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Regular version of the site
Master 2019/2020


Area of studies: Psychology
Delivered by: School of Psychology
When: 1 year, 1-3 module
Mode of studies: Full time
Instructors: Boris V. Chernyshev
Master’s programme: Cognitive Sciences and Technologies: From Neuron to Cognition
Language: English
ECTS credits: 8

Course Syllabus


"Neuroscience" is a basic course dealing with structure and functioning of the nervous system designed for the Master Program "Cognitive sciences and technologies: from neuron to cognition". Understanding basic principles of nervous system functioning is essential for the study of cognitive processes, since the latter intrinsically reside in brain functioning. Thus achieving a realistic understanding of the cognitive domain indispensably requires knowledge of basic features of the brain and principles of its functioning, its capacities, and limitations. The introductory part of the course includes a short summary on the history of neuroscience and a comparative survey of methods employed in studying the nervous system. Then follows a short update on neuroanatomy and neurohistology. The course includes the following major topics: signal transmission and processing in the nervous system; sensory systems of the brain; motor systems of the brain; neurophysiological bases of integrative brain functions including sleep and arousal, emotions and memory. The course "Neuroscience" is new and unique discipline within the educational programs of the National Research University Higher School of Economics. The course is based on contemporary scientific research in neuroscience and related scientific areas. It is essential in training competent specialist in the areas of cognitive sciences and technologies. The author of the course Boris V. Chernyshev has significant teaching experience, including reading the following related courses at National Research University Higher School of Economics and at Moscow State University: "Essential neurobiology", "Physiology of the central nervous system", "Physiology of sensory systems", "Physiology of higher nervous activity", "Social psychophysiology". The course implements several innovative authors' teaching techniques, including group discussions and two-choice tests.
Learning Objectives

Learning Objectives

  • Students are aware of the subject of neuroscience, its foundation and connections to other branches of knowledge
  • Students know methods of research in neuroscience applicable to the fields of psychology, social science and economics
  • Students know the role of the nervous system functioning in human psychological processes and behaviour
  • Students know physiological mechanisms and restrictions applicable to psychological processes and behaviour
Expected Learning Outcomes

Expected Learning Outcomes

  • The student knows basic notions and definitions in neuroscience, its connections with other sciences.
  • The student knows the basic structure of the nervous system.
  • The student knows the basic functions of the nervous system in relation to neural signalling
  • The student knows the basic functions of the nervous system in relation to sensory systems.
  • The student knows the basic functions of the nervous system in relation to motor systems
  • The student knows the basic functions of the nervous system in relation to integrative brain functions
  • The student knows the methods used for the study of the nervous system structure and functioning.
  • The student possesses skills for choosing appropriate neuroscience methods for psychological research.
  • The student is able to relate psychological phenomena to the structure and functioning of the nervous system.
  • The student is able to relate psychological phenomena to the structure and functioning of the nervous system in relation to neural signalling
  • The student is able to relate psychological phenomena to the structure and functioning of the nervous system in relation to sensory systems.
  • The student is able to relate psychological phenomena to the structure and functioning of the nervous system in relation to motor systems
  • The student is able to distinguish the capacities and restrictions applied by brain structure and functioning to psychological processes.
  • The student possesses skills for translation between psychological and physiological levels of interpretation of experimental data.
Course Contents

