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Unit information: Neurobiology: from nerve cells to behaviour in 2018/19

Please note: It is possible that the information shown for future academic years may change due to developments in the relevant academic field. Optional unit availability varies depending on both staffing and student choice.

Unit name Neurobiology: from nerve cells to behaviour
Unit code BIOL20102
Credit points 10
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2C (weeks 13 - 18)
Unit director Dr. Soffe
Open unit status Not open

None. Recommended: BIOL11000 or BIOL12000 or BIOL15000 or PHYY10100.



School/department School of Biological Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This unit explores the ways that nervous systems work to allow animals to behave. It starts by considering the basic components of nervous systems, the neurones, and how they operate and communicate with each other at synapses using chemical transmitters. The ways that neurones are used to inform animals about the world around them will then be illustrated with selected examples of sensory systems. We will then look at how nervous systems generate behaviour, starting with simple reflexes and moving on to more complex behaviour.

Practicals will explore the physiology and anatomy of nervous systems. Each student will undertake 3 x 3-hour practical classes. Two practicals involve making electrical recordings from living insects. This practical experience with living animals is an important part of the course, especially making electrical recordings of nerve cell activities. Reports on recordings are due in 1 week after the class. Feedback for both these practicals is by specific comments on reports, generic class feedback and specimen answers.

The other hands-on experience uses dissection to examine the structures of the nervous system. Dissections will be assessed at the end of the class and marks will be available next day.


  • to provide students with an understanding of the basic operation of simple neuronal circuits that allow animals to behave
  • to provide students with practical experience of electrophysiology and neuroanatomy.
  • to prepare students for more advanced study of neurobiology

Intended learning outcomes

Students will understand basic operation of simple neuronal circuits that allow animals to behave. They will have practical experience of electrophysiology and neuroanatomy.

Teaching details

  • 3 x 1 hour weekly lectures
  • 3 x 3 hour lab/practicals
  • Self-directed learning week. Students are expected to spend this time on directed reading.

Assessment Details

Attendance at practicals and completion of specified practical reports is mandatory.

Laboratory practical assessment (40%). End of Session exam (60%).

Reading and References

“Behavioural Neurobiology”. G.K.H. Zupanc. Oxford University Press, Oxford.