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BIOL 469 Jegla

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Comprehensive introduction to the cellular, molecular, physiological and developmental principles of the Nervous system.

Last updated: January 2015

Class meetings Mon, Wed, Fri 1:25-2:15  (except final exam)

Class room 111 Wartik

Textbook (required) Kandel, Schwarz, Jessel, Seigelbaum and Hudspeth

Principles of Neural Science

5th edition,

McGraw-Hill, 2013, ISBN 978-0-07-139011-8

Prerequisite BIOL 240W (Note, Bio 230 and BMMB 250

Course director Timothy Jegla, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Biology, Huck Institute of Life Sciences

Office visits: Tuesday 4-6 PM, 230 Life Sciences

Email: (please add Biol469 to subject line)

Phone: 865-1668

Learning objectives

The course goal is to acquire a foundational understanding of cellular and molecular neurobiology. This foundation will include the principles of neural cell biology, neurophysiology, neurochemistry, neuropharmacology, genetics, evolution and molecular biology. The course will expose students to experimental approaches used to analyze the function of neurons and neural networks. Specific learning goals include:

I. Cells, neural structures, and membrane properties important for neural function.

II. Neurotransmitters, receptors, ion channels and 2nd messenger systems underlying excitability and synaptic transmission.

III. Nervous system development, evolution and model organisms.

IV. Molecular/cellular mechanisms of learning, memory and sensory perception.

Lecture notes will be posted to Angel as Powerpoint files before class whenever possible. The lecture will always be posted after class. Reading the handout is not sufficient to do well in this class. There was a 23% difference in exam grades for students meeting or not meeting attendance goals as measured by clicker participation last year!


1 take home quiz, 4 in class mid-term examinations and one final exam will be used to measure student progress. Quizzes and exams will consist of both multiple choice and short answer questions. The take home quiz will count for 5% of the grade and will cover the first 5 lectures; it is designed to expose students to the style and depth of questions that will be included on subsequent exams and should therefore be taken seriously. Midterm exams will have 30-40 questions and are designed to take a full class period; each midterm will count for 15% of the final grade. Midterms are not cumulative and will cover only the material presented since the last exam. The final exam will count for 25% of the grade; it will be scheduled separately during finals week; the time and date will be posted when available. The final will cover material presented after the 4th midterm (~1/2 of the exam) and selected topics from earlier in the semester that students still need to master (~1/2 of the exam). These topics will be posted at least one week before the exam. The Quiz and 5 exams will count for 90% of the class grade.

Exam Score Reporting

Exam scores will always be posted to Angel. It is your responsibility to learn to use your account, and check your posted scores for accuracy. Take your student ID card to the CAC help desk at either 215 Computer Building (3-2494) or 12 Willard (3-1035) to learn how to use your account.

Missed Exams

Make up exams are only given for acceptable reasons (serious illness, family emergency etc.). In order to qualify for a make-up exam you have to give notice at least two days prior to the make-up exam must be taken within 1 week of the original exam date. Make-up exams consist of 8 short essay (~1/2 page each) questions. Be advised that scores were lower on make-up exams last semester, so you should only consider this route if absolutely necessary.


10% of the grade will be given for class participation as measured by i>clicker usage. i>clicker will be used every day in class for questions, and you are responsible for bringing your remote to class. The 10% I>clicker participation credit will be given as an all-or-none score. Students who answer >80% of the questions will receive full credit; students below 80% will receive no credit and there will be no opportunities for make-up. The built in 20% margin is generous and is intended to cover forgotten remotes, technical issues and planned absences. Please note that you will be graded on participation only, not on accuracy of answers. However, making you best effort to answer questions accurately will help your instructor understand which material was effectively communicated and which material needs further explanation.

