Developmental Neurobiology (HCS-6336)  - Fall Semester 2003

Instructor: Dr. Michael P. Kilgard
Office: Green 4.504
Office Hours: Thursday 2:00-3:00pm
Office Phone: (972) 883-2339
E-mail Address: [email protected]

Meeting time: Thursday 11:00am-1:45pm
Meeting place: JO 3.534 

Required Texts:
Principles of Development by Lewis Wolpert
Principles of Neural Science by Kandel, Schwartz & Jessell

Both should be available at Off-Campus Books (Campbell Rd.) & the UTD bookstore.

Course Description

    This course will cover the major issues of neural development. Recent advances in the understanding of the molecular and cellular events underlying cell differentiation, axon guidance, synapse formation, neurotrophic factors, and neural death will be discussed. The last third of the course will focus on activity-dependent plasticity and its role in generating and maintaining the extraordinary precision of connections found in the nervous system. Pathologies arising from failures of these processes will be discussed.


    This course has three primary objectives: (1) to introduce students to the major issues of developmental neuroscience; (2) to familiarize participants with the range of research methods brought to bear on these varied and interrelated investigations; (3) and to encourage the development of the skills required for meaningful appreciation of the historical context and logical rationale of experiments presented in primary research articles.


Exams (80%):  There will be one midterm (35%) and a final (45%).  Material for these exams will be taken from class lectures and discussion, so attendance is strongly encouraged.  Supplemental material not available in the text will be presented in class.  The format of the exam questions is designed to be challenging and to encourage integrative thought about the material; matching, fill-in-the-blank, short answer, and multiple-choice questions will be used.  Reading the assignments prior to each class is advisable, expected, and required.  Class discussion is strongly encouraged.  Questions will be taken from material presented during student presentations (see below).  No prior background in cell biology or biochemistry is assumed, however familiarity with these issues would be very helpful.  Interactive discussion is intended to broaden everyone's understanding of the complex material covered.[title+abstract]+AND+Nature[journal]

Oral presentations (20%):  All students will make an oral presentation of an original research article published in the neuroscience literature within the last decade from one of the following journals: Science, Nature, Neuron, Nature Neuroscience, Journal of Neuroscience or PNAS .  Presentations will be 10-15 minutes in length, with up to 5 minutes allowed for follow-up questions and further discussion.  Each presentation should include: 1. statement of the background for the paper; 2. statement of the research question(s); 3. presentation of research methods used; 4. presentation of research findings; and 5. take-home message, including three potential exam questions.   Presenters must have photocopies for every member of the class one meeting before the presentation. 

Final Grade - A: 100-90, B: 89-80, C: 79-70, Less than 70% is failing.

Course Schedule

Part I: Introduction to Developmental Neuroscience (8/21)
     a) Brief History of Developmental Neuroscience
          i) Wolpert Ch1
     b) Model Systems
          i) Wolpert Ch2
Part II: Introduction to Genes  (8/28)
     a) Transcription and Translation
     b) Regulation of Gene Expression

Part III: Mechanisms Required to Generate Gross Anatomy
    a) Patterning the Vertebrate Body Plan I: Axes and Germ Layers (9/4)
        i) Wolpert Ch. 3
    b) Patterning the Vertebrate Body Plan II: The Mesoderm and Early Nervous System
        i) Wolpert Ch. 4
    c) Development of the Drosophila Body Plan (9/11)
        i) Wolpert Ch. 5

[No Class on 9/18]

    d)  Morphogenesis: Change in Form in the Early Embryo (9/25)
        i) Wolpert Ch. 8
        ii) Kandell Ch52
    e) Cell Differentiation
        i) Wolpert Ch. 9
        ii) Oral Presentations
   f) Specification of Neural Fate (10/2)
        i) Wolpert Ch10-18 through 10-22
        ii) Wolpert Ch11-1 through 11-7
        iii) Kandell Ch53 (p1041-1052)

Midterm (10/9)
Part IV: Mechanisms Required to Generate Fine Connectivity

    b)Axon guidance (10/16)
        i) Wolpert Ch11-8 through 11-12
        ii) Kandell Ch54
    c) Cell Death and Survival (10/23)
        i) Wolpert Ch11-13 through 11-17
        ii) Kandell Ch53 (p1052-1061)
     d) Sexual Differentiation of the Nervous System
        i) Kandell Ch57
      e) Oral Presentations  (10/30)
      f)  Review
Part III: Precise Tuning of Synaptic Connections
    a) Activity-dependent synaptic competition  (11/6)
          i) Kandell Ch56
    b) Synaptic plasticity 
          i) Kandell Ch63
    c) Spike-timing Dependent Plasticity  (11/13)
          i) Nature 1998 Sep 3;395(6697):37-44.  A critical window for cooperation and competition among developing retinotectal synapses.
    e) Plasticity in the Adult Nervous System 
    h) Oral Presentations  (11/20)
    i)  Review 
FINAL EXAM - Monday 12/4   11am