Course Contents

  • Basic concepts and methods of neuroscience
    Subtopic 1.1. The subject and overview of basic concepts of neuroscience The subject of neuroscience. The branches and fields of study within neuroscience. Basic levels in studying the nervous system. The nature of behaviour as a consequence of activity generated within the nervous system. Basic elements of the neural system structure. The mind-body problem. Metaphors of the brain; true and false corollaries of a computer metaphor. Subtopic 1.2. Research methods of neuroscience Distinction between the methods of studying behaviour and methods for studying the nervous system. Distinction between structural vs. functional methods, between methods in behaving and anaesthetized organisms, between non-invasive vs. invasive methods. Experiments in humans, other living organisms, reduced preparations and in computational models. Morphological, biochemical and physiological methods. The spectrum of physiological methods: lesions, stimulation, recording. Electrical, chemical, optogenetical, transcranial magnetic stimulation. Single-unit and multiple-unit recording. Patch clamp and voltage clamp methods. Optical recording. Near-infrared spectroscopy. Structural and functional brain scanning. Electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography.
  • Structural organization of the nervous system
    Subtopic 2.1. Basic Layout of The Nervous System and Gross Anatomy Neurons and fibers in the nervous system. Ontogenesis of the nervous system: neural tube, brain vesicles. Neuronal growth and establishing synaptic connections between neurons. Basic subdivisions of the central nervous system. Anatomical planes of section and anatomical coordinates. Lobes of the cerebral cortex. Major gyri and sulci of the cerebral cortex. Brodmann areas. Internal anatomy of the forebrain. Basal nuclei of the forebrain. Diencephalon. Thalamus and thalamocortical relations. Hypothalamus. Hypophysis and epiphysis. Brainstem: midbrain, pons, medulla oblongata. Cranial nerves. External anatomy of the spinal cord. Internal anatomy of the spinal cord. Spinal roots and spinal ganglia. Blood supply of the brain and spinal cord. The blood-brain barrier. The meninges. The ventricular system. Peripheral nervous system Subtopic 2.4. Histology and Cytoarchitectonics of the Nervous System The cellular composition of the nervous system. Glia: basic cell types and their functions. Neurons: basic cell types, their anatomical location and functions. Basic parts of neurons: cell bodies, dendrites, axons, synapses. Layers of the cerebral cortex.
  • Neural signalling
    Subtopic 3.1. Electrical Signals of Nerve Cells Electrical signals of nerve cells. Long-distance transmission of electrical signals. How ion movements produce electrical signals. Passive membrane properties. Forces that create membrane potentials. Nernst and Goldman equations. The ionic basis of the resting membrane potential. The ionic basis of action potentials. Subtopic 3.2. Voltage-Dependent Membrane Permeability Ionic currents across nerve cell membranes. Na+ and K+ voltage-dependent ionic currents and corresponding membrane conductances. Reconstruction of the action potential. Long-distance signaling by means of action potentials. Increased conduction velocity as a result of myelination. Subtopic 3.3. Ion Channels and Transporters Ion channels underlying action potentials. Toxins that poison ion channels. The diversity of ion channels. Voltage-gated ion channels. Ligand-gated ion channels. Stretch- and heat-activated channels. The molecular structure of ion channels. Active transporters create and maintain ion gradients. Diseases caused by altered ion channels. Functional properties of the Na+/K+ pump. Subtopic 3.4. Synaptic Transmission Electrical synapses. Signal transmission at chemical synapses. Properties of neurotransmitters. Criteria that define a neurotransmitter. Quantal release of neurotransmitters. Release of transmitters from synaptic vesicles. Local recycling of synaptic vesicles. The role of calcium in transmitter secretion. Molecular mechanisms of synaptic vesicle cycling. Diseases that affect the presynaptic terminal. Neurotransmitter receptors. Postsynaptic membrane permeability changes during synaptic transmission. Excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials. Summation of synaptic potentials. Subtopic 3.5. Neurotransmitters and Their Receptors Categories of neurotransmitters. Acetylcholine. Myasthenia gravis. Glutamate. GABA and glycine. The biogenic amines. Biogenic amine neurotransmitters and psychiatric disorders. ATP and other purines. Peptide neurotransmitters. Unconventional neurotransmitters. Neurotoxins that act on postsynaptic receptors. Subtopic 3.6. Molecular Signaling within Neurons Strategies of molecular signaling. The activation of signaling pathways. Receptor types. G-proteins and their molecular targets. Second messengers. Second messenger targets: protein kinases and phosphatases. Nuclear signaling. Subtopic 3.7. Synaptic Plasticity Short-term synaptic plasticity. Long-term potentiation at a hippocampal synapse. Mechanisms underlying LTP. Mechanisms underlying LTD.
  • Sensory systems
    Subtopic 4.1. The Somatic Sensory System: Touch and Proprioception Afferent fibers convey somatic sensory information to the central nervous system. Dermatomes. Somatic sensory afferents exhibit distinct functional properties. Mechanoreceptors specialized to receive tactile information. Mechanoreceptors specialized for proprioception. Central pathways conveying tactile information from the body: the dorsal column-medial lemniscal system. Central pathways conveying tactile information from the face: the trigeminothalamic system. Central pathways conveying proprioceptive information from the body. Central pathways conveying proprioceptive information from the face. The somatic sensory components of the thalamus. Primary somatic sensory cortex. Patterns of organization within the sensory cortices: brain modules. Corticocortical and descending pathways. Plasticity in the adult cerebral cortex. Subtopic 4.2. Pain Nociceptors. Transduction and transmission of nociceptive