Skip Navigation

MUSC Laboratory

PhD and MS in Neurosciences


Cognitive Neuroscience: Higher order brain functions such as learning, memory, attention, decision-making and consciousness depend upon complex interactions among widespread networks of neurons, and are perhaps best represented in the neocortex. This course will build upon basic neurophysiology and anatomy of cortical neurons and circuits to study the neural substrates of these cognitive processes. We will read selected chapters from the new textbook “Principles of Cognitive Neuroscience” by Purves et al., as well as from Buzsaki’'s book “Rhythms of the Brain”. Presentations by both students and faculty will develop an understanding of basic principles involved in the neural bases of cognitive functions.

Catecholamines and Prefrontal Cortex: The objective of this elective is to familiarize the students the role of catecholamines in modulation activity in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The students will briefly review the history of cateclolamines discovery, and then will focus in the modulatory role of dopamine and noradrenalin in the electrophysiological properties of pyramidal neurons and interneurons.

Structural Mechanisms of Synaptic Plasticity: The brain is far from a static structure. Instead, connections between neurons undergo changes in synaptic strength that are thought to underlie learning and memory. This class will discuss the latest research in the field of synaptic plasticity, including the complex intracellular machinery responsible for trafficking receptors into and out of the synapse in an activity dependent manner.

Monoamines in the Cerebral Cortex: The cerebral cortex receives a dense innervation from dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin containing axons arising from nuclei in the brainstem. These ascending monoamine systems play pivotal roles in the overall circuitry of the cortex. Dysfunction in these afferents has been implicated in a wide variety of neuropsychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and depression. Focusing on seminal research articles from the 1960's to the present, this class will discuss the anatomy, electrophysiology, and functional roles of monoamines in the cortex.

Psychopharmacology: This elective will cover areas of interest in psychopharmacology, with a particular focus on animal models of psychiatric and neurological disorders and cutting edge developments in pharmacotherapy.  Topics will include:

·         General pharmacological principles as they relate to neural/behavioral function
·         Assessment of psychoactive drug effects in animals and humans
·         Drug addiction
·         Psychosis and antipsychotic drugs
·         Mood disorders and antidepressants/mood stabilizers
·         Psychopharmacology of dementia
·         Anxiety disorders and anxiolytics
·         Attention/developmental disorders and pharmacotherapies

Neurogenetics: Study of genetic mutations provides a powerful approach to dissect complex biologic problems.  In this course, we will focus on fascinating discoveries from “forward genetic” studies – moving from nervous system phenotype to genetic mutation discovery.   There will be an emphasis of neurologic disease phenotypes and the use of novel genomic methods to elucidate the central molecular and cellular causes for these conditions.  In addition, the course will emphasize the use of “reverse genetics” – engineered mutations in model systems – to dissect nervous system function and disease mechanisms with sophistication and detail.  A variety of genetic and cellular mechanisms prominent in neurodevelopment and neurodegeneration will be discussed including rare and common sequence variation, copy number variation, trinucleotide repeats, epigenetic mechanisms, mechanisms of neuronal morphogenesis, mechanisms of protein trafficking and protein turnover, mechanisms of cell signaling.  Major themes include the heterogeneity of brain disorders and mechanisms of neuronal dysfunction. 

Aging and Neurodegeneration: The nervous system is in a constant state of neurodegeneration.  During development, programmed cell death and dendritic pruning plays an adaptive role in brain function, while many neurological diseases involve degeneration of neural function. We will explore the cell signaling and neural systems mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration.

