Course Coordinator: 
Tomoyuki Takahashi
Cellular Neurobiology

In this course students learn about the cellular and molecular basis of neuronal functions, and how individual electrical signals are integrated into physiological functions.  The course is a combination of student-led presentations on each of the key topics, and also student presentations of several classic papers, and a series of laboratory explorations of the topics covered in class.


This course provides an overview of cellular neurophysiology and looks closely at the fundamental aspects of action potentials and synaptic signalling, in preparation for other advanced courses in neuroscience.
Course Content: 
Theory Classes
Membrane potential (I)
Methods for recording electrical signals 
Cell membrane compositions
Intracellular and extracellular ionic compositions 
Membrane potential, polarization, depolarization, hyperpolarization
Membrane capacitance
Electrical properties of cell membrane
Nernst equation
Calculation: Equilibrium potentials of Na+ and K+, based on extracellular and intracellular ionic compositions.
Membrane potential (II) 
Selective permeability of Na and K ions
Resting membrane potential described by Goldman-Hodgkin-Katz equation
Hodgkin-Huxley membrane model circuit
Active transport
Na-K ATPase
Action potential (I) 
Voltage-clamp recording; principle and practice
Cable properties of axonal membrane
Molecular structure of voltage-gated Na channels
Relationship between single Na channel currents vs whole cell Na currents
Channel activation, channel deactivation vs channel inactivation
Na current-voltage relationship
Voltage dependence of Na channel conductance
Mechanism of channel inactivation: the ball-and-chain model
Action potential (II)
Voltage-gated K channels: molecular structure
Single K channel vs whole cell K currents
K current-voltage relationship
Voltage dependence of K channel conductance
Mechanism of action potential generation and repolarization
Refractory period
Calculation: Amount of Na influx in response to a single action potential, and its impact on intracellular Na concentration (assuming cell size).
Synaptic transmission (I) 
Structural organization of synapses
Equilibrium potential for Ca ion.
Voltage-gated Ca channels: molecular structure and subtype classification
Ca current-voltage relationship and conductance 
Non-linear relationship between Ca and transmitter release. 
Synaptic transmission (II)
Roles of Ca channels and K channels in transmitter release 
Quantal nature of transmitter release; from binomial to Poisson theorem
Synaptic transmission (III) 
Exocytosis, endocytosis, vesicle recycling
Molecular mechanisms of transmitter release
Ca domain in the nerve terminal: how to estimate its size?
Synaptic vesicle recycling and reuse
Vesicular transmitter refilling mechanism
Synaptic transmission (IV)
Ligand-gated ion channels: molecular structure
Nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, AMPA receptor, NMDA receptor, 
Glycine receptor, GABA(A) receptor
EPSP/EPSC, IPSP/IPSC; Equilibrium potentials: calculation
Regulatory mechanisms for intracellular Cl concentration
Sensory transduction mechanisms
G protein-coupled receptors
Second messengers and targets
Muscle spindle, stretch-activated channels 
Auditory transduction, from sound to action potentials
     Visual transduction, from light to action potentials
     Olfactory transduction, from odor to action potentials 
Synaptic integration & modulation
Patellar-tendon reflex
Reciprocal inhibition
Postsynaptic inhibition, presynaptic inhibition 
Feedback and feedforward inhibition
Lateral inhibition
Retrograde inhibition
Short-term facilitation and depression
Long-term potentiation (LTP) and depression (LTD)
Long-lasting LTP (LLTP)
Role of NMDAR in LTP
Role of glia in LTP
Laboratory Sessions (Takahashi Unit)
Membrane Potential
Action Potential
Synaptic Transmission
Synaptic integration & modulation
Course Type: 
Student presentations on classic papers, class discussion, and a final report summarising what the student learned in the course.
Text Book: 
Principles of Neural Science, 5 edn, Kandel, Schwartz, Messel, Siegelbaum and Hudspeth (2012) McGraw-Hill
Ion Channels of Excitable Membranes, 3 edn, Bertil Hille (2001) Sinauer
Neuroscience, 5 edn, by Dale Purves, George J. Augustine, David Fitzpatrick, William C. Hall, Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, and Leonard E. White (2012) Sinauer
Fundamental Neuroscience 3 edn, Larry Squire, (2008) Elsevier (Academic Press)