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BIOL 426

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Biol 426 
Developmental Neurobiology


Spring 2014

Tuesday and Thursday

1:00 - 2:15 pm, 104 Thomas


Instructor: Dr. Gong Chen, Willaman Professor

Department of Biology


Office: 224 LSB



Guest Professor: Dr. Gangyi Wu

TA:  Ziyuan Guo


Office hour: Friday 1-2 pm



Biol 426 Developmental Neurobiology is designed to cover fundamental issues from neuron generation, neural network assembly, to high level of brain function such as learning and memory, and finally to the aging of the brain.


The goal of this course is to help students understand the molecular and cellular basis of our brain development. Basic principles as well as current research articles will be mixed in lectures to teach students not only the background knowledge but also logic thinking behind scientific research.

The instructor is a neuroscientist studying molecular mechanisms of synapse formation and synaptic plasticity, using multidisciplinary approaches including electrophysiology, fluorescence imaging, and molecular biology techniques. Neural stem cell research is a new direction in his lab. His faculty website is:

It is highly recommended that students take Biol 469 (Instructor: Dr. Lüscher or Dr. Jegla) or Biol 470 or equivalent courses before this one to gain some background on neurobiology. If you have not taken any serious molecular and cellular biology courses, this course can be very difficult for you.


Course material:

Development of the Nervous System, 2006, 3rd Edition. Editors: Sanes, Reh, and Harris. This text book only constitutes about half of all the lectures. The instructor has organized many lectures from other resources. All lecture materials will be posted in PowerPoint files on ANGEL.


Biol 426 Syllabus:


Jan. 14     Introduction: from neuron to nervous system----Dr. Wu

Jan. 16     Neural induction and ectoderm—Chapter 1

Jan. 21     Polarity and regionalization: part I—Chapter 2

Jan. 23     Polarity and regionalization: current research

Jan. 28     Cell cycle and neuronal migration—Chapter 3

Jan. 30     Determination and differentiation—Chapter 4

Feb. 4      Exam 1 – Ziyuan Guo

Feb. 6      Neural stem cells: generation, migration, integration

Feb. 11    Neural stem cells: therapy

Feb. 13    Neural stem cells: current research

Feb. 18    Review Exam 1

Feb. 20    Axon growth and guidance: part I—Chapter 5

Feb. 25    Axon growth and guidance: current research

Feb. 27    Target selection—Chapter 6

Mar. 4      Exam 2 – Ziyuan Guo

Mar. 6      Review Exam 2

Mar. 18    Neuronal cell death—Chapter 7

Mar. 20    Synapse formation—Chapter 8

Mar. 25    Synapse formation and synaptic refinement—Chapter 9

Mar. 27    Current research on synaptogenesis

Apr. 1       Behavioral development and psychiatric disorders

Apr. 3 Review

Apr. 8       Exam 3 – Ziyuan Guo

Apr. 10     Neuron-glial interactions: Part I

Apr. 15     Neuron-glial interactions: Part II

Apr. 17     Review Exam 3

Apr. 22     Learning and memory: long-term potentiation

Apr. 24     Learning and memory: long-term depression----Dr. Wu

Apr. 29     Brain aging:  Alzheimer's disease

May 1       Final Review: Questions and Answers

May 5 – 9    Final Exam – Dr. Chen


Exams and grades:

Exams will be multiple choices and short essays. 100 points each for the first three exams. The final exam will be 200 points, with half on the 4th session and half on sessions 1-3. Class attendance is mandatory by random calling names in each class. Missing one class will lose 5 points. Your final grade will be highly correlated with your overall effort spent on the course.

There will be extra points for attending selected neuroscience seminars (5 points each). The maximum total extra credit will be 50 points.

Honor’s option: Honor students please contact the instructor for honor’s credit.


The grading scale is:

A       93 - 100%                                 C+     77 - 79%

A-      90 - 92%                                   C       70 - 76%

B+     87 - 89%                                   D       60 - 69%

B       83 - 86%                                    F       Less than 60%

B- 80 - 82%



The content of the lectures is beyond one textbook. Therefore, it is mandatory to attend all the lectures. Attendance at exams is mandatory and absence during the scheduled exam time will result in a grade of zero unless prior arrangements (at least 24 hours before the exam) have been made with the course instructor.


Make-up exams

Make-up exams are highly discouraged because some students have abused this mechanism to gain unfair advantage over the others. It is not acceptable if you simply do not show up at the exams but request a make-up exam without prior approval from the instructor. If such things occur, 25% of total score is automatically deducted.


Academic Integrity/Academic Dishonesty:

Academic dishonesty is not limited to simply cheating on an exam or assignment.  The following is quoted directly from the "PSU Faculty Senate Policies for Students" regarding academic integrity and academic dishonesty:  “Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception and is an educational objective of this institution.  Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, cheating, plagiarizing, fabricating of information or citations, facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others, having unauthorized possession of examinations, submitting work of another person or work previously used without informing the instructor, or tampering with the academic work of other students.”


All University and Departmental policies regarding academic integrity/academic dishonesty apply to this course and the students enrolled in this course.  Refer to the following URL for further details on the academic integrity policies of the Department of Biology:


Each student in this course is expected to work entirely on her/his own while taking any exam, to complete assignments on her/his own effort without the assistance of others unless directed otherwise by the instructor, and to abide by University and Department of Biology policies about academic integrity and academic dishonesty.  Academic dishonesty can result in assignment of “F” by the course instructors or "XF" by Judicial Affairs as the final grade for the student.


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