Developmental Neuroscience Syllabus (HCS 6336)

Instructor: Dr. Michael P. Kilgard
Office: JO 4.304                                              Office Hour:  Thursday 4-5 pm
Office Phone: (972) 883-2339                 E-mail Address:

Meeting time: Tues & Thurs 10:00-11:15 am    Meeting place: CR1.212

Required Texts: Principles of Neural Science, 4th ed. (Kandel, Schwartz & Jessell)
Principles of Development, 3rd ed. (Lewis Wolpert)
Both should be available at Off-Campus Books (Campbell Rd.) & the UTD bookstore. 

Principles of Development 0838577016

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.

Course Goals

    This course has three primary goals: (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.

Student Learning Objectives:

   After completing the course, students should be able to:          

1.1      Describe the importance of an multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the nervous system.

1.2      Describe how molecular, physiological, and behavioral studies have contributed to our understanding of the nervous system.

1.3      Integrate pathological findings from psychology and clinical neurology with basic scientific work in the neurosciences.

2.1      Identify and explain why research questions rather than methods ideally drive advances in the neurosciences.

3.1      Compare textbook, popular and peer-reviewed scholarly reports in the neurosciences.

5.1      Apply neuroscience concepts, theories, and research findings to issues in everyday life.

5.2      Identify appropriate applications of neuroscience knowledge in health, service, education, or business professions.

30.1   Describe how basic laws of nature relate to brain function. 

30.2   Set up neuroscience problems in feasible and solvable ways. 

30.3   Make reasoned arguments about major issues related to the nervous system.





January 13

Introduction to Developmental Neuroscience


January 15

Regulation of Gene Expression

Wolpert Ch1

January 20

Transport and Cell Signaling

Wolpert Ch1

January 22

Development of the Drosophila Body Plan

Wolpert Ch2

January 27

Drosophila Body Plan, con’t.


January 29

Patterning the Vertebrate Body Plan I: Axes and Germ Layers

Wolpert Ch3

February 3

Patterning the Vertebrate Body Plan II: The Mesoderm and Early Nervous System

Wolpert Ch4

February 5

Induction and Patterning of the Nervous System

Kandell Ch52,

February 10

Morphogenesis: Change in Form in the Early Embryo

Wolpert Ch7

February 12

Review for Exam


February 17

EXAM (25%)


February 19

Cell Differentiation and Stem Cells

Wolpert Ch8

February 24

Specification of Neural Fate

Wolpert Ch10-1 through 10-8

Kandell Ch53 (p1041-1052)

February 26

Axon guidance

Wolpert Ch10-8 through 10-12

Kandell Ch54

March 3

No class


March 5

Axon guidance, con’t.


March 10

Cell Death and Survival

Wolpert Ch10-13 through 11-15
Kandell Ch53 (p1052-1061)

March 12

Sexual Differentiation of the Nervous System

  Kandell Ch57

March 24

Primary research papers

- Recovery of learning and memory is associated with chromatin remodelling (also see summary)

- Regulation of Cerebral Cortical Size by Control of Cell Cycle Exit in Neural Precursors (link)


March 26

EXAM (25%)


March 31

Synapse Formation

Kandell Ch55

April 2

Activity-Dependent Synaptic Competition 

Kandell Ch56

April 7

Plasticity, con’t


April 9

Spike-Timing Dependent Plasticity 

Nature 1998 Sep 3;395(6697):37-44. 

(for more information)

April 14

Spike-timing-dependent synaptic modification induced by natural spike trains & Reversal and stabilization of synaptic modifications in a developing visual system

Nature. 2002 Mar 28;416(6879):433-8 and  Science. 2003 Jun 20;300(5627):1953-7 (Science Paper optional)

April 16

Plasticity and Language Development

Kandell Ch59 recommended

Kilgard papers optional

April 21


Toward A Developmental Neurobiology

Of Autism Polleux and Lauder 2004

(download article)

April 23

Primary research paper


April 28

Catch-up day


April 30



May 7 

FINAL EXAM (25%)     

8 am – 10:00 am







Knowledge Outcomes

    Students will be able to:

1.       describe how gene regulation contributes to specific stages of development.

2.       describe the molecular mechanisms that control axon guidance to form appropriate neural circuits.

3.       describe how neural activity is used to refine neural circuits.



