BIOLOGY 358 – Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology

University of Scranton

BIOLOGY 358 – Cellular & Molecular Neurobiology

Fall, 2003

Instructor: Dr. Robert Waldeck Office: Loyola 106

Email: Phone: 570-941-4324

Office Hours:


Course Texts

Nicolls, JG, Martin, AR, Wallace, BG, and PA Fuchs. From Neuron to Brain, 4th edition. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA 2001.

Moore, JW and AE Stuart. Neurons in Action. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA 2001.

Reserve material to be assigned.

Course Objectives:

  1. To gain an understanding of the nervous system and signaling at three levels:
    • cellular/molecular: how do neurons work?
    • synaptic: how do neurons communicate with each other?
    • circuit to behavior: how do small groups of cells (networks) function to lead to animal behavior?
    • To gain a historical perspective of the process of neuroscientists
    • To begin to form ideas of future issues in neuroscience

We will begin with the ionic basis of the nervous system. This will be followed by discussions into how information is transferred from one cell to another and how this information may be modified. The last portion of the course will focus on how the ionic

and synaptic parameters lead to behavior.


The objectives described above will be assessed through:

  • Written exams: scientific / quantitative reasoning, written communication ability
  • Assignments: scientific / quantitative reasoning
  • Discussion and presentations: scientific / quantitative reasoning, oral communication ability, information literacy
  • Class participation: oral communication ability

Course Policy and Expectations

Regular lecture attendance is strongly recommended, and you are responsible for all material discussed in lectures and assigned readings and handouts, whether you are present or not. During lecture, you are encouraged to ask questions and to bring up relevant issues with the instructor. Attendance is in your benefit since exam questions will be based on lecture material

Use of Blackboard: the course outline notes and other material will be placed on the course Blackboard web site. You can access Blackboard at www.

If you need help with Blackboard please see me as soon as possible. Many of the files that I list are PowerPoint. IF you do not have this software, you can either download the files at University computers or download the PowerPoint viewer software which will allow you to read my files. This information is under Utilities or plug-ins on the Blackboard web site. (Look at the Log On page and press “more info”.

You are responsible to check the Announcements since I will from time to time communcicate to you through this method.

Grading Policy:

1. Three Exams: all will be comprehensive


2. Review primary research article:

You will choose a current primary research paper from the literature that deals with any of the topics listed in the syllabus. You will write a review of this paper which is to include the following items listed below. Along with your review, you must turn in a copy of the paper being reviewed. Your paper should not be more than 2 pages long (double spaced). Explain in your words. Due dates for the paper will be assigned.

Paper should include:

Title of paper, Name of authors, journal

Concise statement of the question being asked

Brief description of the methods

Concise statement of the findings

Is there more than one interpretation of the results? If so, how do the authors discuss this.?

What is new about this topic?

Why did you pick this article?

How does this topic related to what we have been talking about in class?

Constructive criticism of the authors and their work


4. Class Participation: students are encouraged to ask questions.

Grading Scheme

Lecture Exams: (3 x 100) = 300 points

Review Article/Presentation 25 points

Class Participation 25 points

Total = 350 points

The exams will include questions on textbook figures, drawings in class, multiple choice, matching, fill-in, and short and long essay format. Some of the questions will come from questions posted by the students. The second and third lecture exams will be comprehensive.

There will be no make-up exams. If an exam is missed and you have a written excuse, the grade for that exam will not be counted in calculating the final grade. If you miss an exam and do not give an official written excuse you will receive a 0 for that exam and this grade will be calculated into your final grade.

Grading Scale:

( A ) 100-95, (A-) 94-90, B+ (89-87), B (86-83), B- (82-80), C+ (79-76), C (73-75), C- (72-70), D+ ( 69-66), D (65-60), F 59 or less.

Tips for Succeeding in Class

  1. Attend class on time. I will not always take attendance, but will notice excessive absence.
  2. Take good notes. If you have questions, please see me.
  3. Keep up with the text reading so that the material is familiar sounding to you.
  4. Ask questions- in class and in your dorm. Participation is greatly welcomed and rewarded.
  5. Please see me if you have questions!

Academic code of honestly:

I expect you to be familiar and follow the University policy.


Lecture Schedule & Reading Assignments*

*This schedule may change over the course of the semester.




August 26



Section 1: Cellular properties of neurons.


August 28


Chapter 1

Sept 2

Ion channel properties

Chapter 2, 3

Sgworth & Neher, 1980; Yang et al 1996.

Doyle et al, 1998

Sept 4

Ionic Basis of Resting Membrane potential

Chapter 5

Sept 9

Techniques and electricity

Chapter 1, 2 (pp 29-37)

Sept 11

Ionic Basis of Action Potential: Hodgkin & Huxley

Chapter 6

Sept 16


Sept 18

Passive properties of neurons

Chapter 7

Sept 23

Effect of Neuronal Activity on Glial Cells

Chapter 8 (pp 146-150)

Sept 25


Sept 30

Exam 1


Section 2: Synaptic Transmission


Oct 2

Principles of synaptic Transmission

Chapter 9

Shepard & Erulkar, 1997

Oct 4

Biochemistry of synaptic Transmission

Chapter 13

Oct 9


Oct 14

Fall Break

Oct 16

Post synaptic mechanisms:

Ionotropic receptors (nAChR, GABA)

Chapter 3 (pp41-49;49-50)

Oct 21

Metatropic receptors, Second messenger systems

Chapter 10 (pp178-180, 184-195)

Oct 23

Transmitter Release

Chapter 11 (pp 199-206, 213-220)


Oct 28


Oct 30

Exam 2


Nov 4

Quantal Release

Chapter 11 (pp 206-213)

Fatt & Katz, 1952


Nov 11

Synaptic Plasticity

Chapter 12

Kandel, 2001

Nov 13

Pre vs post synaptic mechamisms


Section 3: Networks

Nov 18

Cellular mechanisms of integration

Chapter 15 (pp 291-303)

Nov 20

Cellular Mechanisms of Motor Control

Chapter 22 (pp 447-462)

Nov 25


Nov 27

Thanksgiving Break

Dec 2

Cellular mechanisms of attention

(Sherman & Koch, 1990)

Dec 4


Final week

Exam 3

Articles on Reserve

Sherman & Koch, . “Thalamus” in The Synaptic Organization of the Brain, ed Gordon Shepard. Oxford Press, 1990.

Shepard & Erulkar. “Centerary of the synapse: from Sherrington to the molecular biology of the synapse and beyond”. TINS 20: 385-392, 1997.

Kandel, E. “The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage: A dialogue between genes and synapses. Science 294: 1030-1038, 2001.

Sgworth, FJ & Neher, E., “Single Na+ channel currents observed in cultured rat muscle cells. Nature 287: 447-449. 1980.

Yang, N. George, AL, and Horn, R. “Molecular basis of charge movement in voltage gated sodium channels.” Neuron 16: 113-122. 1996

Doyle, DA, Morais Cabral J, Pfuetzner RA, Kuo A, Gulbis JM, Cohen SL, Chait, BT, MacKinnin R. “The structure of the potassium channel: molecular basis of K+ conduction and selectivity.” Science 280: 69-77. 1998

Fatt, P and Katz, B. “ Spontaneous subthreshold activity at motor nerve endings. J Physiol 117: 109-128. 1952.