Why is 80% the threshold? After analysis of several semesters of I>clicker and exam data, it is clear that regular class attendance and participation is critical for getting high scores on exams. Students who attend > 80% of the classes score over 20% higher on exams than students in the 40-80% attendance range. Thus the 80% is a good compromise for flexibility and exam performance. However, you should know that students who score best on the exams typically have I>clicker participation rates >95%, significantly higher than the minimum allowable threshold.

You need to purchase an i>clicker (Penn State Bookstore,, etc.) and register the device at the latest by January 26th (Complete the fields with your first name, last name, student ID, and remote ID). You must register for this class specifically – past registrations will not work. Your student ID should be your Access Account ID, i.e., the user name that forms the first part of your Penn State email address and that you would use to login to ANGEL. DO NOT enter in your 9-digit student number. The remote ID is the series of numbers and sometimes letters found on the bottom of the back of the i>clicker remote. A manual can be downloaded as a pdf here.


The following scale gives approximate assignments for final grades. This scale is based on an overall class mean of 70% and may be adjusted downward if class mean is lower. It will NOT be adjusted upwards, so if you all do well, you win. Grades/percentage: A, A-, 85–100; B+, B, B-, 70-84.99; C, C+, 57-69.99; D, 50-56.99; F < 50

Academic Integrity and code of conduct

All Penn State Policies regarding ethics and honorable behavior apply to this course (see underlined links for policy statements). In particular, 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, and facilitating acts of academic dishonesty by others.

During exams, violations of academic integrity shall consist of any attempt to receive assistance from written or printed aids, from any person or papers or electronic devices, or of any attempt to give assistance, whether the student doing so has completed his or her own work or not. Other violations include, but are not limited to, any attempt to gain an unfair advantage in regard to an exam, such as tampering with a graded exam or claiming another's work to be one's own. Any instances of academic dishonesty WILL be pursued under University and Eberly College of Science regulations concerning academic integrity.

The Eberly College of Science Code of Mutual Respect and Cooperation embodies the values that will make it a place where every individual feels respected and valued, as well as challenged and rewarded.

The Eberly College of Science is committed to the academic success of students enrolled in the College's  courses and undergraduate programs. When in need of help,  students can utilize various College and University- wide resources for learning assistance.

Accessibility. Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic adjustments in this course, contact the Office for Disability Services (ODS) at 814-863-1807 (V/TTY). For further information regarding ODS, please visit the Office for Disability Services Web site.

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact ODS and provide documentation. If the documentation supports the need for academic adjustments, ODS will provide a letter identifying appropriate academic adjustments. Please share this letter and discuss the adjustments with your instructor as early in the course as possible. You must contact ODS and request academic adjustment letters at the beginning of each semester.”

How to do well in this class

1. Come to class – you not only need to do this to get the participation credit, but you can sometimes tell a lot about what to learn by seeing what the lecturer emphasizes. Do not get distracted by electronic devices as this completely defeats the purpose of coming to class. You need to pay attention to get the benefit! Students who sit in back and surf the web tend to do poorly.

2. Take the class seriously from the start! The biggest reason students get in trouble in 469 is not studying early. The concepts introduced in the first 11 lectures are necessary to understand all the material later in the semester.

3. Take notes and ask questions - it will help you to stay alert and to realize what you do or don’t understand.

4. If group studying works for you, find study partners! You may be able to help each other out! However, make sure each member of a study group is contributing. A study partner who brings nothing to the table can keep you from focusing on the things you need to learn.

5. Compare and contrast material from multiple lectures – make sure you understand how they relate and ask if you don’t understand. There are a lot of details you will need to remember, but exam questions will usually focus on concepts.

6. Make your own summary drawings and lists of concepts (of a neuron, its receptors, synapses, neural structures etc) – do you know how it all works? Memorizing lists without understanding concepts will probably not be enough to excel.

7. If you find you are weak on some of the basic molecular and cellular biology background, actively go seek to fill it in before you fall behind. Modern neurobiology is inherently molecular and cellular. I can help suggest texts if necessary.

