.g., exercise). The formal lectures will be supplemented by a required recitation.

NROSCI 1410 Translating Science

This course is designed to teach students how to create outreach tools for communication of science to the public (new lectures, laboratories, videos, films, activities). Students will work in creative teams of 2-3 students/team. At the beginning of the semester, didactic lectures will cover background information about how to effectively communicate scientific information, how to break down a message, production of effective, engaging slides, animations and videos, and the use of hands-on activities to engage the audience. Guest speakers will lecture on the use of film, video and museum exhibits in engaging audiences. Students will then choose a topic area they wish to create an outreach lecture/video/etc. in, and with the assistance of Dr. Cameron you will choose a scientific advisor with specific expertise on the topic you will develop an outreach tool for. Students will do background reading for the development of their outreach tool and have discussions with their advisor. If developing a lecture, students will develop a set of powerpoint slides for the lecture, the lecture text with background references, and hands-on activities to complement the lecture for both a junior high and a high school version of the lecture. They will present the lecture at one of the grade levels it was designed for. For other activities, the activity will be developed along with background information regarding the use of the activity. The activity will be presented to a public group.


NROSCI 1800/1801Neuroscience/Writing Practicum 1/2

This course is restricted to Neuroscience Majors and Minors and fulfills the writing requirement for the major. It includes extra emphasis on and credit for instruction in proper writing for the discipline of neuroscience using topics from an appropriate co-requisite neuroscience course taken in the same term. Students are required to write a paper of at least 12 pages in length on an appropriate topic. The topic should be chosen in consultation with and approved by the instructor teaching the co-requisite course. The paper will be critiqued by an instructor and returned. The paper then must be revised and resubmitted. Please go to A206 Langley Hall for special permission.

NROSCI 1901Independent Study

This course involves student participation in neuroscience research supervised by a faculty member of the Department of Neuroscience or some other department in which neuroscience research is performed. This course is particularly valuable for students interested in graduate study in neuroscience. No more than a total of six credits of NROSCI 1901 may be taken. No more than twelve credits of NROSCI 1901 and 1961 may be taken collectively. A research form, which can be obtained from the Undergraduate Advising Office (A206 Langley), is completed by the student and faculty sponsor, outlining the term project. The form is then submitted to either Dr. Rinaman or Dr. Meriney for approval (signature). Once the form is completed and signed, it should be submitted to the Undergraduate Neuroscience Advising Office, A206 Langley Hall for processing.

NROSCI 1961 – Thesis Research

This course involves independent neuroscience research leading to the preparation and defense of a written thesis. This course involves student participation in neuroscience research supervised by a faculty member of the Department of Neuroscience or some other department in which neuroscience research is performed. This course must be preceded by at least three credits of NROSCI 1901. No more than a total of six credits of NROSCI 1961 may be taken. Grading is S/N or letter grade. No more than twelve credits of NROSCI 1901 and 1961 may be taken collectively. A research form, which can be obtained from the Undergraduate Advising Office (A206 Langley), is completed by the student and faculty sponsor outlining the term project. The form is then submitted to either Dr. Rinaman or Dr. Meriney for approval (signature). Once the form is completed and signed, it should be submitted to the Undergraduate Neuroscience Advising Office, A206 Langley Hall for processing.

NROSCI 1962 – Thesis Research/Writing Practicum

This course involves writing a thesis based on independent research. A two-person thesis committee must be formed before registering for this course and must include at least one faculty member from the Department of Neuroscience. The student needs to be concurrently enrolled in NROSCI 1961 or should have earned at least three credits of NROSCI 1961 in a previous term where the student conducted independent research. The thesis is submitted to both readers, should be at least twelve pages in length, and has to go through a series of revisions before a final grade is assigned. A thesis writing form, which can be obtained from the Undergraduate Advising Office (A206 Langley), is completed by the student and faculty readers. The form is then submitted to either Dr. Rinaman or Dr. Meriney for approval (signature). Once the form is completed and signed, it should be submitted to the Undergraduate Neuroscience Advising Office, A206 Langley Hall for processing.