Topics in Neuroscience: Diseases, Research & Treatment

Tuesday and Thursday: 5:15-6:30pm, Med-Dent Bldg, NE403  3 Credits


Breana Downey  kbd37@georgetown.edu

Nahdia Jones   nsj10@georgetown.edu

Kevin Cook   kc1022@georgetown.edu

Office Hours: By Appointment

I. Rationale

This course is designed for students with an interest in brain function and dys- (or altered) function, as well as brain pharmacology


This course uses an interdisciplinary approach to study brain function through dysfunction. It covers basic concepts in neuroscience, ranging from cellular and molecular underpinnings to structural and functional differences observed in various brain-based diseases and disorders. These concepts build to an understanding of pathology as well as points of intervention. Special emphasis is placed on (1) bridging basic neural mechanisms (neurotransmitters, circuits, systems) and higher brain processes (emotion, cognition, memory) and (2) understanding the methods of research and assessment crucial to studying brain dysfunction and disorder. The course will involve lectures, student presentations, and discussion of primary literature. Specific disorders and topics vary semester to semester, but course modules focus on core neuroscience principles and concepts, behavioral and psychiatric disorders (drug abuse, schizophrenia, obesity), and neural injury and neurodegenerative disorders (traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s). Prerequisites: introductory biology, a neuroscience course, or permission of the instructor.

III. Format and Procedures

This course meets twice a week.  Classes will alternate between lectures in which new material will be presented and a paper discussions, in which students will lead a critical analysis of a paper(s) relevant to the preceding lecture

IV. Course Requirements

1. Class attendance and participation policy: 

Attendance and participation are mandatory.  You are expected to participate in both the lectures (by asking questions and answering questions) and the paper discussions (by leading discussions and asking questions during discussions you are not leading).  While attendance and participation will not be averaged into your grade, they will be taken into account when determining your final grade in the class (e.g., the difference between an A and A-, or B and B+ when your grade is borderline).

2. Course readings: 

The course schedule lists readings posted to the course Canvas website.  In addition to background readings (due the day of class), there will be articles for discussion (due the day prior to presentation). You are responsible for the knowing the information in the readings. Before every paper discussion, students not responsible for leading the discussion must submit 2 questions about the paper by 9am on the day prior to the presentation. Late questions will be given half-credit if submitted within one week of the presentation. Questions must be submitted via the course Canvas site (canvas.georgetown.edu).

V. Grading Procedures

Midterm Examination = 30%
Final Examination = 30%
Presentation(s) = 30%
Paper Questions = 10%

The lowest grade out of the midterm, final, and paper presentation grades may be replaced by an optional term paper (details below).

Term Paper  An optional paper on a topic of your choosing, which must be focused on a dysfunction or disease covered in class. You must get approval of your topic from an instructor beforehand, no later than 4/15. When you bring your topic for approval, please come prepared with a preliminary thesis statement and 1-page outline incorporating at least 3 primary sources (not including review articles). The paper is due the same day as the final exam.

Your paper must be at least 8 pages in length and must include at least 8 primary sources not used in class (n.b. this does not include review articles). If you have questions about appropriate sources, please ask an instructor.

VI. Academic Integrity

Each student in this course is expected to abide by the Georgetown University Honor Pledge. Any work submitted by a student in this course for academic credit will be the student's own work.  Any violation of the Honor Pledge will result in no credit for the given assignment and automatic reporting of the violation to the Honor Council.

VII. Presentation Grading Rubric

Presents previous research on this topic and why the study was done.


General aims and hypotheses

Explains the questions the authors are asking and what they thought they would find based on previous research.




Experimental aims and hypotheses

Explains the questions the authors are asking with each figure and what they thought they would find based on previous research.



Explains methods clearly and demonstrates basic understanding of how they work.


Explains figure

Explains axes of graphs, labels, experimental groups, scale, etc.


Results and conclusions

Explains the results of each figure and how the conclusions follow from them. Points out significant differences.


Transition to next experiment

Explains how one figure leads to the next and how the experiments fit together.



Explains the overall conclusions of the paper.


Future directions

Outlines several experiments that logically follow from this paper, or experiments that should be done to fill in the gaps in this paper


Strengths and weaknesses

Points out strengths and weaknesses of the paper.



Demonstrates fluency in the paper through competence answering questions and making educated guesses.


Presentation style

Presentation is clear and well-organized. Speaks loudly and confidently. Includes key figures in presentation.


    Total __/100