Psychobiology Lab :: Syllabus

Term: Fall 2016
Class times: W 3:30-6 pm, Gilmer 177
Collab site:
Last revised: 8/24/2016


This course is team taught. Contact Professor Meliza for general course questions, and faculty below for questions about specific modules.

  Email Office Office Hours
Daniel Meliza cdm8j Gilmer 183 T 1-3; Th 3-4
Alev Erisir ae4h Gilmer TBD
Jessica Connelly jc2dg Gilmer TBD
James Morris jpm5jb Gilmer TBD

Teaching Assistants

  Email Office Office Hours
Kelly Wroblewski kw3jf   TBD
Erin Maher eem5rq   TBD

What is this course about?

Modern behavioral neuroscience is a vibrant, multidisciplinary field that makes uses of a wide range of methods for measuring, analyzing, and predicting how brains work to process information and generate complex behaviors. This hands-on course develops skills necessary for the study of neural bases of behavior, such as brain dissection, electrophysiology, histology, behavioral analysis, and genetic/epigenetic analyses.

Course objectives

Our work in this course will cover a range of fundamental and contemporary techniques used in neuroscience research, as well as the skills every scientist needs to effectively and professionally communicate research findings in speech, graphics, and text. At the end of this course, you will be able to:

Meeting the objectives

This course emphasizes practical skills and direct experience with live experimental preparations and/or real data. We will also use readings, short lectures, and in-class discussions and presentations to introduce topics and evaluate your progress and understanding. You’ll receive feedback on your progress towards the objectives through class participation, homework assignments, and a capstone presentation. These assessments will contribute to your grade as follows:

What materials will you need?

There is no assigned text for this course. Materials will be provided as printouts or on this website. Bring your laptop to class.

What is the class schedule?

This schedule is subject to changes as the semester progresses.

Week Topic Practicum Assessments Assignment
1 (8/24) (1) Introduction (Meliza) (2a) Take an ACUC module Post ACUC Orientation Quiz  
  (2) Use of animals in research (Erisir/Gamble) (2b) Deconstruct an animal protocol    
  (3) Human subjects in research (Morris) (3a) Take an IRB module    
    (3b) Deconstruct an IRB protocol   Handout: Animal Learning
  Resource: IACUC website      
2 (8/31) Behavioral Approaches in Brain Sciences I (Meliza) Classical conditioning and autoshaping Reading Quiz Assignment: Perceptual Categories
  Lecture: operant and classical learning      
3 (9/7) Behavioral Approaches in Brain Sciences II (Meliza)      
  Lecture: Sensory discrimination and bioacoustics Spectrogram analysis and initial training   Assignment: Probe Stimulus Design (report due in 3 weeks)
4 (9/14) Behavioral Approaches in Brain Sciences III (Meliza)      
  Lecture: Statistical analysis of behavioral data Data visualization   Assignment: Behavioral Training Report
    Behavioral probe experiments   Handout: E-Brain Manual
5 (9/21) Neuroanatomy: Gross and microscopic (Erisir) (1) Sheep brain dissection    
    (2) Rodent brain sectioning    
    (3) Reading brain atlases   Assignment: E-Brain Exercise
6 (9/28) Neuroanatomy: Microscopic anatomy and connectomics (Erisir) (1) Allen Connectivity Atlas Behavior Report Due ABI Connectivity Project (presentation due next week)
    (2) Non-invasive tomography atlas Gross Anatomy Quiz  
    (2) Rodent brain sectioning   Optional: 3D-reconstruct a circuit or a functional brain area
7 (10/5) Neuroanatomy: Neurons and synapses; chemical and molecular properties of neurons (Erisir) (1) Light Microscopy ABI Connectivity Project presentations and discussion  
    (2) Electron Microscopy   Mystery antibody analysis (due next week)
    (3) Immunohistochemistry   Handout: Electrophysiology
8 (10/12) Neurophysiology: Recording neural activity (Meliza) Rate Coding of Sensory Stimuli Mystery antibody analysis due  
9 (10/19) Neurophysiology: Theory and computational methods (Meliza)      
10 (10/26) Neurophysiology: Non-invasive techniques (Morris)      
11 (11/2) Molecules and Genes I (Connelly)      
12 (11/9) Molecules and Genes II (Connelly)      
13 (11/16) Molecules and Genes III (Connelly)      
14 (11/23) Thanksgiving Recess (no class)      
15 (11/30) Review and Discussion   Present term projects  

Course policies and procedures

Professional and academic integrity

As practicing professionals, scientists trust each other to maintain the highest standards of ethics, integrity, and personal responsibility. Since you have joined this community of trust to prepare for your future career, I expect you to fully comply with all of the provisions of the UVa Honor System. In addition to pledging that you have neither received nor given aid on an assignment, your signature also affirms that you have not knowingly represented as your own any opinions or ideas that are attributable to another author in published or unpublished notes, study outlines, abstracts, articles, textbooks, or web pages. In other words, I expect that all assignments, reports, and exam answers are your original work and that references are cited appropriately. Your signature also affirms that you will not share online or in person any information about an exam, any course materials, or the product of any assignment, without express instruction or permission of the professor. Breaking this trust agreement not only will result in zero credit for the assignment in question and referral to the Honor Committee but also will jeopardize your future as a professional scientist or in any field. Don’t let yourself down.