Principles of Neuroscience
This page was last updated on 22/12/2015.
A core paper for physiology students, MEDSCI 206 is a thoroughly interesting paper which can also be quite challenging. Some of the lecturers bring in real-life patients which helps illustrate key points about neurodegenerative diseases. The Module A test is quite easy to do well in, however, do not underestimate the Module B test or the exam.
This paper is very interesting, enjoyable and some may say that it is an easier paper to do well in, than MEDSCI205. Although there is huge content required for the final exam, if you keep up to date and study efficiently, an A+ is achievable. In 2015, the class reps were able to get the lectures recorded during the second half of the semester which is subject to change in 2016, hence relying on your own recording devices would be advisable. Various lecturers taught different topics and it means one should be flexible to learn from different teaching styles.
This paper is divided into 3 modules. Module A is tested in Test A and Module B is tested in Test B. The topics were divided into 3 Modules which aim to encompass different areas and depths of Neuroscience. In 2015, the 65% exam covered all 3 Modules, consisting of: 60 MCQs, 12 SAQs and a pick between 1 of the 3 essay questions. (Note: Essay question topics are usually not repeated from year to year, also, what is not an essay question may usually be tested in the SAQs and vice versa).
In 2015, there were 5 three-hour labs. These were more relevant to the lectures than in 205, and often the lab topic would’ve already been covered in the lectures. Unlike 205, you need to write the entirety of the lab report (Aim, Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion and Conclusion) within one week. There is not as much guidance as in 205, however the lab demonstrators are very helpful so it is wise to ask them as many questions about what is important to cover in the lab report and how to format the graphs/tables for the results you obtained. The first lab (Neuroanatomy) has no lab report, however you will fill out a worksheet and this lab content will be tested on during Test 1. Following this, there were 3 Lab Reports and 2 Lab Essays that we had to write. Lab Reports are very time-consuming and worth 3-4% each so make sure you prioritize your time and remember to do a little each day before it’s due. Cramming a lab report in one night is not advisable.
Module A: Development and Plasticity
The first section of 206 was taught by Associate Prof. Maurice Curtis and the first lecture recaps on brain anatomy learnt in MEDSC I142. The rest of his lectures were on the actual developmental stages of the brain from conception to a fully developed brain. It would be helpful to brush up some terminology from BIOSCI 107 Embryology. A lot of what he says will be tested so make sure to get down everything from the lecture recordings. An excellent introduction to the course and expect a lot of overlap with the subsequent sections.
Synapses and Plasticity
Associate Prof. Johanna Montgomery lectured this section in 2014 and when she took this section, this was relatively straight forward and interesting section. The focus was on how memories can be stored in synapses, and the content was especially useful information for PSYCH 202. The lecturer drew pictures under the document camera, so bringing a few different colours of pens and paper was quite handy.
In 2015 however, A/Prof. Cathy Stinear took over 4 lectures on synapse plasticity. Everything you needed to know was on the lecture slide material. She also provided us with 5-10 minutes of recorded lecture summaries which we found really useful! In terms of content, it was all about how the brain changes overtime and the experiments that were done to prove just how dynamic our brain is. This section was straightforward and enjoyable. In our year, her MCQs and essay questions were music to our ears!
Receptors and Disease
This section combined the cellular and immunological components of neuroscience and explored to a very limited extent some pharmacology. Dr. Scott Graham is a very passionate lecturer who has his best interest for students to do well. Because the information can be saturating, it is important to focus on what was emphasized during lectures. Learning to draw his diagrams that he provides on the lecture slides may be helpful for the exam.
Module B: Higher Functions
This was probably one of the most information loaded section of the course. The reason why it felt this was was that there were at times multiple sources of information you'd need to consult: what was presented in lecture, what was on the lecture slides, and also the sheer amount of information in Purves. Nevertheless, if you enjoy this section, you are likely to love the stage III paper MEDSCI 316. Prof. Peter Thorne introduces sensory nervous systems (lecture 1) and later spends just one lecture (lecture 2) talking about olfaction and taste, which in stage III forms the basis of over 12 lectures. Because the topics are presented again in stage III, the lecturer does not expect you to learn every single detail from the textbook. It is probably best to use Purves for interest and clarification, in our opinion. (By the way, MEDSCI 316 uses the same textbook!). That being said, extra information may credit you better marks in essays.
