Introductory Neuroscience

Course Aim

For students entering the field of neuroscience from other backgrounds, the course will provide an introductory knowledge and a starting point for further exploration of how the nervous system communicates and processes information. Introduce the workings of the basic elements of neural circuits.

Course Description

The course covers the fundamentals of neuroscience with specific emphasis on the properties of key parts/features of neural circuits: neurons (and glia), ion channels, membrane excitability, synaptic transmission, synaptic plasticity. Why highlight these topics? To illustrate, synaptic plasticity is crucial for a variety of cognitive functions of the brain. To understand synaptic plasticity, one must appreciate the intricacies of synaptic transmission. Synaptic transmission, in turn, requires a knowledge of membrane excitability, to which ion channels play a key role. Therefore, by building an understanding of these key components, it is hoped to facilitate each student to further deepen his/her view about the basis of communication in the nervous system and to apply the knowledge gained to their own PhD projects. The course topics will be introduced logically from bottom up (cf. course content section). The course will also involve discussion of research papers highlighting key concepts covered in lectures, where students are expected to present and lead the discussion.

Course Contents

Main topics covered:
1) Overview of the nervous system
Organization of the brain
- Brain regions
- Sensory organs
Types of brain cells
- Neurons (excitatory, inhibitory)
- Non-neuronal cells (glia,etc.)
Cellular features
- Structural specializations
2) Electrical properties of neurons
- Passive membrane properties
- Active membrane properties
3) Ion channels
- Ligand gated
- Voltage gated
4) Synaptic transmission
- Overview
- NMJ, quantal basis
- Neurotransmitter release
- Postsynaptic properties
5) Synaptic integration
6) Synaptic plasticity


30% Class attendance and engagement
30% Journal club presentation
40% Report (on a topic to be announced during the course)

Prerequisites or Prior Knowledge

Undergraduate biochemistry, biology, and chemistry


Principles of Neural Science, Kandel et al, 6th Ed.
Carpenter’s Neurophysiology: A Conceptual Approach, Massey et al., 6th Ed.


NEW for AY2024

Research Specialties