[FUN_Mail] Question about overlap in courses for a neuroscience major

DJ Brasier via FUN_Mail fun_mail at lists.funfaculty.org
Mon Sep 22 19:28:32 EDT 2014

We just created an interdisciplinary Neuroscience major last year and 
faced the same basic issue.  There was some discussion about not having 
an introductory course at all, and we nearly ended up with that. 
However, I'm glad that we decided to have one.

One thing we are doing for our intro class is actually taking out most 
of the traditional intro topics.  We are calling it a "depth-first" 
intro; i.e. not a survey course.  We are still covering action 
potentials and synaptic release, but tossing out vision and most senses 
except pain, focusing a lot on synaptic plasticity (almost 1/4 of the 
semester will be spent discussing the history of pre- vs. post-synaptic 
LTP in the hippocampus), doing a unit on the genetics and cognitive 
aspects of language, and then doing a unit on neuro-prothetics.  These 
topics aren't chosen from any principled stance, but instead based on 
the personal interests of the instructors.

The idea is to find interesting and fun topics that give students a deep 
look at a few "cool" problems that neuroscientists work on.  The idea is 
that non-majors will get a better sense of what neuroscience is about 
and the majors will get any gaps filled in (redundantly) in their later 
classes that we can't change anyway.

We made some minor changes to some of our courses: the cellular neuro 
and systems neuro courses that already existed used to have introductory 
biology as a pre-requisite, but we changed that to be either 
introductory neuroscience (much more relevant preparation) or cell 
biology (in which resting membrane potential and action potentials are 
discussed along with some vesicular release).

As it stands, a student in our major will hear about basic brain anatomy 
(major areas and sensory/motor functions) and about basic cellular neuro 
function (resting/action potential, synaptic release) each in 2-3 
different courses for exactly the reason Rick raised: not every student 
in all of our classes will have taken intro neuroscience.

I'm sure there are many other solutions to this problem, but this is the 
one we plan to try.


On 9/22/14 2:42 PM, Murray, Rick via FUN_Mail wrote:
> Hi everyone,
>    We are in the process of developing an interdisciplinary neuroscience major here at Hendrix College and we are faced with a problem of too much overlap in content in our core courses. Since we are a program and not a department, all of our faculty and most of our courses have homes in different departments (biology, psychology, philosophy etc...). Due to limited resources we plan to use many of these existing courses in our major (eg. Cellular and Molecular neurobiology, behavioral neuroscience etc...), but that means that the courses will serve two masters. Once the major is introduced, these courses will be populated with a combination of neuroscience majors and also majors from our home departments. Neuroscience majors will know basic neuroscience concepts from our intro course but majors from our home departments will not. That means that each course will have to introduce basic concepts for non-neuroscience majors but the neuroscience majors will hear this material!
  in 4 or 5
 different courses. Unfortunately we can't make the introductory neuro course a prerequisite for the others or we'll essentially be preventing our non-neuroscience majors from taking it (they won't have room in their schedule for both courses). We suspect that others may have faced this problem and would like to ask; how did you deal with it?
> Rick
> Richard Murray
> Chair, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program
> Chair, Neuroscience Program
> Judy and Randy Wilbourn Odyssey Associate Professor of Biology
> Hendrix College
> 1600 Washington Ave
> Conway, AR 72032
> Phone: 501-450-4588
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