Neural Systems & Behavior

This course provides broad training in modern approaches to the study of neural mechanisms underlying behavior, perception, and cognition.

Course date:
May 28, 2022 - Jul 24, 2022
Application due date:
Feb 01, 2022

Directors: Alberto Pereda, Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and Stephanie White, UCLA

Course Description

This is an intensive eight-week laboratory and lecture course focusing on the neural basis of behavior. The course is intended for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and independent investigators. Limited to 20 participants.

This course provides broad training in modern approaches to the study of neural mechanisms underlying behavior, perception, and cognition. Through a combination of lectures, exercises, and projects, students investigate neural systems at the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels using state-of-the-art techniques. The eight weeks are divided into two-week cycles, providing participants with an in-depth familiarity with several different experimental model systems. In the first cycle, students study a simple invertebrate model system to develop general experimental skills in electrophysiology, neuroanatomy, and quantitative analysis of physiological and behavioral data. In subsequent cycles, students work on a series of different preparations, providing them with a breadth of knowledge in the field. The list of experimental model systems is updated year-to-year, but always includes a diverse array of vertebrate and invertebrate preparations, chosen to illustrate key concepts and novel techniques in the field. The goal of the course is to expose students to diverse approaches to the investigation of the neural basis of behavior.

The students in this course learn by doing real science. Research conducted by students and faculty during the course are sometimes sufficiently novel to merit publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Examples from recent summers include:

Multisensory and Motor Representations in Rat Oral Somatosensory Cortex (2018)
Sexually Monomorphic Maps and Dimorphic Responses in Rat Genital Cortex (2016)
Structure, Function, and Cortical Representation of the Rat Submandibular Whisker Trident (2013)

Each experimental preparation is taught by a team of leading experts, and topics include: the cellular basis of pattern generation, the development and neuromodulatory control of cell and circuit specificity, learning and plasticity, sensory processing and feature detection, sensory-motor integration, spatial memory, and social communication. The laboratory provides access to many complementary methods including intracellular recording; single-cell dye-injection; patch-clamp; whole-cell voltage and current clamp; analysis of synaptic transmission and plasticity; neural genetics; quantitative behavioral methods; and computational analysis. Although students will use and be exposed to many different techniques, this is not a course for learning particular techniques. Students spend a portion of each cycle designing, performing, and analyzing the results of their own project. These projects offer an exceptional opportunity to combine newly learned skills in a creative manner.

In addition to the daily course lecture, the course sponsors a weekly seminar, given by invited lecturers and distinguished Visiting Scholars.