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Course Code: BIOL 3621
Faculty: Science & Technology
Department: Biology
Credits: 4.0
Semester: 15
Learning Format: Lecture, Lab
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

The course will provide an overview of neural cell biology, neurophysiology and neurochemistry. The molecular and cellular basis of the sensory and motor functions in animals, including their behaviour, will be examined. The theory component will be accompanied by case studies and discussions of current neuroscience topics.

Course Content

1. Evolution of the Nervous Systems

  • Hypotheses on the evolutionary origin of neurons

  • Trends in the evolution of the invertebrate nervous system

  • Evolution of the vertebrate brain

  • Convergent evolution of intelligence

2. Neuroanatomy

  • General organization of the human nervous system

  • Functional anatomy of the brain and the spinal cord

  • Cellular neuroanatomy: neurons and neuroglia

  • Ventricles and meninges

  • Main tracts, nuclei, nerves and ganglia

  • Embryonic development of the nervous system

3. Brain Circulation and Metabolism

  • Blood supply to the central nervous system

  • Vascular territories of the cerebral arteries

  • Cerebral energy metabolism

  • Myelin formation and structure

  • Neurotransmitter synthesis

4. Neural Signalling

  • Ion channels and neuronal membrane potential

  • Local signalling: passive electrical properties of the neurons

  • Propagated signalling: the action potential

  • Synaptic transmission and synaptic integration

5. Sensory Pathways I

  • Coding of sensory information

  • The somatosensory system

  • The perception of touch, pain and temperature

6. Sensory Pathways II

  • Vision: retinal processing and visual pathways

  • Hearing: sensory transduction and auditory pathways

7. Motor Control I

  • Organization of the motor systems

  • Lower motor neuron circuits

  • Upper motor neuron circuits

  • Posture and locomotion

8. Motor Control II

  • Cerebellum

  • Basal ganglia

  • The control of gaze

9. Brain & Homeostasis

  • Spinal cord, brain stem and reflexive behaviour

  • Arousal and sleep

  • Hypothalamus

  • Autonomic nervous system

10. Brain & Behaviour

  • Functional organization of the cerebral cortex

  • Cellular mechanisms of learning and memory

  • The limbic system and emotions

11. Laboratory topics

  • Brain anatomy

  • Neuronal histology

  • Invertebrate behaviour

  • Invertebrate neuropharmacology

  • Neurophysiology through computer models

  • Neurophysiology through experiments with human subjects (with Ethics Approval)

Methods of Instruction

There are four hours of classroom instruction (lecture, tutorials, group discussions) and two hours of laboratory instruction per week.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. The instructor will present a written course outline with specific evaluation criteria at the beginning of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the following:

Evaluation Marks
Quizzes 15-20
Assignments & lab reports   5-10
Midterm examination 20-25
Term paper  10-15
Final examination 30-35

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1.  Outline the main trends and milestones in the evolutionary history of the nervous system in invertebrates and vertebrates.
  2. Describe the structure and components of the human nervous system.

  3. Identify the unique biochemical, metabolic and physiological characteristics of the brain.

  4. Discuss the cellular and molecular processes involved in the generation, propagation and transmission of nerve impulses.

  5. Describe the neural pathways involved in the acquisition, conduction and processing of sensory information.

  6. Describe the neural pathways involved in the generation and control of movement.

  7. Discuss the mechanisms by which the autonomic nervous system contributes to homeostasis.

  8. Explain the neural basis of complex brain functions such as learning, memory and emotions.

  9. Discuss the application of various research methods to decipher the structure and function of the nervous system.

course prerequisites

BIOL 2103



curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.