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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Deanery of Biomedical Sciences : Biomedical Sciences

Undergraduate Course: Synaptic Function and Plasticity in Health and Disease (BIME10012)

Course Outline
SchoolDeanery of Biomedical Sciences CollegeCollege of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course covers the physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying the function of synapses before showing how dysfunction of the mechanisms leads to disease.
Course description Synapses are essential for brain function by allowing communication between neurons. The efficacy of this communication is adjusted by a complex series of processes collectively termed synaptic plasticity. Plasticity is both critically involved in normal brain development and underlies learning and memory throughout life. Alterations in normal synaptic function and plasticity have been implicated in a wide variety of neurological conditions.
This course will start with introductory lectures focussing on pre- and postsynaptic function and the molecular mechanisms involved in plasticity at both excitatory and inhibitory synapses. This will be followed by more detailed lectures including explanation of the latest experimental techniques being used to elucidate these mechanisms. These lectures will alternate with student presentations of recent research papers in the subject area. Finally we will use specific examples to explain how synaptic dysfunction can lead to neurological conditions, such as autism and schizophrenia, and study the experimental approaches and model systems currently being used to design clinical treatments.

Contributors: Mike Cousin, Peter Kind, Giles Hardingham
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2017/18, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  15
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 24, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 6, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 8, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 2, Formative Assessment Hours 1, Summative Assessment Hours 2, Revision Session Hours 2, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 151 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 100 %, Coursework 0 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Exam 100%
Feedback Feedback will be available throughout the course in many forms:
Feedback from course organiser and peers on your presentations
Mid-course feedback session: this will provide personal feedback on the in-course essay
Feedback from the exam will be made available please contact Caroline Morris for more
information about how and when this will be done
Exam Information
Exam Diet Paper Name Hours & Minutes
Main Exam Diet S1 (December)Synaptic Function and Plasticity in Health and Disease2:00
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand processes involved in neurotransmitter vesicle recycling, endo- and exocytosis and Understand the molecular mechanisms of regulation of synaptic efficacy
  2. Conceive an experimental program to investigate synaptic dysfunction in a neurological disorder
  3. Knowledge of the role of inhibitory synapses
  4. Ability to interpret, evaluate and present experimental findings
  5. Coherently and logically present (written and oral) an argument explaining how synaptic dysfunction leads to disease.
Reading List
Synaptic vesicle exocytosis
Jahn R and Fasshauer D (2012) Molecular machines governing fusion of synaptic vesicles. Nature 490 : 201-7

Rizo J and Sudhof TC (2012) The membrane fusion enigma: SNAREs, Sec1/munc18 proteins, and their accomplices, guilty as charged? Ann. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 28: 279-308.

Synaptic vesicle endocytosis and recycling

Dittman J and Ryan TA (2009) Molecular circuitry of endocytosis at nerve terminals.
Ann. Rev. Cell Dev. Biol. 25: 113-160.

Clayton EL and Cousin MA (2009) The molecular physiology of activity-dependent bulk endocytosis of synaptic vesicles. J. Neurochem. 111:901-14

Rao Y et al (2012) The early steps of endocytosis: from cargo selection to membrane deformation. Eur. J. Cell Biol. 91: 226-233.

Function and Diversity of Inhibitory Neurons

Isaacson, J.S., and Scanziani, M. (2011). How inhibition shapes cortical activity. Neuron 72, 231-243.

Klausberger, T., and Somogyi, P. (2008). Neuronal diversity and temporal dynamics: the unity of hippocampal circuit operations. Science (New York, NY 321, 53-57.

Inhibition in Development and Disease

Ben-Ari, Y., Khalilov, I., Kahle, K.T., and Cherubini, E. (2012). The GABA excitatory/inhibitory shift in brain maturation and neurological disorders. Neuroscientist 18, 467-486.

Gonzalez-Burgos, G., Fish, K.N., and Lewis, D.A. (2011). GABA neuron alterations, cortical circuit dysfunction and cognitive deficits in schizophrenia. Neural Plast 2011, 723184.

Hensch, T.K. (2005). Critical period plasticity in local cortical circuits. Nat Rev Neurosci 6, 877-888.

Synapse to Nucleus Signalling
Pizzarelli, R., and Cherubini, E. (2011). Alterations of GABAergic signaling in autism spectrum disorders. Neural Plast 2011, 297153.
West AE, Greenberg ME. (2011) Neuronal activity-regulated gene transcription in synapse development and cognitive function. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol.3(6) pii: a00574

Hardingham GE, Bading H.(2010) Synaptic versus extrasynaptic NMDA receptor signalling: implications for neurodegenerative disorders. Nat Rev Neurosci. (10):682-96

Bading H (2013). Nuclear calcium signalling in the regulation of brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2013 Sep;14(9):593-608

Bell KF, Hardingham GE.(2011) The influence of synaptic activity on neuronal health
Curr Opin Neurobiol. 21(2):299-305

Hardingham GE. (2009) Coupling of the NMDA receptor to neuroprotective and neurodestructive events. Biochem Soc Trans. 37(Pt 6):1147-60.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Course organiserDr Michael Daw
Tel: (0131 6)50 3722
Course secretaryMiss Mary Cummings
Tel: (0131 6)51 3094
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