MEDSCI206

PRINCIPLES OF NEUROSCIENCE

Course Breakdown

 

Module A and Module B Tests: worth 7.5% each (15% total)

Laboratory Component: 30%

Pre-lab Quizzes: five quizzes worth 1% each (5% total)

Final Exam: 50%

Course Information

 

Recommended textbooks:

 

Neuroscience - Purves et al., 6th edition.

Neuroscience - Bears, Connors & Paradiso, 4th ed. 

Medical physiology: a cellular and molecular approach - Boron & Boulpaep, 2nd ed.  

 

These textbooks can be found on MEDSCI 206 Canvas page under the reading lists tab. These course textbooks (especially Neuroscience by Purves et al. in my opinion) are extremely useful when writing up your lab reports as extensive (and correct) use of scientific literature contributes to receiving a higher grade on your reports. 


Official UoA Website: link and link.
 

Basic Information 

 

A core paper for physiology students, MEDSCI 206 is a thoroughly interesting paper which can also be quite challenging. Some of the lecturers bring in real-life patients which helps illustrate key points about neurodegenerative diseases. In 2020 most students found that the Module A test was quite doable, however, do not let that make you underestimate the Module B test or the exam. 

 

This paper is very interesting, enjoyable and some may say that it is an easier paper to do well in, compared to MEDSCI205. However if this is your first physiology paper you have taken you may initially find the content load to be quite heavy and the lab report format a bit challenging as physiology lab reports are set out differently to biosci and other medsci papers. Although there is huge content required for the final exam, if you keep up to date and study efficiently, and attempt past exam questions higher grades are achievable. 

 

In 2020 there were three lectures a week which were all recorded and available via Canvas, and there were five labs in total. The topics taught in this course were divided into 3 Modules which aim to encompass different areas and depths of Neuroscience. Module A covers Development and Plasticity, module B covers Higher Functions, and module C covers Disease and Repair. Module A is tested in Test A and Module B is tested in Test B. In 2020 the module A and module B tests were held online due to COVID restrictions/lockdown. For each test you had to answer 6 SAQ’s and had ~50 minute time limit to complete the test. Module A test covered lectures 1-12 covering Assoc. Prof. Johanna Montgomery, Dr. Scott Graham, and Prof. Maurice Curtis’s lectures and was held in week 5. Module B test covered lectures 13-24 covering Dr Julie Lim, Assoc. Prof. Srdjan Vlajkovic, Prof. Janusz Lipski, Dr, Brigid Ryan, and Dr. Simon O’Carroll’s lectures and was held after the mid-semester break in week 9. 

 

In 2020, the 50% exam was held in-person and covered all 3 Modules, consisting of 50 MCQs, 14 SAQs and a pick between 1 of the 3 essay questions. (Note: Essay question topics are usually not repeated from year to year, also, what is not an essay question may usually be tested in the SAQs and vice versa). As both the module tests and the final exam contain SAQ’s practising past exam questions will be very helpful in preparing you for assessments and also testing your knowledge on the lecture content. 

 

In 2020 the course and lab manuals were only available online on Canvas. For the majority of the lecture topics the notes in the course guide either provided brief summary notes of the lecture and/or contained the learning objectives of the lecture. Therefore the information provided in the course manual is just supplementary to the lecture slides and what is taught in the lectures. The recommended textbooks listed under the Canvas Reading List and mentioned in the course guide are very useful resources when completing your lab reports and also on expanding your understanding of the content taught in lectures. 

 

Laboratory Component

 

In 2020, there were five laboratories in total for MEDSCI 206 with each lab assignment being due one week after the lab session. Often the main themes in each lab session would’ve already been covered in the lectures. There is not as much guidance as in 205 with writing up the lab reports (probably due to most students having previous physiology lab report experience due to taking 205), however the lab demonstrators are very helpful so it is wise to ask them as many questions about what is important to cover in the lab report and how to format the graphs/tables for the results you obtained. Before each lab session a pre-lab quiz is due which may require you to do some pre-lab prep readings and/or KuraCloud activities.

 

The first lab is on Neuroanatomy and has no lab report and was instead three mini essay questions where answers could be structured like SAQ’s (where no intro and conclusion was needed). Following this, Lab 2 was on conduction velocity where the lab assignment required was a physiology style lab report (aims, intro, method, results, discussion, conclusion, references). Lab 3 was on Vision and Hearing and the assignment was structured as two essay questions (1 on vision, 1 on hearing), where the results of your experiments were incorporated into your essays. Lab 4 was on Kinaesthesia and Proprioception and required another cohesively structured lab report. The final lab was on Neurodegenerative Studies and also required to be written up as a lab report. 

 

The lab reports need to be structured appropriately, with tables and graphs having appropriate figure legends, and also citing your information correctly. Your discussion section in your reports need to be detailed and every point you make needs to be supported by physiological evidence (ie how and why are you getting the results you have). Using the lab resources provided on your canvas reading list and researching physiology concepts will be needed in order to write a comprehensive discussion that is supported by evidence that is referenced. If you are unsure on how to structure your lab report and how to structure figure legends try asking your lab demonstrator as since they should be marking your reports they may have a structure they expect you to follow.

 

The lab reports are especially time-consuming and were worth 6% each so it is very important that you make sure you prioritise your time and remember to do a little each day before it’s due. Cramming a lab report in one night is not advisable especially if MEDSCI 206 is your first experience with a physiology course and writing up lab reports.