Vision (lectures 3 and 4) and Hearing (lectures 5 and 6) are also information overloaded lectures so it can be best to clarify with the textbook. As there is an essay (worth 3%) on these topics, it is probably best to refer to textbooks for these sections. Prof. Monica Acosta lectures vision. Her accent can be a bit hard to understand at first, but her slides are quite helpful. Prof. Srdjan Vlajkovic lectures hearing. His slides do not contain much information/notes but usually have pictures which he will talk about and explain. He tends to cover A LOT of content in his lectures and speaks very quickly so we found it much easier to type down what he was saying and read over the textbook for anything that wasn’t clear during the lecture.
Spinal Cord and Sensory Processing
Dr. Simon O’Carroll had 2 lectures on this topic and if you had him in MEDSCI201 you would have known that he may test on particular facts and figures from his lecture slides and diagrams. He covered the different somatosensory pathways, where they cross over, and the spinal cord’s ability to change over time and in diseased states. Questions on the consequences of specific spinal cord lesions were quite common. Paying attention to this topic can help you do well in lab reports.
Control of Movement
These 2 lectures were taught by the one and only, Prof. J Lipski! Many found this section very interesting because the topic was extremely relatable, and many of the fundamental neurological response concepts such as the stretch reflex was explored in good detail. Again, paying good attention to this topic would help in writing lab reports. Purves has a very good section on this topic and is a recommended read.
The 2 lectures on memory were taught by Dr. Meagan Barclay. These lectures were closely relatable to Psychology papers such as Psych 109, as the whole topic was about how different types of memories were formed and what contributes to its formation. Again, everything has to be learnt; from famous patients’ names to the various memory experiments done on animals. These lectures were a day before our Module B test in 2015 so pre-studying the content well would be helpful, as her section in the test may not be straightforward.
Module C: Disease and Repair
Perinatal Brain Injury
This is an interesting topic under extensive research by the University of Auckland. For this section make sure you pay attention to Dr. Justin Dean’s hints as he does emphasize what is important to know for the exam essay. His slides contained some decent notes and he did use graphs and videos to illustrate his points, however some of these graphs can be a little bit confusing. Journal articles could be useful to better understand the concepts. Laura Bennett extends this topic in MEDSCI 311.
This lecture series covered various pathophysiological conditions: Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Vascular Stroke. For Huntington’s, Maurice Curtis’ slides contained plenty of information, but as with his first set of lectures, paying attention to details may be worthwhile. Dr. Jennifer Pereira covered Parkinson's disease. The course guide was really good for this section, but lecture slides have extra information to note down too. This was a really interesting lecture because she brought in a patient with Parkinson’s to tell about their experiences - a lecture definitely worth going to! In 2015, Alzheimer's was covered by Dr. Erin Cawston. Lecture slides were adequate for this section and the exam questions were generally repetitive from year to year (usually about describing the main features of the disease). This section was a little bit easier if you took BIOSCI 203 as Associate Professor Nigel Birch covers this in detail. Vascular stroke was an interesting topic, with a fair amount of detail in the slides. Prof. Alan Barber also brought in a stroke patient. He did use a few pictures that you need to pay attention to understand what they are about, such as the picture showing the different arteries in the brain. Course guide notes for this section were very detailed and extensive. It pays to read and memorise these! Furthermore, these notes can be helpful for PSYCH 202.
Novel Treatment Strategies
This final section is a 3 lecture series about modelling neurological diseases and identifying new therapeutic techniques, gene therapy, and adult neural stem cells and neurogenesis. The lecture slides were very good for this section and the lecturer, Kathryn Jones, was also very good at explaining her points. However, as this section comes very late in the course, memorizing details can be difficult with the limited amount of time before the exam. Exam questions tend to come from lecture slides.