Columbia University

Department of Biological Sciences

W3004/W4004: Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology


Fall 2008

Lectures:  Tu/Th 4:10-5:25;

Location:  501 Schermerhorn



Graduate students:  Tuesday         6:00 pm          Fairchild 1000          TA: Joe Schumacher

Group I                       Tuesday         5:45 pm          Fairchild 700             TA: Heidi Smith

Group II                      Tuesday         5:45 pm          Fairchild 900             TA: Cate Jensen

Group III                     Wednesday   4:00 pm          Fairchild 900             TA: Melissa Walker

Group IV                    Wednesday   6:15 pm          Fairchild 900             TA: Feifan Zhang

Group V                     Thursday       5:45 pm          Fairchild 900             TA: Sara Morrison




Jian Yang,            

Office Hours by appointment through e-mail;



Joe Schumacher

Cate Jensen   

Melissa Walker

Feifan Zhang             

Heidi Smith     

Sara Morrison 




Required Text:        Neuroscience, 4th ed., 2008, Purves et al.

                        Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA


Supplemental Texts:

From Neuron to Brain, 4th ed., 2001, Nicholls et al.

Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA


                                    Principles of Neural Science, 4th ed., 2000.

                                    Eric Kandel, James Schwartz and Thomas Jessell

McGraw-Hill Companies, New York



Recitations:  A strong emphasis is placed on readings from the primary literature, which will be discussed in weekly recitations.  Students will read and discuss in depth selected research papers.  Attendance of the recitations is mandatory and active participation will count in the final grade.  Materials discussed in the recitations will be included in the exams. 


Class Attendance:  Attendance is not taken, however material will be presented in lectures that is not available in the text and which will appear on examinations


Exams and Grading: Exams and Grading:  Three exams and a final examination are given.  Each exam will cover material since the previous exam.  The final examination is entirely on papers from the primary literature.  The lowest grade of the three periodic exams will be dropped (students may choose to take only two tests).  The remaining exams will each contribute 30% towards the semester grade; the final will contribute 35% and is required.  5% will come from recitation attendance and participation. No make-up exams will be allowed except in cases of serious illness or personal crisis and the student is required to present a letter from the undergraduate dean as well as other supporting evidence (such as doctor’s notes, airline tickets etc.).





Part I: Membrane Electrical Properties


Sept. 2:           Lecture 1.  Introduction, Cell Biology of the Neuron               

                        (Chapter 1)

Sept. 4:           Lecture 2.  Ionic Basis of the Resting Membrane Potential   

(Chapter 2)


No recitation first week of class


Sept. 9:           Lecture 3.  Ion Channels                                                  

 (Chapter 4)

Sept. 11:        Lecture 4.  Ion Channels                                                  

(Chapter 4)


Recitation 1:  Doyle et al., “The structure of the potassium channel: molecular basis of

K+ conduction and selectivity”.  Science 280, 69-77 (1998).


Sept. 16:        Lecture 5.  Transporters

 (Chapter 4 and slides)

Sept. 18:        Lecture 6.  Passive Electrical Properties of the Neuron         

(Chapter 3)


Recitation 2:  Problem set


Sept. 23:        Lecture 7.  Ionic Basis of the Action Potential                          

(Chapter 2, 3)

Sept. 25:        Lecture 8.  Generation and Propagation of Action Potentials           

(Chapter 3)


Recitation 3: Kaplan et al., Induction of sodium channel clustering by oligodendrocytes Nature 386, 724-728 (1997)

Sept 30:         Lecture 9.   Synaptic Transmission: Overview, Neuromuscular Junction

                        (Chapter 5)     

Oct. 2:             EXAM I (Lectures 1-8, Recitations 1-3)


No recitation this week


Part II: Synaptic Transmission


Oct. 7.             Lecture 10.  Synaptic Transmission: Neuromuscular Junction, CNS

(Chapter 5, 6)                                                                                   

Oct. 9.             Lecture 11.  Synaptic Transmission: CNS                                   

(Chapter 5, 6)


No recitation this week


Oct. 14.           Lecture 12.  Synaptic Transmission: Slow Synapses             

(Chapter 5, 7)

Oct. 16.           Lecture 13.  Presynaptic Mechanisms: Transmitter Release

(Chapter 5) 


Recitation 4: Biederer et al., “SynCAM, a synaptic adhesion molecule that drives synapse assembly”.  Science 297, 1525-1531 (2002).


Oct. 21.          


Oct. 23.        


Recitation 5:  Fernandez-Chacon et al.  “Synaptotagmin I functions as a calcium regulator of release probability”.  Nature 410, 41-49 (2001).


Oct. 28.           Lecture 14.  Synaptic Plasticity  

                        (Chapter 8)   

Oct. 30.           Lecture 15.  Biochemistry of Neurotransmitters           

                        (Chapter 6)   


Recitation 6: Kopec et al., “Glutamate Receptor Exocytosis and Spine Enlargement
during Chemically Induced Long-Term Potentiation”.  Journal of Neuroscience 26, 2000 –2009 (2006).

Part III: Sensory Physiology


Nov. 4.            Off (election day)

Nov. 6.            EXAM II (Lectures 9-15, recitations 4-6) 


No recitation this week


Nov. 11.         Lecture 16.  Introduction: Coding of Sensory Signals

                                                Phototransduction and Color Vision

                         (Chapter 11)                                                                                    

Nov. 13.         Lecture 17.  Phototransduction and Color Vision

(Chapter 11)                                                                                     


Recitation 7: Palczewski, K. et al. Crystal structure of rhodopsin: A G protein-coupled receptor.” Science 2000 Aug 4;289 (5480):739-45.


Nov. 18.         Lecture 18.  Mechanotransduction in the Ear                          

                        (Chapter 13)

Nov. 20.         Lecture 19.  Taste                          

                        (Chapter 15) and reading 


Recitation 8: Zheng J. et al. “Prestin is the motor protein of cochlear outer hair cells.”
Nature 2000 May 11;405


Nov. 25          Lecture 20.  Olfaction                                                                                                                     (Chapter 15) and reading  

Nov. 27          Off (Thanksgiving)


Recitation 9: Zhang, X. and S. Firestein (2002). "The olfactory receptor gene superfamily of the mouse." Nat Neurosci 5 (2): 124-33.


 Dec.2.            Lecture 21.  Pain                                                                            

                        (Chapter 10)


 Dec. 4.           EXAM III (Lectures 16-21, recitations 8-10)



Dec. 16.         4:10 - 7 pm Final exam


The final exam will consist of three sets of questions on selected research articles. It is suggested that you read and analyze these papers prior to the exam, since the exam will be closed-book; i.e. you CANNOT look at the articles, notes or textbook during the exam. You may discuss these papers with other students, but not with the instructors or the TAs.