signals. Central pain pathways and their distinction from mechanosensory pathways. Projected and referred pain. Parallel pain pathways. Pain and temperature pathways for the face. Other modalities mediated by the anterolateral system. Sensitization. Descending control of pain perception. Phantom limbs and phantom pain. The placebo effect. The physiological basis of pain modulation. Subtopic 4.3. The Auditory System Sound. The audible spectrum and auditory function. The external ear. The middle ear. Four causes of acquired hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss and cochlear implants. The inner ear. Hair cells and the mechanoelectrical transduction of sound waves. The ionic basis of mechanotransduction in hair cells. The cochlear amplifier. Tuning and timing in the auditory nerve. Auditory pathways through the brainstem. Integrating information from the two ears. Monaural pathways from the cochlear nucleus to the nuclei of the lateral lemniscus. Integration in the inferior colliculus. The auditory thalamus. The auditory cortex. Representing complex sounds in the brain. Subtopic 4.4. The Vestibular System Degrees of freedom of head movements. The vestibular labyrinth. Vestibular hair cells. Adaptation and tuning of vestibular hair cells. The otolith organs: the utricle and saccule. How otolith neurons sense tilts and linear accelerations of the head. The semicircular canals. How semicircular canal neurons sense angular accelerations. Central pathways for stabilizing gaze, head, and posture. Clinical evaluation of the vestibular system. Vestibular pathways to the thalamus and cortex. Spatial orientation, perception and multisensory integration. Subtopic 4.5. Vision: The Eye Anatomy of the eye. The formation of images on the retina. Myopia and other refractive errors. The surface of the retina. The macula lutea, fovea and foveola. The blind spot. Retinal circuitry. Retinal pigment epithelium. Phototransduction. Functional specialization of the rod and cone systems. Anatomical distribution of rods and cones. Cones and color vision. The importance of context in color perception. Retinal circuits for detecting luminance change. The perception of light intensity. Contribution of retinal circuits to light adaptation. Subtopic 4.6. Central Visual Pathways Central projections of retinal ganglion cells. The retinotopic representation of the visual field. Visual field deficits. Spatiotemporal tuning properties of neurons in primary visual cortex. Primary visual cortex architecture. Combining inputs from two eyes. Division of labor within the primary visual pathway. Binocular vision. The functional organization of extrastriate visual areas.
  • Motor systems
    Subtopic 5.1. Motor Neuron Circuits and Spinal Motor Control Neural centers responsible for movement. Motor neuron-muscle relationships. The motor unit. The regulation of muscle force. The spinal cord circuitry underlying muscle stretch reflexes. The influence of sensory activity on motor behavior. Other sensory feedback affecting motor performance. Flexion reflex pathways. Spinal cord circuitry and locomotion. The autonomy of central pattern generators. Subtopic 5.2. Motor Control of the Brainstem and Spinal Cord Organization of descending motor control. The corticospinal and corticobulbar tracts. Functional organization of the primary motor cortex. Motor maps. Patterns of facial weakness and their importance for localizing neurological injury. The premotor cortex. Motor control centers in the brainstem: motor systems that maintain balance, govern posture, and orient gaze. The reticular formation. The vestibular system. Muscle tone. Subtopic 5.3. Modulation of Movement by the Basal Ganglia Projections to the basal ganglia. Projections from the basal ganglia to other brain regions. Circuits within the basal ganglia system. Role of the basal ganglia in eye movements. Dopamine modulation basal ganglia circuits. Hypokinetic and hyperkinetic movement disorders. Parkinson's disease. Huntington's disease. Deep brain stimulation. Basal ganglia loops and non-motor brain functions. Subtopic 5.4. Modulation of Movement by the Cerebellum Organization of the cerebellum. Projections to the cerebellum. Projections from the cerebellum. Circuits within the cerebellum. Cerebellar circuitry and the coordination of ongoing movement. Consequences of cerebellar lesions. Subtopic 5.5. Eye Movements and Sensory Motor Integration What eye movements accomplish. The actions and innervation of extraocular muscles. The perception of stabilized retinal images. Types of eye movements and their functions. Neural control of saccadic eye movements. Sensory motor integration in the superior colliculus. Neural control of smooth pursuit movements. Neural control of vergence movements.
  • Integrative brain functions
    Subtopic 6.1. Memory Basic mechanisms of brain plasticity. Qualitative categories of human memory. Temporal categories of memory. Memory consolidation and priming. The importance of association in information storage. Conditioned learning. Savant syndrome. Forgetting. Brain systems underlying declarative memory. Acquisition and storage. An anatomical substrate for declarative memories. Brain systems underlying nondeclarative memory acquisition and storage. Memory and aging. Alzheimer's disease. Subtopic 6.2. Emotions Physiological changes associated with emotion. Facial expressions. The integration of emotional behavior. The limbic system. The importance of the amygdala. The relationship between neocortex and amygdala. Affective disorders. Cortical lateralization of emotional functions. Emotion, reason, and social behavior. Emotional reinforcement and addiction. Subtopic 6.3. Sleep and Arousal. Consciousness. Why do humans (and many other animals) sleep? The sleep styles of different species. The circadian cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Molecular mechanisms of biological clocks. Stages of sleep. Electroencephalography. Physiological changes in sleep states. Other possible functions of sleep and dreaming. Neural circuits governing sleep. Thalamocortical interactions in sleep. Sleep disorders. Consciousness.
Assessment Elements

