Neurobiology Curriculum




Eva Anton, Molecular Analysis of Neuronal Migration and Layer Formation in Cerebral Cortex

Aysenil Belger, Cortical Circuits Underlying Attention and Executive Function in the Human Brain

George R. Breese (2) Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology, Neuropharmacology, Alcoholism, Neuroplasticity, Transcription Factors, RT/PCR Developmental Disorders, Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Regina M. Carelli (142) Behavioral Neurophysiology, Neurobiology of Drug Abuse, Brain Reward Systems

Richard E. Cheney (136) Molecular Motors in the Nervous System, Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology of the Cytoskeleton

Fulton T. Crews (133) Molecular Aspects of Neuronal Vitality and Alcohol

Stephen T. Crews (129) Molecular Genetics of Drosophila Nervous System Development, Control of Neural Gene Regulation

Mohanish Deshmukh, Mechanisms of Apoptosis Regulation in Neurons, Stem Cells, and Cancer Cells

Nikolay Dokholyan, Molecular Etiologies of Human Disease

Serena Dudek, Connections in the Brain (Synapses) Change in Response to Activity, How Synaptic Plasticity during Early Postnatal Development is Different from Plasticity in the Adult

John H. Gilmore (137) Human Brain Development, Immune Regulation of Neurodevelopment, Schizophrenia

Susan Girdler, Women's Health, Neuroendocrine Dysregulation in Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

Klaus Hahn, To Understand Cell Behaviors Mediated by Structural Dynamics

Clyde W. Hodge (150) Neurobehavioral Pharmacology and Pharmacogenomics of Addiction

Josephine Johns, Behavioral Pharmacology, Toxicology, Teratology, Neuroendocrinology

Weili Lin, Cerebral Ischemia, Human Brain Development, PET, MR

Donald T. Lysle (122) Neuroimmunology, Learning Processes

William Maixner (112) Pain Mechanisms and Analgesia

Patricia F. Maness (90) Cell Adhesion and Signal Transduction in Developing Neurons

Paul B. Manis (151) Cellular Basis of Auditory Information Processing in Brainstem and Cortex

Greg Matera, Genetics and Cell Biology of RNP Assembly and Transport

Glenn Matsushima, The Responses of Macrophages during Injury to the Central Nervous System and during Inflammation after Insult by Bacterial Pathogens

Ken D. McCarthy (77) Neuronal-Glial Interactions Studied in Hippocampal Brain Slices Using Electrophysiology, Confocal Imaging, and Conditional Gene Knockout Mice

Rick B. Meeker (107) Neuroendocrine Regulation, Glutamate Receptors, Mechanisms of AIDS Dementia

A. Leslie Morrow (121) Molecular Neurobiology of GABAA Receptors and Alcoholism

Mark Peifer, Cell Adhesion, Signal Transduction, and Cytoskeletal Regulation in Development and Disease

Benjamin Philpot, Modification of the Cerebral Cortex by Sensory Experiencee

Joseph Piven, Pathogenesis of Autism including Neural Mechanisms, Genetic Basis and Neuropsychological and Behavioral Phenotype

Bryan Roth, GPCR Structure and Function, Drug Discovery

Aldo Rustioni, Medical Anatomy, Neuroscience

Richard J. Samulski (135) Development of Viral Vectors for Brain Specific Gene Delivery

William D. Snider (148) Developmental Regulation of Neuronal Growth Factors

Patrick Sullivan, Complex Traits in Humans, Psychiatric Genetics, Pharmacogenetics, Twin Studies, Schizophrenia, Major Depressionm Nicotine Dependence

Todd Thiele, Neurobiology of Alcoholism

Jenny P. Ting (105) Use of Murine Models to Study the Role and Regulation of Inflammatory Genes in Demyelination and Remyelination

Richard Weinberg, Supramolecular Organization of the Postsynaptic Density, Calcium Sources and Actin-Binding Proteins in Spines

Ellen Weiss, Regulation of G-Protein Signaling Pathways, Visual Signal Transduction

R. Mark Wightman (118) Neurotransmitters, Dopamine Reward Exocytosis, Neurochemistry

Kirk Wilhelmsen, The Genetic Mapping of Susceptibility Loci for Complex Neurological Diseases, Development of Large-Scale Automated Gene Mapping Technologies to Facilitate These Mapping Efforts

Associate Professors

Jay Brenman, Neuronal Dendrite and Axon Morphologies

Sabrina Burmeister, Mechanisms and Evolution of Social Behavior by Studying Communication in Frogs

