Neural Systems & Behavior

Course Information

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 class of students are automatically accepted into the class of 2021 and we are not taking applications at this time.

Watch the NSB WebinarCourse Date: May 23 – June 26, 2021

Deadline: TBD

Course Website

2021 Schedule

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.

Financial Information: Tuition: $5,480; Room & Board: $2,673* (*Actual costs may be greater based on number of nights of occupancy). The admissions process at the Marine Biological Laboratory is need-blind, meaning that we evaluate students on their merits alone, without weighing their financial situations. Financial assistance will be considered for those admitted students who are in need. Upon acceptance, students will be asked to complete a financial aid request form if they need assistance.

In 2019, 100% of those students in the Neural Systems & Behavior course who requested financial aid received some support. The amount of financial aid available from the MBL varies by course based on funding from grants and scholarships, but typically covers 70-100% of student need.

2021 Course Faculty & Lecturers

Alkema, Mark, UMass Medical
Baca, Michael, University of Colorado, Denver
Beenhakker, Mark, University of Virginia
Blitz, Dawn, Miami University
Brecht, Michael, Humboldt University
Cardin, Jessica, Yale
Clemens, Ann, University of Edinburgh
Diaz-Rios, Manuel, Bowdoin College
Flavell, Steve, MIT
Fortune, Eric, NJIT
Langston, Rosamund, University of Dundee
Maltby, Rosalie, University of Oklahoma
Mathias, Mackenzie, Harvard
Morgan, Jennifer, MBL
Pereda, Alberto, Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Ricoy, Ulises, Northern New Mexico College
Ruta, Vanessa, Rockefeller University
Schulz, David, University of Missouri
Todd, Krista, Westminister College
van der Meer, Matthijs, Dartmouth University
Weisblat, David, U.C. Berkeley
White, Stephanie, UCLA
Wright, Michael, Cal State, Sacramento

Course Support

This course is supported with funds and equipment provided by:

National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
The Grass Foundation
International Brain Research Organization
The Jackson Laboratory
Sutter Instrument