 

Lecture Content

 

Module A - Development and Plasticity

 

Synapses and Plasticity

The first section of 206 in 2020 was taught by Associate Prof. Johanna Montgomery where she covered the introduction to the course and taught four lectures on synapses and plasticity which was a relatively straightforward and interesting section. The focus of these lectures was on synaptic transmission, synapse plasticity, and how synapse plasticity can underlie learning and memory. The lecturer drew pictures under the document camera, so bringing a few different colours of pens and paper was quite handy. She also used to mark important slides in her lectures with a big yellow circle in the bottom right hand side of certain slides. 

Different cell types in the Central Nervous System

The next three lectures were taught by Dr. Scott Graham. His three lectures covered cell types and functions (with a focus on microglia, astrocytes, endothelial cells and pericytes), the blood brain barrier and neuroinflammatory processes, and neuroscience and brain diseases. Dr. Scott Graham is a very passionate lecturer who has his best interest for students to do well. Because the information can be saturating, it is important to focus on what was emphasised during lectures which is accomplishable as his slides contain a lot of information. Learning to draw his diagrams that he provides on the lecture slides may potentially be helpful for the exam.

Development

The last four lectures in this module was taught by Prof. Maurice Curtis. The first lecture recaps on brain anatomy learnt in MEDSCI 142. The rest of his lectures were on the actual developmental stages of the brain from conception to a fully developed brain. It could be helpful to brush up some terminology from BIOSCI 107 Embryology. A lot of what he says will be tested so make sure to get down everything from the lecture recordings. An excellent introduction to the course and expect a lot of overlap with the subsequent sections.

 

Module B - Higher Functions

Sensory Systems

This was probably one of the most information loaded sections of the course. The reason why it felt like this was that there were at times multiple sources of information you'd need to consult: what was presented in lecture, what was on the lecture slides, and also the sheer amount of information in Purves. Over four lectures Dr. Julie Lim introduces sensory nervous systems, olfaction and taste sensory physiology, and vision sensory physiology. Although it can seem like there is a lot of content Dr. Julie Lim is successfully able to explain the steps in the sensory systems concisely and in a way that is easy to understand. Her slides also contain a very good amount of information. 

 

Next, Associate Professor Srdjan Vlajkovic gave two lectures on hearing physiology. His slides do not contain much information/notes but usually have pictures which he will talk about and explain. He tends to cover a lot of content in his lectures and speaks very quickly so it may be easier to type down what he is saying during the lecture and go back to watch the recording to note down anything you missed during the lecture. 

 

Control of Movement

These two lectures were taught by the one and only, Professor Janusz Lipski! Many found this section very interesting because the topic was extremely relatable, and many of the fundamental neurological response concepts such as the stretch reflex was explored in good detail. Again, paying good attention to this topic would help in writing lab reports. Purves has a very good section on this topic and is a recommended read.

 

Memory

The two lectures on memory were taught by Dr. Brigid Ryan. The themes of these lectures were about how different types of memories were formed and what contributes to its formation. Again, everything has to be learnt; from famous patients’ names to the various memory experiments done on animals. However Dr. Brigid Ryan is really good at explaining the concepts and providing concrete definitions, and also clarifying which lecture content is more important to understand/remember. 

 

Spinal Cord and Sensory Processing

Dr. Simon O’Carroll had two lectures on this topic. He covered the different somatosensory pathways, where they cross over, and the spinal cord’s ability to change over time and in diseased states. Questions on the consequences of specific spinal cord lesions were quite common. As these were the last two lectures before the module B test pre-studying the content before the lectures may help in preparing for the test. Paying attention to this topic can also help you do well in lab reports.

 

Module C - Disease and Repair 

Perinatal Brain Injury

Dr. Joanne Davidson gave two lectures on the pathogenesis of perinatal brain injury and designing neuroprotective strategies revolving around perinatal brain injury. In 2020 a big focus of her lectures was the content revolving around the evolution of injury schematic diagram that shows the phases of perinatal brain injury (and what occurs during these phases and at what time frames they occur). Her slides also contained a lot of content which made it easier to follow along during her lectures. 

 

Neurodegeneration

This lecture series covered various pathophysiological conditions: 

Vascular Stroke, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Vascular stroke was an interesting topic, with a fair amount of detail in the slides. Prof. Alan Barber also brought in a stroke patient. He did use a few pictures that you need to pay attention to understand what they are about, such as the picture showing the different arteries in the brain. For Huntington’s, Maurice Curtis’ slides contained plenty of information, but as with his first set of lectures, paying attention to details may be worthwhile as he covers aetiology and genetics, pathology, and treatment options. The two Alzheimer’s lectures were taught by Dr. Phil Wood where he covered risk factors, symptoms, progression of disease, and possible treatment options. In past year papers he has also asked exam questions regarding dementia statistics so this could be something you keep note of in his lectures. Associate Professor Richard Roxburgh then gave a lecture on Parkinson’s disease where he covered clinical features, differential diagnosis, pathology, and treatment. 

 

Neural Repair

The last two lectures in this module was taught by Dr Thomas Park. His lectures covered neurogenesis and how it is positively and negatively impacted in different neurological diseases. The Pros and Cons of different treatment options and clinical trials of different neurological diseases were also covered.  

 

Final Tips

 

  • Make use of PIAZZA and ask lots of questions! The course coordinator Anuj Bhargava is a great course coordinator and will try his best to answer your questions or direct you to useful resources where you could find the help you need.

  • When answering the SAQ’s in the tests make sure to not “data dump” - don’t just put all the facts you know about the subject down without structuring it to specifically answer the question - if you go off topic you can risk not getting full marks. 

  • If you are taking multiple physiology papers, attending the (MEDSCI 205) physiology lab workshop that is held in semester 1 by SAMS at Grafton can help you in knowing how to structure your lab reports and answer any questions you may have about physiology labs (as past 205 students lead the workshop session).