Gabriel Dichter, Understanding and Improving Treatments for Neurodevelopmental and Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Kelly Giovanello, Exploring the Cognitive and Neural Processes Mediating Memory in Young Adults and Specifying How These Processes Change with Healthy Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease

Carl J. Malanga, Child Neurology, Movement Disorders

Silva Markovic-Plese, Autoimmune Response in MS, New Immunomodulatory Therapies

Keith Sockman, Using Birds, Study of the Ultimate and Proximate Mechanisms for Reproductive Flexibility

Mark Zylka, Molecules and Mechanisms for Pain

Assistant Professors

Joyce Besheer, Neurobiological Mechanisms Underlying Alcoholism and Addiction

Charlotte Boettiger, Determining the Cognitive Effects of Addiction Treatments and the Brain Mechanisms of Such Effects

Todd Cohen, Pathogenic Mechanisms that Underlie Protein Aggregation Diseases such as Alzheimer's Disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Doug Fitzpatrick, Neuronal Bases of Sound Localization Performance

Flavio Frohlich, Combining Electrophysiology, Computational Modeling, and Engineering Principles to Investigate How Cortical Networks Generate Physiological and Pathological Activity States

Tim Gershon, Regulation of Neural Progenitor Proliferation in Normal Development and in Pediatric Brain Tumors

Stephanie Gupton, Coordination and Regulation of Cytoskeletal Dynamics and Membrane Trafficking that Underlie Cell Shape Change and Cell Motility during Both Development and Cancer Metastasis

Shawn Hingtgen, Stem Cells, Treatment of Terminal Cancers, Brain Cancer

Tom Kash, Synaptic Transmission and Plasticity

Rebecca Knickmeyer-Santelli, Understanding the Mechanisms which Modulate the Differential Vulnerability to and Expression of Neurodevelopmental Disorders in Each Sex with a Particular Focus on Hormonal and Genetic Factors

Ryan Miller, Characterization of the Molecular Genetic Mechanisms Responsible for This Heterogeneity Using Tumor Tissues

Andrea Nackley, Pain Neurobiology and Genetics

Kathryn Reissner, Chronic Self-Administration of Cocaine, Neuronastrocyte Communication, Long-Term Drug Seeking

Donita Robinson, Chemistry and Physiology of the Nucleus Accumbens

Yen-Yu Ian Shih, Developing and Applying Innovative Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Technologies to Study Neurovascular Functions in the Brain and the Eye, with an Ultimate Goal of Translating Preclinical Indications to Successful Clinical Development

Spencer Smith, Neural Circuitry and How it Changes Moment-to-Moment, as Well as Over a Lifetime, Using Imaging, Electrophysiology, and Behavior

Juan Song, Adult Neurogenesis Function and Regulation

Garret Stuber, Elucidating the Synaptic Mechanisms That Underlie Storage and Expression of Learned Association in Models of Psychiatric Disorders

Lisa Tarantino, Genes that Increase Risk for Psychiatric Disorders

Ann Marion Taylor, Micro-Scale Devices, Microfluidics, Synapse Formation, Synaptic Plasticity, Protein Synthesis

The Curriculum in Neurobiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a broadly based interdisciplinary graduate training program in the neurosciences. With 80 active faculty, strong research funding, and a long and successful training history, the Curriculum ranks among the best programs in the country.

Our program has 70 primary faculty members who can serve as dissertation advisors. Research opportunities in the curriculum are supported by the presence of an active neuroscience community at UNC–Chapel Hill. This community includes members of every basic science department in the School of Medicine, members of many clinical departments, as well as several departments in the Arts and Sciences. University research and clinical centers with a neuroscience component also contribute to the vibrant and active community that makes Neurobiology a major intellectual focus at UNC–Chapel Hill.

The Neurobiology Curriculum has an average of 45 students at different levels of training at any given time; typically, 5–8 students are accepted each year depending on available funding. Students in the Curriculum are supported during their first 1–2 years by a long-standing training grant funded through NINDS, and in subsequent years by either their mentor's research grants or individual fellowships. The average time to graduation is 5.4 years.

Neuroscience is by its very nature an interdisciplinary endeavor, and at UNC–Chapel Hill the Neurobiology Curriculum provides a broadly structured training curriculum and research environment that spans the range from genetic studies of the nervous system through the complexities of human cognitive function

Applicants are urged to complete their applications through BBSP by early December.

