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The University of Southampton

BIOL3021 Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

Module Overview

The aim of this module is to provide an understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of brain function. We will use examples of specific molecules and cell-cell interactions to provide explicit details of such function to highlight core principles of neuronal development, ion channel function, synaptic transmission and membrane excitability. Following this module, students will be expected to be able to integrate molecular information into a coherent concept of neuronal function.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the formation of synaptic connections in developing nervous systems, including the mechanisms and importance of axon guidance, and the role of synapse elimination in the normal development of the nervous system.
  • Outline the stages in cell to cell information transfer within the nervous system, from action potentials in myelinated axons of the pre-synaptic cell, through synaptic transmission to the activation of the post-synaptic neurone and its axonal output.
  • Explain the basic principles of intra- and inter-cellular information with reference to synaptic transmission, including the concepts of cellular excitability and the role of second messengers and relate this to receptor transduction mechanisms in the mammalian central nervous system?
  • Describe the mechanisms of synaptic signaling in the mammalian CNS and their modulation.
  • Describe the animal model systems and experimental methodologies used in these investigations and be able to explain the significance and advantages/disadvantages of each form of observation.
  • Describe and give examples of the ligand receptor superfamilies, specifically the ligand-gated receptor channels and the G-protein coupled receptors, with regard to their pharmacological and functional properties.
  • Describe the overall structure/function relationships of the major classes of voltage-gated channel and the subtypes of glutamate receptors.
  • Describe the interactions between the multiple voltage-gated ion channel types and the principles that produce the changes in membrane potential
  • Describe the importance of the biophysical properties of the voltage-gated ion channels and the pivotal role of calcium ions in coordinating electrical and biochemical information transfer.


• Information transfer in the nervous system • Ligand-gated channels & G-protein coupled Receptors • Mechanisms and modulation of synaptic neurotransmitter release • Voltage-gated channels • Axon guidance

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods


Independent Study126
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Written exam  (2 hours) 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written exam  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

Pre-requisites: BIOL2014 or MEDI1013.

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