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Year of entry: 2021
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Course unit details:
Excitable Cells: the Foundations of Neuroscience
|Unit level||Level 1|
|Teaching period(s)||Semester 2|
|Offered by||School of Biological Sciences|
|Available as a free choice unit?||No|
Excitable cells - cells which respond to stimuli by producing an electric current - are key to the function of our muscles and nervous system. You will learn about the structure and function of these cells, what makes them important and the techniques used to study them.
To consider the major concepts underlying the basis of cell excitability, the structure and function of excitable cells and their contribution to muscle and nervous system function.
At the end of this unit, students will have developed an understanding of what excitable cells are and what makes them important. Key features of how excitable cells maintain and alter their ionic composition in relation to electrochemical gradients will become familiar. Students will understand the techniques used to study excitable cells; in addition, students will become familiar with a variety of cells within the nervous system and how they function, such as sensory and motor neurons and how these relate to muscles. Students will then be able to begin to apply this knowledge in learning about how networks of excitable cells can function together as systems, such as learning.
Gross organization of the nervous system. Cellular organization of the nervous system. The cytosol, extracellular fluids, membranes. The proteins - ion channels, pumps and transporters. Diffusion, permeability, electricity. Origin of resting membrane potentials. The action potential. Transmission and saltatory conduction. Electrical synapses. Chemical transmission. Electrophysiological techniques such as patch clamping. New research techniques such as fluorescent voltage sensors and optogenetics. An introduction to sensory biology, including how the eye functions. A model synapse - the neuromuscular junction.
Gross organization of musculature. Cellular structure of muscle. Excitation-contraction coupling in muscle cells. Excitable cells in plants and microbes
Simple nervous systems: invertebrate learning. Vertebrate nervous systems: learning.
The unit is delivered by a series of e-learning modules (ELMs) containing approximately 2 hours of pre-recorded content per week. The ELMs also contain a large number of formative quizzes and other activities that enable students to gauge their progress.
Students are encouraged to post questions on the unit Padlet discussion board, which are then discussed in weekly question and answer sessions.
- Problem solving
- Numerical problems are a key component of the coursework
The unit will be assessed by a multiple choice question based exam (90% of the unit mark), and a series of online assessments completed during weeks 4 to 12 (10% of the unit mark).
Feedback on coursework MCQs will be provided via the Blackboard MCQ system. After the exam results have been released we will also make the unit exam paper available as a Blackboard quiz (with feedback). Formative feedback will be available via revision reversions of summative assessments and an online version of last year’s exam paper
|Scheduled activity hours|
|Assessment written exam||1|
|Independent study hours|
|Richard Prince||Unit coordinator|