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MEDSCI316

SENSORY NEUROSCIENCE: FROM MOLECULES TO DISEASE

Course Breakdown

 

Mid-Semester Test: 10%
Laboratory Component: 20%
Exam: 70%

Course Information

 

Prescribed textbook:
Neuroscience, Purves et al., 5th ed.

Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

MEDSCI 316 is a continuation of MEDSCI 206; it is a relatively straight forward paper in lecture content and the way they are tested. The laboratories in this course are very much related to the lecture contents and help in furthering your understanding outside the usual text format and also greatly advance your skills in report writing into professional standards publishable in real world journals. The lecture content in question is all about the physiology of the sensory systems of the body; the visual, olfactory, gustatory, auditory, vestibular, and somatosensory systems, incorporated along with currently ongoing researches towards pathophysiological disorders in the neurosensory field. Lastly, these lectures are followed by ADHB guest lectures on the clinical management of pain in the hospital setting. The work in this course are as follows: 3 lab assignments, 1 mid-semester test (MCQs), and the final exam (MCQs and 3 short essays). Overall, this course provides a good insight into what a degree in physiology or biomedical sciences could entail, especially towards postgraduate studies at the University of Auckland.

 

Laboratory Component

There are a total of only 3 lab assignments within the course. The first is about the visual system; you are required to complete a worksheet on the concept of binocular summation (4%). This is a relatively easy assignment based on simple and easy (subsequently fun) tests run in the clinical field.

The second lab assignment is your first lab report (6%). Now that you’re in 3rd year, they will expect you to use resources outside lectures and textbooks, mainly published journals which reflect current researches in the field. This may seem daunting at first, but it is very surprisingly easy; as easy as using Google to find your answers but instead of websites, search through databases (such as PubMed). Read the abstract to understand the research purpose and get all your information from the article’s introduction and discussion sections, while ignoring the methods and results sections. Your lab report will be based on the gustatory system; using a simple experiment carried out over 2 sessions to describe a correlation between a single gene and the subject’s food preferences.
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The third lab assignment is a journal article (10%) – yes, you will be writing your own journal article which only sounds impossible, but I found it to be strikingly similar to the lab reports I had been writing for the last 2 years; only adding in an abstract section (1 paragraph) and adding in a lot of emphases about reflecting on my experiment. The article is also carried out over 2 lab sessions with an information session and a tutorial; a total of 4 weeks to write a short article (due to word limits). The information session is a mini-tutorial that tells you the differences between the lab reports and the article you will write, along with a lot of tips that make report writing less tedious (such as automatic referencing). The tutorial has a series of example demonstrations of your experiment used in the clinical setting. This is to further your understanding (along with the lectures) to what your collected results mean, how to interpret them, and why they are of significance. The lab itself is based on the auditory system, specifically, auditory brainstem responses (ABR), which is basically looking at nervous activity in the brainstem, generated by auditory stimuli.

 

Lecture Content

Module A: The Visual System

The first module was taught by Prof. Paul Donaldson (overview of the eye, the cornea, the lens, and the cataract epidemic), Dr. Julie Lim (overview of the retina, phototranduction, and the retinal degeneration epidemic), and Prof. Steven Dakin (cortical representation and the amblyopia epidemic) in 2017. The lectures are very straight forward; you will learn the anatomy of the eye organ and its tissues, the organisation of the visual lobe, and then learn the physiologies and the conducted researches behind them. These are followed by clinical researches currently ongoing for cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and amblyopia. It is recommended you read a given article on the lens and cataracts, authored by Prof. Paul Donaldson (et al.) himself.

 

Module B: The Olfactory & Gustatory Systems

The second module is taught by the course director himself – Assoc. Prof. Srdjan Vlajkovic. There were 2 lectures for each system, looking at the anatomies and organisations of the organ structures involved (revision and continuation from MEDSCI 206). The difference in this module is that (thankfully) you do not need to memorise the nerve transduction pathways as they are not of focus, but instead some unusual concepts were taught such as the theories of taste perception, which was a common exam question in previous years.

 

Module C: The Auditory & Vestibular Systems

This module is covered by a variety of lecturers. You will first learn the anatomy of the ear, with larger focus on the inner ear, along with the physiology of how all these mechanical structures interact to allow the body to detect sounds (a revision from MEDSCI 206). The mechanisms of inner ear diseases (hearing loss) are next with examples, followed by the auditory evoked potentials (AEP), and the importance of binaural (2 ear) hearing. Lastly, Module C is finished with the vestibular organ (made of the vestibules and semi-circular canals right next to the cochlea in the inner ear) which is the main organ responsible for sensing balance. This should be new from MEDSCI 206, you will learn the anatomy of the components involved and again how they mechanically interact (very similarly to hearing) to sense balance.

 

Module D: The Somatosensory System

The lectures on the somatosensory system are a revision and continuation from MEDSCIs 201 and 206 and are covered by Dr. Raj Selvaratnam. You will look at the concept of touch and pain: the receptor cells involved, the many various differences between them, the afferent fibres associated with them, and the afferent nerve pathways they take. The final lectures are performed by members of the Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) to teach you an application of the concept of pain in a clinical setting.