Courses required for the Ph.D. degree in neurobiology include:

Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience (NBIO 722A, NBIO 722B, NBIO722C) Systems and Translational Neuroscience (NBIO723A, NBIO723B, NBIO723C)

The purpose of this course in cellular and molecular neurobiology is to explore the experimental and theoretical basis for our current concepts of nervous system function. The course runs as a series of three Blocks in the fall semester and three Blocks in the spring semester. This is NOT a survey course in neurobiology. The goals of the course are not so much to inform as to foster an understanding of how we accumulate our knowledge and hypotheses; not to provide a complete textbook picture of the functioning nervous system as we currently know it, but to provide the intellectual tools and skills to evaluate current and future hypotheses; not so much to provide answers to questions as to attempt to define the unanswered questions.

Block 1 – Neurobiology Bootcamp: Introduction to Techniques Used in Studying the Nervous System/Electrical Signaling (NBIO 722A) (19 sessions)

Because the students taking the Core course have diverse backgrounds, this block is divided into two sections.

Block 2 – Neurotransmitter Receptors (NBIO 722B) (10 sessions). This block focuses on neurotransmitter signaling through distinct receptor subclasses. Topics include G-protein coupled receptors and associated signaling, receptor binding theory, ionotropic and metabotropic glutamate and GABA receptors, receptor trafficking and localization. Fall. *Kash, Brenman, Harden, Nicholas, Weiss, McElligott.

Block 3 – Synaptic Mechanisms and Intracellular Signaling (NBIO 722C) (10 sessions). This block focuses on synaptic mechanisms of neurotransmitter release and termination of signaling, as well as intracellular signaling cascades that are regulated by synaptic transmission. Topics include electrophysiological and molecular analysis of neurotransmitter release, short-term plasticity in neurotransmitter release, synaptic plasticity, calcium signaling and regulation of intracellular signaling cascades and gene expression. Fall. *Philpot, Carelli, Kash, McCarthy, Wightman, and Stuber.

Block 4 – Development of the Nervous System (NBIO 723A) (11 sessions). This block focuses on molecular mechanisms of neuronal development and their relation to disease. Topics include neurogenesis, neural stem cells, molecular control of axonal guidance and neuronal migration, and cell and synaptic adhesions molecules.. Spring. Crews, Maness, *Anton, Deshmukh.

Block 5 –Anatomy and Function of Sensory and Motor Systems (NBIO 723B) (17 sessions). This block focuses on the neural circuitry that comprises sensory and motor systems. Topics include organization and function of the retina, and visual cortex, mechanosensation, genetically defined circuits for nociception, organization and function of somatosensory cortex, motor cortex, basal ganglia neural circuitry, and cerebellar organization and function. Spring. *Zylka, Manis, Fitzpatrick McCoy, Stuber, Snider and Weiss, Street, Cheney.

Block 6 –Neurobiology of Disease (NBIO 723C) (12 sessions). This block focuses on the neurobiological underpinnings of disease. For each topic, the disease and its impact on society is introduced, and then detailed discussions of the molecular, genetic underpinnings and circuit and behavioral consequences of the disorder are presented. Topics include epilepsy, addiction, fear and anxiety circuitry, schizophrenia, autism, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. This block also includes two classes devoted to human neuroimaging methods such at fMRI and DTI. Spring. *Snider, Gilmore, Frohlich, Stuber Zylka, and Piven.

*denotes block head

Communication of Scientific Results Neurobiology (NBIO 850)

The class teaches the principles for giving effective talks. The course also covers how to introduce speakers, prepare slides, and speak with the public about science. Spencer Smith currently directs the course, with additional faculty participating in each class. The class is limited to Neurobiology Curriculum students. The fall semester is focused on speaking. Students prepare talks, refine them in small groups (3-4 students), and then present them in class. The in-class talk is videotaped, and these tapes are reviewed by the students in a session with their peers. After another round of refining with their small group, the students give their polished talks to the department in a formal setting. Writing is critiqued in class, with peers and guest faculty all offering input. The videotaped reviews and peer critiquing help tremendously to teach NBIO 850 - Communicating Scientific Results (a.k.a. PClass) effective speaking and writing methods, and this prepares students for the next stage in their scientific careers. Two elective specialty courses and three research apprenticeships (via BBSP) in different laboratories fulfill the course requirement. S. Smith, Fall.

Introductory Statistics for Laboratory Scientists (BBSP 710)

BBSP 710 introduces the basic concepts and methods of statistics with emphasis on applications in the experimental biological sciences. Emphasis is on mastery of basic statistical skills and familiarity with situations in which advanced analytical skills may be needed. Course objectives include learning to use statistical reasoning to formulate scientific questions in quantitative terms, learning to design and interpret graphical and tabular displays of statistical information, using basic probability models to describe trends and random variation in laboratory data, and using basic statistical models, including tests and confidence intervals, to draw inferences from data. Topics include experimental design, basic summary statistics, graphical methods for visualizing data, probability, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, and regression. The course introduces and employs the freely available statistical software, R, to explore and analyze data. Bair, Fall, 5 weeks.

