The Learning Brain: From Perception to Memory Formation
Full course description
This course takes a purely biological view of a set of interconnected topics in the field of learning and memory. All learning and memory formation depends on changes in functional connections between neurons. The course starts with seminal findings illustrating this principle in Aplysia, from Kandel and co-workers. These findings are then compared with mechanisms of Long-Term Potentiation (LTP). In a number of papers, and accompanying lectures, students will gain insight in molecular mechanisms to manipulate intra-cellular processes contributing to LTP and neural plasticity, at the genomic, RNA, and protein levels. In parallel, students will learn about some landmark neurophysiological findings that have been crucial in our current understanding of memory formation. With this background in mind, students will start reading studies in which molecular tools are used to modulate memory formation and their neurophysiological correlates. The course will focus mainly on two forms of learning, namely episodic memory, and skill learning. Most of the papers focus on animal models of learning, using molecular and neurophysiological approaches, but there are also papers on human learning. The lectures provide crucial background to understand the papers, and in a broad sense could provide topics for exam questions. The course is challenging, so a background or strong interest in neuroscience and/or (cellular) biology is recommended very strongly, and students must have a genuine interest in biological approaches of learning and memory.
- learn about, discuss and understand basic neurophysiological and molecular mechanisms of learning and memory (e.g., plasticity, cortical remapping, long-term potentiation (LTP), gene expression, proteins);
- analyse and evaluate basic approaches and research methods central to the study of conditioning, skill learning and episodic memory;
- discuss some novel neuroscience developments in memory formation and updating;
- are able to closely examine and scrutinize front-edge empirical research papers.