Course: BIOS 597, Nervous system plasticity in aging and disease.        

Times: Monday and Wednesday 4:00 to 5:15 PM

Location: Room 1728, Wood Hall



John Spitsbergen, Ph.D.

Office: Room 3052 Haenicke Hall

Phone: 387-2739


Office Hours: Monday 9:00 to 10:00 AM, Tuesday and Thursday 1:00 to 2:00 PM, or by appointment.


Required Texts/Materials:

Selected reading from books and journal articles.


Course Description:

This course will examine the ability of the nervous system to undergo changes in structure and function in response to changes in environment that occur with development, aging and disease.


Format: Class will consist primarily of student presentations of scientific manuscripts, class discussions of these manuscripts and limited introductory lectures on topics related to nervous system development and plasticity.


Broad Goals:

        Lean to perform online literature search of biomedical journals.

        Learn to critically read biomedical journals in area of nervous system development and plasticity.

        Prepare and present short lectures based on readings in scientific manuscripts.

        Become familiar with normal structure and function of a neuron.

        Become familiar with normal stages of development of a neuron.

        Become familiar with processes involved in pathfinding and identification of target tissue.

        Become familiar with elements required for normal maintenance of nervous system structure and function in established nervous system tissues.

        Become familiar with changes observed in nervous system tissues from aging individuals.

        Become familiar with changes observed in nervous system tissues from individuals suffering from diseases affecting nervous system.

        Become familiar with normal regenerative capabilities of adult nervous system.

        Become familiar with potential therapeutic interventions to promote recovery and regeneration of nervous system tissues.


Course Objectives:

By the end of this course students should be able to find, read, understand and present a concise report from scientific journals in the area of neuroscience. Students should also be able to describe changes in neuron structure and function observed during nervous system development, they should be able to describe normal requirements for maintenance of phenotype and continued survival of neurons in adult organisms and be able to explain how and why neurons change with old age and disease.


Class Policies:

Attendance: Attendance is not required; however, much of your grade for this course will be based on class participation, thus lack of participation due to poor attendance will certainly affect your grade.

Final Grade: IMPORTANT! Many of you are seniors hoping to graduate this year. If you get a failing grade in this class (less than a C) you may not be able to graduate. Therefore, if you are failing on the last day to drop, you may want to consider dropping. If you are near failing at the end of class, make sure you study hard so you do not end up failing. If you fail, donít come to me after the end of the semester to try and get your grade changed. Your final grade will not be changed after the end of the semester!

Academic Honesty: You are responsible for making yourself aware of and understanding the policies and procedures [Undergraduate Catalog (pp. 268-269)/Graduate Catalog (pp. 26-27)] that pertain to academic integrity. These policies include cheating, fabrication, falsification and forgery, multiple submission, plagiarism, complicity and computer misuse. If there is reason to believe you have been involved in academic dishonesty, you will be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. You will be given the opportunity to review the charge(s). If you believe you are not responsible, you will have the opportunity for a hearing. You should consult with me if you are uncertain about an issue of academic honesty prior to the submission of an assignment or test.




2 short (1-2 pages double spaced) = 5 points each.

1 long (5-6 pages double spaced) = 25 points.


            2 short (5-10 minute) = 10 points each.

            1 long (15-20 minute) = 25 points.


            Final Exam = 10 points.

Class Participation:

            10 points


Total points = 100


Grading Scale:


90 to 100          A

85 to 89            BA

80 to 84            B

75 to 79            CB

70 to 74            C

65 to 69            DC

60 to 64            D

     £  59           E




This is a tentative schedule which may be subject to changes throughout the semester!


Monday, January 6th: Introduce Syllabus and schedule presentation times.

Wednesday, January 8th: What is a neuron?

Monday, January 13th: Methods used to study the nervous system.

Wednesday, January 15th: Nervous system development.

Monday, January 20th: MLK Day Activities.

Wednesday, January 22th: Start short presentations. Pathfinding and target tissue identification in the nervous system.

Monday, January 27rd: The role of neurotrophic factors in growth, development and plasticity of the nervous system.

Wednesday, January 29th: Neurotrophic factors II.

Monday, February 3rd: Role of glial cells in nervous system development and recovery from trauma.

Wednesday, February 5th: Response of peripheral nervous system to injury.

Monday, February 10th: Response of central nervous system to injury.

Wednesday, February 12th: CNS or PNS injury II.

Monday, February 17th: Formation of new neurons in the brain.

Wednesday, February 19th: Changes in nervous system function with age.

Monday, February 24th: Aging nervous system II.

Wednesday, February 26th: Neurodegenerative diseases.

Monday, March 3rd: Spring Recess.

Wednesday, March 5th: Spring Recess.

Monday, March 10th: Neurodegenerative diseases II.

Wednesday, March 12th: Therapeutic intervention to aid recovery of nervous system tissue.

Monday, March 17th: Therapies II.

Wednesday, March 19th: Lessons learned from stem cell research.

Monday, March 24th: Start long presentations.

Wednesday, March 26th:

Monday, March 31st:

Wednesday, April 2nd:

Monday, April 7th:

Wednesday, April 9th:

Monday, April 14th:

Wednesday, April 16th:

Monday, April 21st: Final Exam 5-7:00 PM.