Feb 23rd 2015

Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life (Coursera)

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Learn how the nervous system produces behavior, how we use our brain every day, and how neuroscience can explain the common problems afflicting people today. We will study functional human neuroanatomy and neuronal communication, and then use this information to understand how we perceive the outside world, move our bodies voluntarily, stay alive, and play well with others.

The Neurobiology of Everyday Life is a 10-week course intended for anyone interested in how the nervous system works. The course will cover three main topics: neuroanatomy, neural communication, and neural systems. We will start by exploring the overall organization of the human brain and the cellular building blocks of the brain – neurons. We will examine how the incredibly complex brain develops from a ball of embryonic cells and then look at the anatomy of nerves, the spinal cord, brainstem and forebrain. An understanding of how blood reaches the brain, the blood brain barrier, and the ventricular system will be used to understand different types of strokes. At the end of the units on neuroanatomy, students will have a strong understanding of nerve injury, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and brain tumors.

In the neural communication module, we will look at how electrical potentials carry information within neurons and how neurotransmitters are used to communicate information between neurons. This module will illuminate what goes wrong in epilepsy, demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and myasthenia gravis as well as how nerve gas, Botox, cocaine and beta-blockers act on neurons.

In the final module, all of the fundamental anatomy and physiology from the first two modules will be used to examine how 1) we perceive the outside world; 2) we act in the world either volitionally or emotionally; 3) our nervous system allows us to live; and 4) cognition works to make us the human individuals that we are. We will look at the neurobiology of everyday situations such as multitasking (walking and chewing gum) and at the ways in which the nervous system commonly fails us (e.g. motion sickness). Students will emerge from this module with an understanding of common medical problems such as Parkinson's disease, myopia, hearing loss, and fever. Throughout the course, the neurobiology of items relevant to the week’s topic (current events, YouTube videos, diseases) will be discussed in weekly forums.

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