Poster Presentation The International Congress of Neuroendocrinology 2014

Development of an integrative neuromolecular and neurophysiological curriculum for the Neural Systems & Behavior course at MBL (#144)

Suzy CP Renn 1 , Rayna M Harris 2 , Chelsea Weitekamp 2 , Fenton A Andre 3 , Hans A Hofmann 2
  1. Reed College, Portland, OR, United States
  2. University of Texas, Austin, TX, United States
  3. New York University , New York, NY, United States

Behavioral endocrinology and systems neuroscience increasingly benefit from integrating data across levels of organization in order to gain insights into the neural basis of behavior. While imaging and genetic approaches have long complemented electrophysiological analyses, it has now also become possible to conduct molecular level experiments in a diversity of model systems. For the past 35 years, the Neural Systems & Behavior course at the Marine Biological Laboratory has established itself as the premier discovery-driven training opportunity for the next generation of neuroethologists and systems neuroscientists. More recently, efforts have been directed toward the incorporation of molecular and genomic approaches with the traditional behavioral and electrophysiological approaches. Building on a successful collaborative project in 20131,2, we now expand the teaching module. We developed intellectuallystimulating yet robust and feasible procedures that integrate both in vitro and in vivo physiology preparations, with either quantitative real-time PCR or immunohistochemistry for the subsequent measure of gene expression. As the eight-week course is divided into four two-week cycles, the preceding cycles offer students a series of different preparations and topical questions during which behavioral and physiological studies generate samples appropriate for subsequent integration of molecular techniques. Students’ molecular projects are conducted not only to genetic model systems (e.g. flies and mice), but also classical models of neuroethology (e.g. leech, crustaceans, electric fish), in order to integrate a molecular understanding with learning and memory, mating behavior, central pattern generators etc. The projects are made robust through advance testing of protocols and reagents that complement the physiology experiments. Yet students also learn design, optimization and potential project extension through prepared exercises. The integration of molecular techniques now allows the course to more fully accomplish the course goal to expose students to diverse approaches to the investigation of the neural basis of behavior.    

  1. Harris RM, Otopalik AG, Smith CJ, Bucher D, Golowasch J and Hofmann HA. (2014a) Single-Neuron Gene Expression Analysis Using the Maxwell® 16 LEV System in the Neural Systems and Behavior Course. Promega Corporation Web site: search:"neural systems and behavior”
  2. Harris, RM, Juan Marcos Alarcon JM, Fenton AA, and Hofmann HA (2014b) An Integrative Neuromolecular and Neurophysiological Curriculum for the Neural Systems & Behavior Course at MBL. Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology Conference (Austin Texas)