Assessment Elements

  • non-blocking current grade (Gcurrent)
    The current grade (Gcurrent) is given by the teacher as an average grade for two mid-term control tests.
  • non-blocking class grade (Gclass)
    The class grade (Gclass) is given by the teacher for attendance and activity during class hours.
  • non-blocking self-study grade (Gself-study)
    The self-study grade (Gself-study) is given by the teacher for the results of self-studies, which are assessed by way of written tests given during seminars.
  • non-blocking examination grade (Gexam)
    Экзамен проводится в устной форме (опрос по материалам курса). Экзамен проводится на платформе Zoom (https://www.zoom.us/). К экзамену необходимо подключиться согласно расписанию ответов, высланному преподавателем на корпоративные почты студентов накануне экзамена. Компьютер студента должен удовлетворять требованиям: наличие рабочей камеры и микрофона, поддержка Zoom. Для участия в экзамене студент обязан: поставить на аватар свою фотографию, явиться на экзамен согласно точному расписанию, при ответе включить камеру и микрофон. Во время экзамена студентам запрещено: выключать камеру, пользоваться конспектами и подсказками. Кратковременным нарушением связи во время экзамена считается нарушение связи менее минуты. Долговременным нарушением связи во время экзамена считается нарушение длиной в минуту и более. При долговременном нарушении связи студент не может продолжить участие в экзамене.
Interim Assessment

Interim Assessment

  • Interim assessment (3 module)
    Gfinal = 0.5 * (0.4 * Gcurrent + 0.3 * Gclass + 0.3 * Gself-study) + 0.5 *Gexam


Recommended Core Bibliography

  • Duane E. Haines, & Gregory A. Mihailoff. (2018). Fundamental Neuroscience for Basic and Clinical Applications E-Book. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1616581

Recommended Additional Bibliography

  • Gillett, G. (2018). From Aristotle to Cognitive Neuroscience. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Pivot. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=1942690
  • White, J. S. (2008). Neuroscience (Vol. 2nd ed). New York: McGraw-Hill Professional. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&site=eds-live&db=edsebk&AN=223742