Medical Neuroscience explores the functional organization and neurophysiology of the human central nervous system, while providing a neurobiological framework for understanding human behavior. In this course, you will discover the organization of the neural systems in the brain and spinal cord that mediate sensation, motivate bodily action, and integrate sensorimotor signals with memory, emotion and related faculties of cognition. The overall goal of this course is to provide the foundation for understanding the impairments of sensation, action and cognition that accompany injury, disease or dysfunction in the central nervous system. The course will build upon knowledge acquired through prior studies of cell and molecular biology, general physiology and human anatomy, as we focus primarily on the central nervous system. This online course is designed to include all of the core concepts in neurophysiology and clinical neuroanatomy that would be presented in most first-year neuroscience courses in schools of medicine. However, there are some topics (e.g., biological psychiatry) and several learning experiences (e.g., hands-on brain dissection) that we provide in the corresponding course offered in the Duke University School of Medicine on campus that we are not attempting to reproduce in Medical Neuroscience online. Nevertheless, our aim is to faithfully present in scope and rigor a medical school caliber course experience. This course comprises six units of content organized into 12 weeks, with an additional week for a comprehensive final exam: - Unit 1 Neuroanatomy (weeks 1-2). This unit covers the surface anatomy of the human brain, its internal structure, and the overall organization of sensory and motor systems in the brainstem and spinal cord. - Unit 2 Neural signaling (weeks 3-4). This unit addresses the fundamental mechanisms of neuronal excitability, signal generation and propagation, synaptic transmission, post synaptic mechanisms of signal integration, and neural plasticity. - Unit 3 Sensory systems (weeks 5-7). Here, you will learn the overall organization and function of the sensory systems that contribute to our sense of self relative to the world around us: somatic sensory systems, proprioception, vision, audition, and balance senses. - Unit 4 Motor systems (weeks 8-9). In this unit, we will examine the organization and function of the brain and spinal mechanisms that govern bodily movement. - Unit 5 Brain Development (week 10). Next, we turn our attention to the neurobiological mechanisms for building the nervous system in embryonic development and in early postnatal life; we will also consider how the brain changes across the lifespan. - Unit 6 Cognition (weeks 11-12). The course concludes with a survey of the association systems of the cerebral hemispheres, with an emphasis on cortical networks that integrate perception, memory and emotion in organizing behavior and planning for the future; we will also consider brain systems for maintaining homeostasis and regulating brain state.
- Week 1 - Getting Started in Medical Neuroscience
Let's get started in Medical Neuroscience! Each module in Medical Neuroscience will begin with a brief description like this that provides you with an overview of the module. In this first module, you will get to know something about Prof. White and his car...
- Week 1 - Neuroanatomy: Introducing the Human Brain
Your introduction to Medical Neuroscience continues as you experience in this module a brief introduction to the human brain, its component cells, and some basic anatomical conventions for finding your way around the human central nervous system.
- Week 2 - Neuroanatomy: Surface Anatomy of the Human CNS
We now begin in earnest our lessons on neuroanatomy with the surface of the human brain, including a brief run through the cranial nerves and the blood supply to the CNS. In this module, you will learn the basic subdivisions of the vertebrate nervous system; h...
- Week 2 - Neuroanatomy: Internal Anatomy of the Human CNS
- Week 3 - Neural Signaling: Electrical Excitability and Signal Propagation
We now turn our attention from the tangible (human neuroanatomy) to the physiological as we explore the means by which neurons generate, propagate and communicate electrical signals. After exploring those structures in the human brain that are visible to the u...
- Week 4 - Neural Signaling: Synaptic Transmission and Synaptic Plasticity
Let’s continue our studies of neural signaling by learning about what happens at synaptic junctions, where the terminal ending of one neuron meets a complementary process of another excitable cell.
- Week 5 - Sensory Systems: General Principles and Somatic Sensation
We have reached a significant juncture in Medical Neuroscience as we turn our attention to the organization and function of the sensory systems. We will begin our studies with the somatic sensory systems, which includes subsystems for mechanical sensation and ...
- Week 6 - Sensory Systems: The Visual System
This module will provide lessons that are designed to help you understand the basic mechanisms by which light is transduced into electrical signals that are then used to construct visual perceptions in the brain. Your studies of the visual system will benefit ...
- Week 7 - Sensory Systems: Audition, Vestibular Sensation and the Chemical Senses
Our survey of the sensory systems continues as we now turn our attention to the auditory system, the vestibular system, and the chemical sensory systems. As you study this content, notice the similarities and the differences that pertain to the general mechani...
- Week 8 - Movement and Motor Control: Lower and Upper Motor Neurons
We come now to another pivot in Medical Neuroscience where our focus shifts from sensation to action. Or to borrow a phrase made famous by C.S. Sherrington more than a century ago (the title of his classic text), we will now consider the “integrative action of...
- Week 8 - Movement and Motor Control: Understanding the Paradigm of Eye Movements
At this juncture in our exploration of motor control, let’s focus on one of the best studied paradigms for understanding the neural control of movement: the eye movement system.
- Week 9 - Movement and Motor Control: Modulation of Movement
Next, we will consider two major brain systems that modulate the output of upper motor neuronal circuits: the basal ganglia and the cerebellum. Take note: the output of these systems is NOT directed at lower motor circuits directly; rather, their output engage...
- Week 9 - Movement and Motor Control: Visceral Motor Control
We conclude our survey of movement and motor control by considering the visceral motor system, perhaps better known as the autonomic nervous system. As you study this lesson, consider how the disparate physiology of the viscera has impact not only on the inter...
- Week 10 - The Changing Brain: The Brain Across the Lifespan
This module represents another turning point in Medical Neuroscience. Now that we have surveyed human neuroanatomy and our sensory and motor systems, we are ready to take a step back and consider how this magnificent central nervous system came to be the way t...
- Week 11 - Complex Brain Functions: Associational Cortex
It may surprise you to know that in all of our studies of the neural systems for sensation and action, we have yet to properly account for the organization and function of roughly 75% of the entire cerebral mantle. Thus, only 25% of the cerebral cortex is acco...
- Week 12 - Complex Brain Functions: Sleep, Emotion and Addiction
In this concluding module of Medical Neuroscience, we will consider the neurobiology of sleep and the neurobiology of emotion, including addiction. Both topics involve explorations of complex, widely distributed systems in the forebrain and brainstem that modu...
- Week 13 - Comprehensive Final Exam
This module contains materials that will help you prepare for the final challenge in Medical Neuroscience: our clinical case-based, Comprehensive Final Exam.
- Week 13 - Closing Remarks
Please allow me a few more moments of your time to express my thanks for all your efforts to make it through Medical Neuroscience, and to wish you well on all your future endeavors!
Leonard E. White, Ph.D.
Department of Neurology, Department of Neurobiology, Duke University School of Medicine; Department of Psychology & Neuroscience, Trinity College of Arts & Sciences; Director of Education, Duke Institute for Brain Sciences; Duke University