The University of Southampton

BIOL6079 Glial Development and Biology

Module Overview

This module provides an understanding of synaptic function in health and disease from the molecular to the neuronal circuit level. The module will be based around seminal primary research papers that have shaped our understanding of synaptic function and synaptic integration in health and disease. Following this module, students will be expected to understand how synapses are analysed experimentally and design experiments to ask scientific questions in this topic.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aim of this module is to provide an understanding of the development and function of the different glial cells types in the healthy brain, as well as their roles in disease. We aim to understand the key roles of each glial cell type (including astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, microglia, Schwann cells, Muller cells, NG2 cells, and others) in the healthy and diseased brain, as well as the mechanisms regulating crosstalk between different glial cells types and with neurons. Following this module, students will be expected to be able to integrate cell biology and molecular information into a coherent understanding of glial cells functions, and be able to evaluate examples of current research in this field.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe the timing and steps of the developmental formation of the individual glial cells types in the nervous system.
  • Provide an overview of the different lineages of glial cells, and the critical factors defining lineage commitment and differentiation.
  • Describe the functions played by the different glial cells types in the adult and ageing nervous system.
  • Discuss the mechanisms regulating the crosstalk between different glial cell types and between glia and neurons, in the context of the regulation of brain physiology.
  • Detail the roles played by glial cells in the developing brain, including their contribution to synaptic pruning, neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation and the regulation of the blood-brain barrier.
  • Describe and give examples of critical roles of glial cells in brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis or Stroke. Discuss the contribution of glial cell activation to the progression of brain disorders.
  • Describe the specific techniques used to investigate glial cells in the nervous system and assess their limitations.
  • Appraise a sample of current research in this field, identifying key contributions for our understanding of glial cell function.


-Development of glial lineages, developmental timing and regulation of differentiation. -Roles of glial in the control of synaptic pruning, neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation in the developing brain. -Roles of astrocytes in the healthy, ageing and diseased brain. Regulation of BBB and synaptic function. -Roles of microglia in the healthy, ageing and diseased brain. Regulation of immune-to-brain communication, neuronal physiology, inflammatory activation in brain disease. -Roles of myelinating glial cell types in the peripheral and central nervous systems. Demyelinating diseases. -Methods to study the roles of glial cells in vitro and in vivo.

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study125
Total study time150



MethodPercentage contribution
Presentation  (5 minutes) 15%
Review  ( words) 25%
Written exam  (2 hours) 60%
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