Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session


  • To provide a systematic introduction to the mammalian nervous system, emphasizing the structural and functional organization of the human brain.
  • To expose students to the field of neuroscience and some of the neuroscientists at MIT.


This course begins with the study of nerve cells: their structure, the propagation of nerve impulses and transfer of information between nerve cells, the effect of drugs on this process, and the development of nerve cells into the brain and spinal cord. We then move to the sensory systems such as olfaction, hearing, and vision and discuss how physical energy such as light is converted into neural signals, where these signals travel in the brain, and how they are processed. Next we study the control of voluntary movement. Finally, we cover the neurochemical bases of brain diseases and those systems which control motivation, emotion, learning and memory.


Bear, Mark F., Barry W. Connors, and Michael A. Paradiso. Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 3rd ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006. ISBN: 9780781760034. [Preview in Google Books.]

It will be assumed by the lecturers that you have read the assigned readings before class, and you will be examined on material covered in the reading assignments. Warning: the reading assignments are substantial; do not put them off until just prior to an exam!

Exams, Problem Sets, and Grades

There will be three problem sets. Collaboration is allowed. However, you must write up your answers independently, and document the names of your collaborators on your writeup.

Exams will include multiple choice, short answer, and essay questions and will cover the material presented in lecture and in the assigned reading unless Prof. Bear or Prof. Seung state otherwise.

Please note: Late problem sets will not be accepted. There are no make-up exams!

Problem sets 10%
Quiz - anatomy (in class Week #7) 10%
Participation in recitation discussions 5%
Exam 1 20%
Exam 2 20%
Final exam 35%



1 Introduction Seung  
Part 1: Neurons
2 Cellular neuroanatomy: neurons and glia Bear  
Neurophysiology 1: resting potential Bear  
3 Neurophysiology 2: action potential Bear Problem set 1 due
Synaptic transmission 1: physiology Bear
4 Synaptic transmission 2: chemistry Cooke  
5 Exam 1    
Part 2: Neural systems
5 (cont.) Organization of the vertebrate brain Graybiel  
6 Vision 1: the eye Seung  

Anatomy quiz

Vision 2: thalamus and V1 cortex

Vision 3: beyond V1 Seung  
8 Hearing Seung Problem set 2 due
Olfaction Seung
9 Motor system 1 Seung  
Motor system 2 Seung  
10 Exam 2    
Part 3: Brain and behavior
11 Chemical control of brain 1 Bear  
12 Brain disorders Tsai  
13 Chemical control of brain 2 motivation Bear  
Learning and memory 1 Seung  
14 Attention Desimone Problem set 3 due
Learning and memory 2 Seung
15 Emotion Seung  
Sleep Hobson  
  Final exam