On the Web, the courses menu lists descriptions of these core courses of the neurobiology curriculum; other selected offerings are shown under the "Electives." Additional elective courses in biochemistry, statistics, molecular biology, physiology, etc., are available to compensate for specific deficiencies or enhance training. It is the current philosophy of the curriculum faculty that students should receive a broad exposure to as many aspects of neuroscience as reasonable, from molecules and genetics through systems, behavior, and human diseases of the nervous system.

The following is a partial list of courses that neurobiology students may consider for their elective requirements. Please see the relevant section of this publication for current detailed course descriptions.

Special Topics in Neurobiology: Microscopy and Imaging in Neurobiology (NBIO 890-001)

Special Topics in Neurobiology: The Methods in Genetic Engineering (NBIO 890-002)

Special Topics in Neurobiology: Network Neuroscience (NBIO 890-003)

Developmental Neurobiology (NBIO 724)

Neural Information Processing (NBIO 729)

Gene Brain Behavior Interactions in Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Towards an Integration of Perspectives on Disease Mechanisms (NBIO 800)

Clinical Syndromes and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (NBIO 801)

Biological Bases of Behavior I (PSYC 701)

Biological Bases of Behavior II (PSYC 702)

Translational Seminar in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience (NBIO 727)

Seminar in Neurobiology: Principles of Brain Evolution (BIOL 850)

Neuropharmacology of Alcohol and Substance Abuse (PHCO 728)

Developmental Genetics (BIOL 624)

Principles of Statistics Infer (BIOS 600)

Applied Biostatistics (PHCO 750)

Research Ethics (GRAD 721)

Developmental Toxicology and Teratology (CBIO 423)

Studies in Oral Biology (OBIO 732)

Clinical Psychopharmacology (PSYC 707)

Behavioral Pharmacology (NBIO 705)

Seminar in the Biological Foundations of Psychology (PSYC 708)

Special Readings in Psychology (PSYC 791)

Statistical Methods in Psychology (PSYC 830)

Courses for Graduate and Advanced Undergraduate Students


400 Conditioning and Learning (PSYC 400) (3). See PSYC 400 for description.

401 Animal Behavior (PSYC 401) (3). See PSYC 401 for description.

402 Advanced Biopsychology (PSYC 402) (3). See PSYC 402 for description.

411 Neurobiology Laboratory Apprenticeship (1–21). Permission of the department. A laboratory-tutorial course to acquaint the student with methods used in several areas of neurobiology.

412 Neurobiology Laboratory Apprenticeship (1–21). Permission of the department. A laboratory-tutorial course to acquaint the student with methods used in several areas of neurobiology.

450 Tutorial in Neurobiology (3). Permission of the instructor. A tutorial in selected topics in neurobiology tailored to meet interests of the students and competencies of instructors.

Courses for Graduate Students


701A Brain & Behavior I (PSYC 701) (3). See PSYC 701 for description.

702A Brain & Behavior II (PSYC 702) (3). See PSYC 702 for description.

703 Advanced Biological Psychology: Central Nervous System (PSYC 703) (3). See PSYC 703 for description.

704 Applications of Experimental Psychology to Health Research (PSYC 704) (3). See PSYC 704 for description.

705 Behavioral Pharmacology (PSYC 705, PHCO 705) (3). See PSYC 705 for description.

708 Seminar in the Biological Foundations of Psychology (PSYC 708) (3). See PSYC 708 for description.

710 Medical Neurobiology (PHYI 710) (3). See PHYI 710 for description.

721 Directed Studies in Oral Biology (OBIO 723) (1). See OBIO 723 for description.

722A Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: Introduction and Electrical Signaling (BIOC 722A, PHCO 722A, PHYI 722A) (2). Permission of the department. Introduces topics as brain cell biology, molecular biology applied to neurons, membrane potentials and imaging methods. The second half of this block introduces such topics as resistance, capacitance, passive membranes, classes of ion channels, potassium and calcium channels, and action potential initiation.

722B Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: Postsynaptic Mechanisms-Receptors (BIOC 722B, PHCO 722B, PHYI 722B) (2). Permission of the department. Consideration of membrane receptor molecules activated by neurotransmitters in the nervous system with emphasis on ligand binding behavior and molecular and functional properties of different classes of receptors. Course meets for four weeks with six lecture hours per week.