Exams (75%): There will be three exams (25% each). Exams will be multiple choice and short answer. Material for these exams will be taken from readings, class lectures and discussion, so attendance is strongly encouraged. The format of the exam questions is designed to be challenging and to encourage integrative thought about the material.

Gene Hunt (15%): Use Allen Brain Atlas and online genome browser to identify a list of facts about your assigned gene, including where it is expressed in the brain, what chromosome it is on, what genes are near it, protein size, whether your gene is found in yeast, fly, worm, and mouse, etc.


In Class Questions (15%): Responses to in class questions will be recorded and contribute to the final grade.


Final Grade: A: 105-90, B: 89-80, C: 79-70, Less than 70% is failing.


Missed Exams: Missed exams may be made up only if you: 1) provide a valid excuse, and 2) notify the instructor BEFORE the exam.  Excuses must be accompanied by valid documentation (documentation that you sought medical assistance, a newspaper clipping of the obituary of your deceased relative, or documentation from the police, AAA or an automotive garage that your car broke down).  Make-up exams will have an additional long essay added to verify knowledge of material.

Exam Reviews:  Several days prior to each exam, the teaching assistant will hold a review session to review material that will be included on the exam and answer any questions.  Attendance at these reviews is not required and new material will not be presented at these reviews.

Cell Phones, Pagers, Etc.: Cell phones and pagers have no place in class.  Please turn them off or do not bring them to class.

Honor Code  A student in this course is considered to be a mature adult whose attitude and conduct are compatible with the ethical standards of the health professions.  All academic work is conducted under an honor code, which states: “I have neither given nor received aid for this work, nor am I aware of anyone giving or receiving aid for this work.”  As standard procedure during exams, place all coats, books, and other items at the front of the room.  If any member of the teaching staff suspects a student of cheating, the student will be referred to the Dean of Students Office for prosecution.

Any schedule changes will be posted at:



Student Conduct & Discipline The University of Texas System and The University of Texas at Dallas have rules and regulations for the orderly and efficient conduct of their business.  It is the responsibility of each student and each student organization to be knowledgeable about the rules and regulations which govern student conduct and activities.  General information on student conduct and discipline is contained in the UTD publication, A to Z Guide, which is provided to all registered students each academic year.

The University of Texas at Dallas administers student discipline within the procedures of recognized and established due process.  Procedures are defined and described in the Rules and Regulations, Board of Regents, The University of Texas System, Part 1, Chapter VI, Section 3, and in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities of the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures.  Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist students in interpreting the rules and regulations (SU 1.602, 972/883-6391).

A student at the university neither loses the rights nor escapes the responsibilities of citizenship.  He or she is expected to obey federal, state, and local laws as well as the Regents’ Rules, university regulations, and administrative rules.  Students are subject to discipline for violating the standards of conduct whether such conduct takes place on or off campus, or whether civil or criminal penalties are also imposed for such conduct.

Academic Integrity  The faculty expects from its students a high level of responsibility and academic honesty.  Because the value of an academic degree depends upon the absolute integrity of the work done by the student for that degree, it is imperative that a student demonstrate a high standard of individual honor in his or her scholastic work.

Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, statements, acts or omissions related to applications for enrollment or the award of a degree, and/or the submission as one’s own work or material that is not one’s own.  As a general rule, scholastic dishonesty involves one of the following acts:  cheating, plagiarism, collusion and/or falsifying academic records.  Students suspected of academic dishonesty are subject to disciplinary proceedings.

Plagiarism, especially from the web, from portions of papers for other classes, and from any other source is unacceptable and will be dealt with under the university’s policy on plagiarism (see general catalog for details).  This course will use the resources of, which searches the web for possible plagiarism and is over 90% effective.

Email Use The University of Texas at Dallas recognizes the value and efficiency of communication between faculty/staff and students through electronic mail. At the same time, email raises some issues concerning security and the identity of each individual in an email exchange.  The university encourages all official student email correspondence be sent only to a student’s U.T. Dallas email address and that faculty and staff consider email from students official only if it originates from a UTD student account. This allows the university to maintain a high degree of confidence in the identity of all individual corresponding and the security of the transmitted information.  UTD furnishes each student with a free email account that is to be used in all communication with university personnel. The Department of Information Resources at U.T. Dallas provides a method for students to have their U.T. Dallas mail forwarded to other accounts.

