MEDSCI317

INTEGRATIVE NEUROSCIENCE: FROM FETUS TO ADULT

Course Breakdown

 

Mid-Semester Test: 15%

End of Semester Test: 15%
Mini-Review: 10%
Laboratory Component: 30% (3 lab reports worth 10% each)
Exam: 30%

Course Information

 

Official UoA Website: link.

Basic Information

2021 was the first year the course had changed the grade weighting for this course, to suit the online learning format better. Consider this course more as a collection of many small topics with many different lecturers coming together to deliver this course. Overall, this is a fantastic course for neuroscience/biomedical research due to its introduction to many research fields within neuroscience and research techniques currently being utilised. If you enjoy neuroscience, this is most definitely a worthwhile course for you.

This course has 3 hours of lectures per week with a total of 34 delivered lectures. Meanwhile, there were 3 'labs' and 2 workshops. throughout the entire course. 

​Overall, in difficulty, it 50-50, some would agree that 317 is the harder of its neuroscience counterpart from semester 1 (MEDSCI 316), others believe since the topics taught are so different from 316, it was easier to grasp – it depends on where your neuroscience interests lie! There was a sheer amount of content presented, but the labs helped consolidate the knowledge. For the mid and end-of-semester tests, there were hints given through the lectures so be sure to keep an eye out, and for the exam, there were Essays that displays the same format as previous years, so be sure to do those for practice! 

 

Mini-Review

There were 10 topics marked by 10 lecturers to choose from and in each topic, only around 10 people were allowed in it. The topic list was provided and a week later, you were supposed to email the course coordinator with your top 3 selections of topics. It was strictly on a first-come-first-serve basis by which the topics filled up. So, the 'hotter' topics quite literally filled up within 10 seconds past the time in which you were supposed to email the course coordinator. Find a topic that you feel you can do well in and has already been covered in the lectures. Also, if you do topics that are like that of an essay question in the final exam, that will be a huge bonus! If you didn't email the course coordinator, then you would be randomly assigned a topic. 

After we were allocated to a particular topic, we were required to attend a one-hour tutorial (usually during the lab slot) in which the lecturer gave out their expectations for each topic; what content was expected to be covered, and what material to be discussed. The rules for formatting and limits were laid out in the course guide and for past years, has been a page limit of 5 pages rather than a word limit amidst other requirements such as double-spacing, etc. The due date was 4 academic weeks after the tutorial (excluding the mid-semester break thus often was 6 weeks after the tutorial date). The essay was to be handed both on Turnitin and as a physical copy. Be sure to not leave this one in at the last minute since the due date was very close to the exam.

​Overall, this assessment wasn't considered to be too difficult with most people achieving decent grades in 2021. 

 

Laboratory Component

There were 3 labs and thus 3 lab reports required to be handed in each worth 10%. Two of the labs were computer-simulated and one of the labs was a classic physiology-style experiment on your colleague type since the majority of this course was online in 2021 many of the experiments were visually shown and explained on Kura Cloud. At times it was difficult to understand the virtual lab, but the lecturers and tutors were very open to questions that clarified what was going on. Lab reports were due in one week which was extremely time pressuring given that some students had 2 other MEDSCI lab reports going on.

Lab 1: Seizure laboratory (preterm sheep experiments)
This lab was difficult in the sense that we didn’t conduct the experiment, rather sorted out pages full of data that required analysing and graph making. There was no right or wrong, but your statements had to be backed up by legit evidence and not random articles that you found online about the topic. It was easy to obtain a good grade, given you followed the readings and instructions provided by the tutors. 

Lab 2: Imaging of Neural Structures (MRI and confocal microscopy)
This lab was creative writing. You were taught and presented the confocal microscopy methods and due to the online lab structure, the microscopy images and techniques were presented virtually on Kura Cloud. You were then told the assessment expectations in a tutorial session; the tutors were very helpful when questions were asked! 


Lab 3: Human electrophysiology (The "H-Reflex")
This lab was conducted in the Physiology labs where you attached electrodes and such like to your human subject and a video of the experiment being done was shown virtually to the students. This was probably the most straightforward lab which an extensive amount of research to help guide your lab report. It is best to go through the concepts in the lab before attending it to make the most out of this laboratory session. Furthermore, this lab required much use of Lab Chart to record data and analyse data.

 

MST & EST

The MST in the past has been fully MCQs where there were 3 MCQs on average per lecture. In 2021, the MST and EST were fully short answers. students generally did well, and it was a good way of preparing for the exam. Test feedback was given in 2021 many weeks after the test without much feedback.