8. Exams will cover concepts introduced in class, but also do the assigned reading! The reading can help you understand important concepts by explaining them in different ways and providing additional examples. The instructor will assume you have read the material when writing exam questions.

9. Come to office hours when you need help! I have turned a lot of struggling students around who had the courage to come. Don’t wait too late – if the 1st exam is not what you wanted, come in to get on track before the 2nd exam!

Course Schedule


Lect. #


Reading (pages)




Introduction to course/Background and History of Neuroscience.

T Jegla



Genes and behavior

Chapter 1-3

T Jegla



Introduction to neurons

Chapter 1-3

T Jegla



No Class/ MLK Day



W- 1/21


Cytology of neurons

Chapter 4

T Jegla

F- 1/23


Synthesis and trafficking of neuronal proteins

Take Home Quiz Assigned

Chapter 4

T Jegla

M- 1/26


Neuronal electrical potentials and Ion Channels

Take Home Quiz Due

Chapter 5

T Jegla



Ion Channel diversity and function

Chapter 5

T Jegla



Local electrical signaling

Chapter 6

T Jegla

M- 2/2


Local signaling/cable properties

Chapter 6

T Jegla

W- 2/4


Propagated signaling/action potential

Chapter 7

T Jegla

F- 2/6


Propagated signaling/action potential

Chapter 7

T Jegla

M- 2/9


Exam 1

W- 2/11


Overview of synaptic transmission

Chapter 8

T Jegla

F- 2/13


The NMJ: Directly gated transmission

Chapter 9

T Jegla

M- 2/16


The NMJ: Directly gated transmission

Chapter 9

T Jegla

W 2/18


Synaptic integration in the CNS

Chapter 10

T Jegla

F- 2/20


Synaptic integration II

Chapter 10

T Jegla

M- 2/23


Synaptic integration III / Modulation of synaptic transmission

Chapter 11

T Jegla

W- 2/25


Modulation of synaptic transmission

Chapter 11

T Jegla

F- 2/27


Exam 2

M- 3/2


Transmitter release

Chapter 12

T Jegla

W- 3/4


Transmitter release

Chapter 12

T Jegla

F- 3/6


Synthesis of Neurotransmitter

Chapter 13

T Jegla

MWF 3/9-13


No Class/Spring Break



M- 3/16


Uptake of Neurotransmitters

Chapter 13

T Jegla

W- 3/18


Synaptic plasticity

Chapter 67

T Jegla

F- 3/20


Neurobiology of Glia

Review Chapt. 4

T Jegla

M- 3/23


Evolution of the neuron and neuronal signaling


T Jegla

W- 3/25


Exam 3

F- 3/27


Induction and Patterning of the NS

Chapter 52

T Jegla

M- 3/30


Induction and Patterning of the NS

Chapter 52

T Jegla

W- 4/1



Chapter 53

T Jegla

F- 4/3


Neuronal survival/Apoptosis

Chapter 53

T Jegla

M- 4/6


Axon Guidance

Chapter 54

T Jegla

W- 4/8


Formation / regeneration of synapses

Chapter 55

T Jegla

F- 4/10


Autonomic nervous system

Chapter 47

T Jegla

******4/10 is the late drop deadline – you will have to decide based on a Quiz, 3 midterms and your Clicker participation score******

M- 4/13


Exam 4


W- 4/15



Chapter 50

T Jegla

F- 4/17


Sensing Light: vision

Chapter 26

T Jegla

M- 4/20


Sensing Light: the circadian clock

Review Chapt. 3

T Jegla

W- 4/22



Chapter 32

T Jegla

F- 4/24



Chapters 30

T Jegla

M- 4/27


Sensing Temperature: a story of peppers and mint

Chapter 22

T Jegla

W- 4/29


Somatic touch sensation

Chapter 22

T Jegla

F- 5/1


Review 2 (last class)

T Jegla