Withdrawal from Class The administration of this institution has set deadlines for withdrawal of any college-level courses. These dates and times are published in that semester's course catalog. Administration procedures must be followed. It is the student's responsibility to handle withdrawal requirements from any class. In other words, I cannot drop or withdraw any student. You must do the proper paperwork to ensure that you will not receive a final grade of "F" in a course if you choose not to attend the class once you are enrolled.

Student Grievance Procedures  Procedures for student grievances are found in Title V, Rules on Student Services and Activities, of the university’s Handbook of Operating Procedures.  In attempting to resolve any student grievance regarding grades, evaluations, or other fulfillments of academic responsibility, it is the obligation of the student first to make a serious effort to resolve the matter with the instructor, supervisor, administrator, or committee with whom the grievance originates (hereafter called “the respondent”).  Individual faculty members retain primary responsibility for assigning grades and evaluations.  If the matter cannot be resolved at that level, the grievance must be submitted in writing to the respondent with a copy of the respondent’s School Dean.  If the matter is not resolved by the written response provided by the respondent, the student may submit a written appeal to the School Dean.  If the grievance is not resolved by the School Dean’s decision, the student may make a written appeal to the Dean of Graduate or Undergraduate Education, and the deal will appoint and convene an Academic Appeals Panel.  The decision of the Academic Appeals Panel is final.  The results of the academic appeals process will be distributed to all involved parties.  Copies of these rules and regulations are available to students in the Office of the Dean of Students, where staff members are available to assist students in interpreting the rules and regulations.

Incomplete Grade Policy  As per university policy, incomplete grades will be granted only for work unavoidably missed at the semester’s end and only if 70% of the course work has been completed.  An incomplete grade must be resolved within eight (8) weeks from the first day of the subsequent long semester.  If the required work to complete the course and to remove the incomplete grade is not submitted by the specified deadline, the incomplete grade is changed automatically to a grade of F.

Disability Services  The goal of Disability Services is to provide students with disabilities educational opportunities equal to those of their non-disabled peers.  Disability Services is located in room 1.610 in the Student Union.  Office hours are Monday and Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.  The contact information for the Office of Disability Services is: The University of Texas at Dallas, SU 22    PO Box 830688    Richardson, Texas 75083-0688    (972) 883-2098 (voice or TTY)

Essentially, the law requires that colleges and universities make those reasonable adjustments necessary to eliminate discrimination on the basis of disability.  For example, it may be necessary to remove classroom prohibitions against tape recorders or animals (in the case of dog guides) for students who are blind.  Occasionally an assignment requirement may be substituted (for example, a research paper versus an oral presentation for a student who is hearing impaired).  Classes enrolled students with mobility impairments may have to be rescheduled in accessible facilities.  The college or university may need to provide special services such as registration, note-taking, or mobility assistance.

It is the student’s responsibility to notify his or her professors of the need for such an accommodation.  Disability Services provides students with letters to present to faculty members to verify that the student has a disability and needs accommodations.  Individuals requiring special accommodation should contact the professor after class or during office hours.

Religious Holy Days  The University of Texas at Dallas will excuse a student from class or other required activities for the travel to and observance of a religious holy day for a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property tax under Section 11.20, Tax Code, Texas Code Annotated.

The student is encouraged to notify the instructor or activity sponsor as soon as possible regarding the absence, preferably in advance of the assignment.  The student, so excused, will be allowed to take the exam or complete the assignment within a reasonable time after the absence: a period equal to the length of the absence, up to a maximum of one week. A student who notifies the instructor and completes any missed exam or assignment may not be penalized for the absence. A student who fails to complete the exam or assignment within the prescribed period may receive a failing grade for that exam or assignment.

If a student or an instructor disagrees about the nature of the absence [i.e., for the purpose of observing a religious holy day] or if there is similar disagreement about whether the student has been given a reasonable time to complete any missed assignments or examinations, either the student or the instructor may request a ruling from the chief executive officer of the institution, or his or her designee. The chief executive officer or designee must take into account the legislative intent of TEC 51.911(b), and the student and instructor will abide by the decision of the chief executive officer or designee.

These descriptions and timelines are subject to change at the discretion of the Professor.