The University of Southampton
Courses

BIOL2040 Neural Basis of Behaviour

Module Overview

Throughout the module behavioural concepts are related to their physiological bases. The characteristics of simple and complex behaviours will be considered and the organization of the underlying nervous systems considered. Concepts of sensory processing such as echolocation, audition and sound localization, olfactory coding, and tactile processing will be appraised in depth. The production of adaptive motor responses, central pattern generation and rhythmicity and feedback will be critically examined. Finally, behavioural plasticity and modulation through learning and neuromodulation will be considered at the neural level. Examples of natural behaviour from both invertebrates and vertebrates will be reviewed.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

Effective adaptive behaviour requires that the brain and central nervous system take in and process relevant information from internal and external environments quickly and accurately. Processed information must then be evaluated, features of biological relevance extracted and an appropriate response (behaviour) generated. Furthermore, responses may change over time due to plasticity and learning. By studying nervous systems in the context of the natural problems they have evolved to solve the aim of this module is to elucidate some of the principles by which the nervous system generates and controls the behaviour of animals.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • understand that neurones are the building blocks of nervous systems that produce and control behaviour.
  • recognise that nervous systems are organised to provide logical solutions to practical problems animals are faced with in detecting and encoding stimuli, and generating behavioural responses.
  • understand that there are common principles of nervous system design and function across the phyla.
  • understand that nervous systems are incredibly precise and capable of responding to amazingly small differences in frequency, intensity and timing of stimuli in the environment.
  • recognise that neural responses are dynamic and subject to plasticity and modulation over time.

Syllabus

Throughout the module behavioural concepts are related to their physiological bases. The characteristics of simple and complex behaviours will be considered and the organization of the underlying nervous systems considered. Concepts of sensory processing such as echolocation, audition and sound localization, olfactory coding, and tactile processing will be appraised in depth. The production of adaptive motor responses, central pattern generation and rhythmicity and feedback will be critically examined. Finally, behavioural plasticity and modulation through learning and neuromodulation will be considered at the neural level. Examples of natural behaviour from both invertebrates and vertebrates will be reviewed. The module is essentially zoological, using a comparative and integrated approach, and there is little reference to comparative psychology or human behaviour.

Special Features

Flipped module with discussion and problem solving sessions, demonstrations and guest lecture with content online in eFolio and Panopto.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning will take a flexible blended approach with a single 2 hr introductory lecture to the course. There will be no traditional lecture presentations. Course content will be delivered through an online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and will utilise multimedia such as online text, video, animations, audio, typical ‘Powerpoint style’ figures and images and short web casts. Computer programmes and demonstrations will be accessible online through the VLE to reinforce course content. Online MSQs will also be used to reinforce learning throughout the module. Group study and learning (team work) will be encouraged via group library research and poster presentation. These will be presented in typical research conference style and then uploaded to the learning environment for additional resource for the course. A participant Wiki site will be developed to encourage students to share ideas and problems related to the course, and to share additional material they find relevant. Weekly discussion/tutorial revision sessions will be held for students for face-to-face meetings with teaching staff. Tutorials will range from those having no fixed content, so that students with differing learning and studying approaches can access content at their own pace, to tutorials that take the form of question/answer sessions using zappers to provide progress indicators and assess depth of understanding. Areas of weakness or lack of understanding will be determined and topics addressed in subsequent weekly discussion/feedback sessions.

TypeHours
Seminar2
Project supervision20
Independent Study116
Practical classes and workshops12
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Zupanc, G.K.H. (2004). Behavioural Neurobiology. 

Carew, T.J. (2004). Behavioral Neurobiology: The Cellular Organization of Natural Behavior. 

Simmons, P.J. and Young, D. (2010). Nerve Cells and Animal Behaviour. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Poster Presentation 25%
Written exam  (2 hours) 75%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 25%
Written exam  (2 hours) 75%
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