722C Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: Synaptic Mechanisms & Intracellular Signaling (BIOC 722C, PHCO 722C, PHYI 722C) (2). Permission of the department. Explores biochemical signal transduction events following activation of neurotransmitter receptors including G-protein coupling, desensitization, signaling specificity, downstream effectors, calcium signaling, and tyrosine kinases. Course meets for five weeks with six lecture hours per week.

723A Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: Development of the Nervous System (BIOC 723A, PHCO 723A, PHYI 723A) (2). Permission of the department. This block covers neural induction, neural stem cells, glial development, neural cell death and neurotrophin during development, and synaptic adhesion molecules.

723B Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: Anatomy and Function of Sensory and Motor Systems (BIOC 723B, PHCO 723B, PHYI 723B) (2). Permission of the department. This block introduces the sensory pathways of vision, audition, taste, olfaction, pain, and touch, as well as the motor pathways of the spinal cord, basal ganglia, cerebellum, and motor cortex. Discusses mechanisms of sensory information processing and motor execution. Includes peripheral and central mechanisms of pain.

723C Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology: Imaging & Disease (2). This block covers CNS imaging, regeneration, and such diseases as Alzheimer's, ALS, Parkinson's, epilepsy, addiction, autism, and schizophrenia.

724 Developmental Neurobiology (PHYI 724) (3). See PHYI 724 for description.

725 Experimental Neurophysiology (3). Permission of the instructor. Six or more laboratory hours a week.

727 Translational Seminar in Cognitive and Clinical Neuroscience (2). Introduces new neuroimaging techniques and their application to the study of neural correlates of cognitive and behavioral impairments in brain disorders. Reviews the theories and research methodologies that investigate how brain functions support and give rise to mental operations such as attention, memory, emotions, social cognition in the healthy brain.

728 Diseases of the Nervous System (2). Prerequisites, NBIO 201, or 222 and 223. Explores the basic neurobiology and the clinical aspects of a range of diseases of the nervous system, including ALS, Alzheimer's, autism, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, deafness, epilepsy, pain, brain tumors, stroke, Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases.

729 Sensory Neural Information Processing and Representation (3). Prerequisites, NBIO 722 and 733. Additional required preparation, one year of calculus, familiarity with MATLAB or Python, or permission of the instructor. A discussion/reading seminar covering the fundamentals of nervous system information processing and integration, with examples from sensory systems.

732 Biological Concepts (OBIO 732, PHCO 747) (1.5). See OBIO 732 for description.

735 Seminar in Chemical Neurobiology (2). Required preparation, two semesters of biochemistry.

800 Gene-Brain-Behavior Interactions in Neurodevelopmental Disorders: Perspectives on Disease Mechanisms (1-5). This seminar examines the topics of genetics, neuroanatomy, physiology, and behavioral development to provide a broad-based and integrated background to understand the etiology and potential mechanism underlying neurodevelopmental disorders.

801 Clinical Syndromes and Neurodevelopmental Disorders (1-5). This seminar will review the epidemiology, pathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment of neurodevelopmental syndromes and disorders. Topics will range from single gene (e.g. fragile X syndrome and tuberous sclerosis) to complex genetic (e.g., autism, schizophrenia), to environmental disorders with varied phenotypes, pathogenetic mechanisms, and treatments.

824 Pain and Somatic Sensation (PHYI 824) (1–21). See PHYI 824 for description.

850 Seminar in Neurobiology (BIOL 850, PHYI 850, PHCO 850) (3). Permission of the department. An intensive consideration of selected topics and problems in neurobiology. The course focuses on the development of presentation and evaluation skills of the trainees. Six credit hours required for neurobiology graduates.

857 Seminar in Comparative Animal Behavior (BIOL 857) (1-2). See BIOL 857 for description.

858 Seminar in Comparative Physiology (BIOL 858) (1-2). See BIOL 858 for description.

890 Special Topics in Neurobiology (1-5). Special topics in neurobiology. Content will vary from semester to semester.

891 Special Topics in Physiology (PHYI 712A) (1–5). See PHYI 712A for description.

892 Special Topics in Physiology (PHYI 712B) (1–5). Permission of the instructor. Individually arranged in-depth programs of selected topics such as membrane function, transport physiology, renal physiology, etc.

951 Research in Neurobiology (BIOL 951, PHCO 951, PHYI 951) (3–12). Permission of the department. Research in various aspects of neurobiology. Six to 24 hours a week.

993 Master's Research and Thesis (3). Course is designed to certify that the students have achieved a high level of knowledge competence in clinical and basic neurosciences, without the rigorous research experience required of a Ph.D.

994 Doctoral Research and Dissertation (3).