Spring Semester 2014

Neural Plasticity


Meeting time:  Monday and Wednesday 10:00-11:15 am  Meeting Place:  GR 4.208

Instructor: Dr. Michael P. Kilgard
Office: JO 4.304    
Office hours: Thursday 2-3 pm
Office phone: (972) 883-2339
E-mail address: [email protected] 

Course Description

    This course will review the basic principles of neural plasticity with special emphasis on cortical plasticity related to development, recovery from injury and learning.

    Lectures will provide students with the appropriate background for each topic, and discussions will explore classic and modern primary papers. Workload will consist of readings, class presentations, class participation, and weekly written critiques.  

    This first aim of the course is to provide a detailed and up-to-date understanding of the concepts and methods involved in a well-studied aspect of brain function: plasticity. The focused nature of this course will be a useful supplement to a general education of brain function based on surveys of many fields. Because similar plasticity principles apply throughout the brain the detailed description of cortical plasticity provided by this course will serve as a conceptual starting point for thinking about other brain regions. An additional aim of this course is to relate the discussed concepts to clinically relevant issues. This course assumes only a general understanding of basic neuroscience principles and will be useful to students interested in neuroscience, communication disorders, cognitive science, developmental psychology, biology, computer science, or neural networks. It is recommended that students have taken Cellular Neuroscience and Integrative Neuroscience.

Material Discussed


·         Developmental plasticity

·         Pathological plasticity

·         Plasticity induced by peripheral injury

·         Plasticity induced by central injury



Course Requirements

    All assigned readings must be completed before each class.

Critiques – 20% of final grade.

    Each week you will need to email a concise, thoughtful analysis of one of the papers for discussion. In the first paragraph, explain the state of understanding before the paper and the question the paper sought to address. Explain the experimental design and results. Explain how the paper relates to earlier studies and how it informs our understanding of brain function. How does the paper advance the field? In the second paragraph, critique the methods and conclusions. Are there any flaws in technique or logic? Describe open questions and suggest additional work. After the second paragraph, list any questions that you may want to ask in class either for clarification or to stimulate discussion.

Individual class participation – 50% of final grade

In class presentation – 20% of final grade.

Attendance – 10% of final grade

        On completion of this course, students should be able to:


Reading list (and chapters/papers for discussion):

1-13 Course Introduction and advice on how to read neuroscience papers

1-15 Chapter 56 Principles of Neural Science – Developmental Plasticity

1-22 Chapter 63 Principles of Neural Science – Adult Plasticity

1-27 Plasticity of ocular dominance columns in monkey striate cortex. 1977 (986 citations)

1-29 Topographic reorganization of somatosensory cortical areas 3b and 1 in adult monkeys following restricted deafferentation 1983 (575 citations) 


2-3 Somatosensory cortical map changes following digit amputation in adult monkeys 1984 (767 citations)
     Optional review article Plasticity of Sensory and Motor Maps in Adult Mammals 1991 (623 citations)


2-5 Modulation of visual cortical plasticity by acetylcholine and noradrenaline 1986 (572 citations)


2-10 Rapid Reorganization of Adult Rat Motor Cortex Somatic Representation Patterns after Motor Nerve Injury  1988 (147 citations)

2-12 Student Presentations


2-17  Classical conditioning induces CS-specific receptive field plasticity in the auditory cortex of the guinea pig 1990 (216 citations)

2-19 Plasticity in the frequency representation of primary auditory cortex following discrimination training in adult owl monkeys 1993 (717 citations)

2-24 Functional MRI evidence for adult motor cortex plasticity during motor skill learning 1995 (924 citations)

2-26 Dependence of cortical plasticity on correlated activity of single neurons and on behavioral context 1992 (304  citations)  

3-3 Cortical Map Reorganization Enabled by Nucleus Basalis Activity 1998 (588 citations)

3-5 Student Presentations

3-17 Sleep Enhances Plasticity in the Developing Visual Cortex 2001 (196 citations)

3-19 Pharmacological Modulation of Perceptual Learning and Associated Cortical Reorganization 2003 (120 citations)

3-24 Student Presentations

3-26 The Basal Forebrain Cholinergic System Is Essential for Cortical Plasticity and Functional Recovery 2005 (61 citations)

3-31 A synaptic memory trace for cortical receptive field plasticity 2007 (62 citations)

4-2 Student Presentations

4-7 Neuromodulators Control the Polarity of Spike-Timing-Dependent Synaptic Plasticity 2007 (63 citations)

4-9 The Antidepressant Fluoxetine Restores Plasticity in the Adult Visual Cortex 2008 (80 citations

4-14) Developmentally degraded cortical temporal processing restored by training 2009 (10 citations)

4-16 Cortical map plasticity improves learning but is not necessary for improved performance

4-21 Associative fear learning enhances sparse network coding in primary sensory cortex.

4-23 To be determined

4-28 Reversing Pathological Neural Activity Using Targeted Plasticity, 2011 (see also link)

4-30 Group Discussion

 Any schedule changes will be posted at:  www.utdallas.edu/~kilgard/GradPlasticitySP14.htm

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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).

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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.

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