 

Final Exam

The Final Exam examined the entire semester's worth of content and was worth 30% of the final grade. The exam consisted of three sections essay style all equally weighted where the choice was given between 2 options (so 6 choices of questions in total). Each question covered content from that module. The format of the essays and some essay questions were very similar to the essays asked in the previous years, you would benefit by looking over those!

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Lecture Content

Module 1: Early brain development, Injury, and Treatments 

This module covered 8 lectures, where 5 of the lectures were from Dr. Justin Dean covering brain injury and the other 3 from Dr. Joanne Davidson, regarding Foetal Ischemia. Dr. Justin Dean section had a lot of content to learn but was conceptually quite easy. Justin goes through his comprehensive lecture slides through the lecture and he also uploads his lecture slides before the lecture to let you annotate them during the lecture. He also drops solid hints regarding his questions in the tests and exams, so be sure to engage with his content! 

Foetal Ischemia was covered by Joanne Davidson in a series of 3 lectures with the first lab-based on her research too. This section had a lot of content but is easy to understand once you get your head around it since it was a carry-on from the information presented in MEDSCI 206. 

 

​Module 2: Synaptic function, Rhythm circuitry and Disorders 

This module was split into 7 lectures, with 3 delivered by Dr. Johanna Montgomery regarding synaptic function and plasticity. These lecture series were very interesting and easy to understand despite the sheer amount of content, even the short answer questions asked on this section in the midsemester test were straightforward! The next 2 lectures were given by Dr. Peter Freestone, the first regarding cannabinoids and the later about optogenetics. Both lectures were very interesting but content-heavy, be sure to do the readings for Peters section, they are examined! Following the optogenetics lecture, Dr Juliette Cheyne gives the next lecture regarding calcium imaging to study brain function in vivo. Concepts weren’t difficult to understand in this lecture however there was A LOT to memorise, with a few of the midsemester test questions asking to recall information presented in this lecture. Aside from the midsemester test tutorial, there was a final lecture in this module presented Raj Selvaratnam. This lecture was very interesting, it was about pattern generators and the development of an intrinsic and extrinsic natural rhythm of the body. Not very content-heavy however this lecture took time to understand! 

 

Module 3: Chronobiology and the Human circadian Rhythm 

This module contained 6 lectures, all based on chronobiology with 4 lectures given by Guy Warman and the other 2 given by James Cheeseman. Guy Warman was an excellent lecturer who throughout his lectures built a solid foundation of the fundamentals of chronobiology, the history behind it, and how it affects different species including humans. James Cheeseman took that lecture content to another level and helped consolidate and build upon the content presented by Guy. Personally, Guy was one of my favorite lecturers during the course, his quirky sense of humor and willingness to ask students if they’ve understood what he is talking about made his lectures super engaging even during an online setting! James Cheeseman’s lectures however were very intense content-wise, and his lectures took me an awful amount of time to go through and understand. The end-of-semester test and exam had a significant chunk asking about chronobiology so be sure to have thoroughly understood this content. 

 

Module 4: Adult brain disorders and Treatment 

This module consisted of 10 lectures on topics: motor control and movement disorders, development of motor control, sleep apnoea, brain and immunity, the brain-machine interface, and lastly non-invasive brain stimulation. Janusz Lipski took the first 3 lectures regarding motor control and movement disorder. These lecture series were my favourite of the module, Lipski has an amazing way of teaching content, and his slides were super easy to understand too further his section in the course guide had very well laid out notes! 

 

Development of motor control and sleep apnoea were two separate lectures taken by Raj, development of motor control was how the regulation of motor movement comes about from fetus, and the lecture regarding sleep apnoea was all about how it occurs and treatment options. Both lectures were very straightforward, not too much content, easy to understand, and short lectures! The section of Brain and Immunity was a series of 3 lectures taken by Associate Professor Srdjan Vlajkovic, a very content-heavy series however very relevant in research today and super interesting. One would benefit from doing readings for this section which will help consolidate the vast amount of content. In 2021 there was an essay question of this section in the exam! 

 

Brain-Machine Interfaces was one lecture taken by Dr Angus McMorland. This was considered one of the hardest and most interesting topics within 317. The style in which the lectures were conducted was going through either research papers and/or explaining the slides which were often just diagrams. The course guide for this section simply consisted of research papers and their abstracts and as such were not particularly useful apart from giving you lots of extra readings. A lot of people skipped this section during exam revision due to its difficulty, it was a very confusing but interesting lecture. The last 2 lectures of this module were regarding Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation. This section of 2 lectures was taken by Associate Professor Cathy Stinear. This was a fascinating section with an enthusiastic lecturer. She even brought performed experiments with the equipment she brought in to demonstrate the effects of non-invasive brain stimulation, which due to the online format we could only see videos of. This section had a fair bit of content to learn whereas it wasn't conceptually too difficult but was also asked about in the exam