Introductory Courses

The Department of Neurobiology and Behavior offers two introductory courses: BIONB 2210 - Neurobiology and Behavior I: Introduction to Behavior and BIONB 2220 - Neurobiology and Behavior II: Introduction to Neuroscience.  The two courses may be taken independently, or in any order.  Together, the two courses connect the how and why of what animals, including humans, do.  The topics span the range from single neurons, to complex circuits, to whole organisms and how they interact with the societies and environments in which they live.  By studying all of these levels of organization together we aim to empower you with the tools to understand the interplay of these complex systems.

2210: Offered every fall and summer.  Prerequisites: two years of college level biology for majors.  The course is not open to freshmen. 

2220: Offered every spring and summer (online).  Prerequisites: one year of college level biology for majors and 1 year of chemistry.  The course is not open to freshmen. 

BioNB 2210 - Introduction to Behavior

Each year, a sandpiper flies non-stop from its breeding grounds in Alaska to its winter territory in South America and back again.  The bird weighs less than a golf ball but can fly up to five thousand miles each way.  How can it navigate such incredible distances?  What motivates it to make this astounding effort?  And why has this behavior developed and persisted in the species?

Introduction to Behavior will give you the tools to begin to unravel how and why organisms act the way they do: how bees dance to communicate; how birds use song to repel rivals and attract mates; and why these behaviors help the organism to survive and reproduce.  You will use theories and techniques from the fields of ethology, ecology, genetics, and evolutionary biology to better understand the evolution, adaptive significance, and mechanisms of animal behavior.  The techniques that you master from direct observation of animals, analyzing primary scientific literature, and applying mathematical models of behavior will help you appreciate the similarities and differences between the behaviors of human and non-human animals. 

BioNB 2220 - Introduction to Neuroscience

Imagine that you’re hiking in a canyon when you look up and see a mountain lion crouched above you.  How will you save yourself?  Your eyes collect photons, and ionic currents in the receptor cells convert the information in the light into electrical impulses.  Networks of neurons extract patterns and recognize the shape, and you match the image to your learned long-term memories to identify the predator.  Emotional systems recognize the threat and trigger fear, while decision-making systems weigh the possible options and choose which way to run.  Finally, your motor systems activate the correct muscles in the precise order and timing to allow you to carry out your survival mechanism.  Every step is carried out perfectly, and within a fraction of a second you’re on your way to safety.

Introduction to Neuroscience will start you in study of the structure and function of the nervous system of humans and other animals.  Understanding the mechanisms by which our brains collect, process, and act upon information is at the core of understanding both ourselves and our world.  In this course, we will study the nervous system at every level, beginning with the cellular and molecular building blocks from which neurons and circuits are constructed.  We will build on this knowledge to explore how sensory systems acquire information about the environment, how different systems underlying learning, memory and motivation lead to decision making, and how motor systems carry out those decisions with action.  The course will emphasize how the nervous system is built during development, how it changes with experiences during life, how it functions in normal behavior, and how it is disrupted by injury and disease.

Course mechanics

3- and 4-credit options

Both 2210 and 2220 are offered for either 3 or 4 credits (3 credit is lecture only; 4 credit is lecture plus discussion section). Lectures for all students are held three times a week on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, at 12:20-1:10 PM in Uris Auditorium. Discussion sections, for four-credit students only, meet once a week in Mudd Hall at various times, for which you enroll through student center. Sections are limited to 15 students. A one-credit discussion section is required for both courses for students majoring in Biology with a concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior (NB&B) and is optional for other students wishing to pursue the subject matter in greater depth than is afforded by the lectures alone. The discussions will delve more deeply into topics brought up in lecture and introduce additional, more advanced material. The primary goals of discussion sections are to introduce students to current research and areas of interest in the field of behavior, teach students to critically evaluate scientific papers and experimental designs, and help students improve their experimental design and scientific writing skills.  Students who declare the concentration in Neurobiology and Behavior (NBB) after taking BIONB 2210 or BIONB 2220 for only 3 credits may fulfill the requirement by taking the 1-credit discussion section in BIONB 2210 and BIONB 2220. To arrange this, the student should consult the course director.

Laboratory experience:

Both courses will introduce you hands-on experiences in scientific practice.  In 2210, all students will observe and analyze the behavior of honeybees in their social hive, and in 2220 four-credit students will engage in recordings of neural activity and whole-animal behavior, as well as dissect a sheep brain.

Active learning:

Both 2210 and 2220 rely on lectures as well as a variety of active learning techniques throughout this course to enrich your understanding of the course material and hone necessary critical and scientific thinking skills. To do so, in most lectures we will have 1.) pre-lecture materials, including pre-lecture videos, reading, and web-based interactive learning tools, and  2.) active learning exercises during lectures polling questions and group discussions/activities.  You will be given participation credit for answering polling questions.

2210 Learning Objectives:

  1. To acquire a greater awareness of, and curiosity about, your own behavior and the behavior of other living things.
  2. To gain mastery at asking and answering questions about the mechanisms and evolution of behavior by performing observations, generating hypotheses, deriving predictions, and developing tests to investigate the causes of behavior.
  3. To appreciate the similarities and differences between the behaviors of humans and non-human animals, and to understand how the study of behavior is relevant to your other courses, to your own life, and to the world around you.
  4. To learn to read, interpret and critically evaluate scientific discoveries communicated through the primary, peer-reviewed literature.  

2220 Learning Objectives:

  1. Demonstrate knowledge of core concepts and principles in neuroscience through writing, speaking, and problem solving.
  2. Use the scientific method to link neuroscience concepts to observations and experiments.
  3. Explain the functions of the major components of the central and peripheral nervous system to the extent they are known.
  4. Demonstrate how the laws of chemistry and physics apply to mechanisms of neural activity.
  5. Explain mechanisms of animal and human neural function at multiple scales, from molecules and molecular interactions to interactions of neural circuits and brain pathways.
  6. Explain how information is encoded by neurons and neural circuits: describe how perceptions are represented, stored, and recalled for later use in decision making and control of behavior.
  7. Explain modern views of how the nervous system it changes with experience, and how it is disrupted by injury and disease.
  8. Describe how the brain generates complex cognitive functions including communication, emotions, sleep and cognition.