Ion Channel Structure and Function: Our goal is to provide a guided, detailed review of the fundamental biophysical properties of ion channels in membranes including the elementary properties of pores, molecular mechanisms of ion selectivity and permeation, the basis for channel gating, and structure-function relationships.  The course will focus on the properties of ion channels themselves rather than the specific properties of any particular cell-type. The course format will be a series of guided discussions rather than formal lectures.  Students will be expected to read Hille’s outstanding monograph, Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes, and will discuss and present in class the major concepts it contains.  Both the monograph and the course adopt a biophysical approach to understanding ion channels.  This approach is inherently quantitative, and many fundamental ideas are most simply and concisely expressed as mathematical relationships.  However, complex derivations will not be undertaken, and basic differentials and integrals will be employed only on occasion.  Students will be expected to have a working knowledge of the basic concepts of electrophysiology and have practical experience in recording ion channel activity.

Neurodevelopment: This elective course will examine the extent to which wiring and firing in the brain depend on genetic programs vs. experience. Following a few overview didactic lectures, the course will then focus on the most widely studied sensory system via journal club style discussions of highly influential original research articles.

Dendrites & Disease This course examines the contribution of dendrites in neuronal function. This course covers neuron anatomy, structure and development, subcellular distribution of ion channels & biochemical compartmentalization, dendritic integration dendritic release of neurotransmitter. The class is primarily taught in discussion format, but also includes classroom presentation. A background in basic neuroscience or permission of the instructor is required.

Neurodegenerative Disorders: This course focuses on neurodegeneration caused by either aging, neurological disorders, stroke, or poor diet. Further, the course includes studies on neuroplasticity in terms of neurogenesis, recovery after stroke, or novel drug therapies that are neuroprotective for these conditions. The course includes both labs and didactic lectures, as well as a module on self-reporting of caloric intake and an intervention study of older adults for exercise and diets.

Neural Regeneration: In humans, nervous system can be damaged either through trauma or disease and is central to the pathology of neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating regeneration and/or repair of nervous tissues and cells is crucial for developing treatments for nerve injury and neurodegenerative diseases. In this course, we will explore signaling pathways and their mechanisms that influence regeneration and/or repair of cells within peripheral and central nervous systems.

Mathematical Methods in Biomedical Imaging: The purpose of this course is to provide some of the basic mathematical knowledge and programming skills necessary to understand the fundamentals of image formation, image processing, and image analysis. Some of the mathematical topics will be linear algebra, complex numbers, Fourier transform theory, and numerical methods. MATLAB will be used for the programming language and as a way to demonstrate applications and important concepts. The emphasis in the course will be on applications rather than rigorous mathematics and sophisticated programming.

Imaging: This course provides an overview of neuroimaging and neurostimulation techniques widely employed in clinical and basic human and animal neuroscience research with an emphasis on the value of these techniques to clinical applications. Techniques include structural MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, functional MRI, advanced fMRI, MR spectroscopy, PET, and molecular imaging. Students will gain working knowledge of basic physical principles, underlying physiological correlates, considerations for experimental design, data analysis and interpretation, current controversies, as well as clinical applications of the techniques. The course consists of lectures, class participation, student presentations and brief quizzes.

Advanced Techniques in Neurosciences: This course is designed to provide students with a conceptual and practical understanding of several of the most advanced techniques in molecular neuroscience. The informal and interactive lectures will be given by neuroscientists and will serve to illustrate the ways in which the various experimental approaches have been used to advance specific areas of neurobiology.  The course will include topics such as: an introduction to the design and use of animal virus vectors in neurobiology; the use of small interfering RNAs (siRNA) for regulating the expression of specific genes in neurons; gene delivery systems including mammalian cell transfection protocols and single cell electroporation techniques for targeted gene transfer in vivo; an introduction to overall strategies, use and design of BAC transgenic vectors; multiplex and whole genome expression analyses using the most recent DNA microarray technologies (including labeled probe preparation, data analyses, mining, and interpretation); quantitative real time RT-PCR analyses from small numbers of cells (RNA purification, PCR optimization, interpretation of results); single cell PCR and cDNA library construction; methods and application of RNA amplification (aRNA). Finally, students will be introduced to bioinformatics and a wide range of internet resources which are available to molecular neuroscientists.


©  Medical University of South Carolina | Disclaimer | Contact the Webmaster