BCSC 240: Syllabus

Fall 2023

Time & Location

Monday, Wednesday and Friday: 10:25 – 11:15 AM
Lower Strong Auditorium

Credit Hour Policy

This course follows the College credit hour policy for four-credit courses. This course meets three times weekly for three academic hours per week. The course also includes a recitation for one academic hour per week.


Instructor: Kevin Davis
Office: Meliora Hall Room 303E
F 1-2 PM, or by appt.

What is this Course About?

Neurobiology is the study of the cells and circuits of the nervous system that mediate behavior. You will be introduced to the structure, organization and function of the brain, spinal cord and peripheral nervous system and its many roles, including control of sensation, perception, thought, and action. We will progress from understanding the basic components of the nervous system toward an appreciation for how these components work together to produce complex and highly coordinated behaviors. The course is roughly divided into four components: in the first, we will learn about the cellular makeup and gross organization of the nervous system. Then, we will learn about how cells work and communicate with one another at the synapse. We will then examine how the brain processes sensory information about the environment and controls movement. Finally, we will explore the neural control of species-survival behaviors including sleep, hunger, thirst, learning and memory and emotion.

The lecture schedule describes the general topics to be covered in each class, along with suggested readings to complement the lecture material.

How Will I Be Graded?

You will complete 4 Unit exams in class. All exams will have a multiplechoice/short-answer type format. Unit exams will cover the course content immediately preceding the exam and will not be (per se) cumulative. Each Unit exam will be individually curved, and worth 25% of your total numerical grade. All Unit exams are mandatory!

In an effort to reduce anxiety over exam performance, you will be given the opportunity to minimize the impact of your worst grade. During the final exam period, you will have the opportunity to take an optional cumulative Final exam which will cover material from the whole course. If you perform better on this (curved) exam than one of your Unit exams, that Unit grade will be discarded and replaced by the grade earned on the cumulative Final.

Thus, your total grade will be calculated as follows: 4 Unit exams or 3 Unit exams + 1 Final exam (4 x 25%) = 100%. Total grades are rounded to the nearest integer and letter grades assigned: A, 93-100; A-, 90-92; B+, 87-89; B, 83-86; B-, 80-82; etc.

All exams will take place in the lecture hall either during regularly scheduled class time for Unit exams or the time set by the Registrar for the Final exam. The dates of these exams are identified on the lecture schedule. Please note the dates and times for the Unit and Final exams! If you believe you have a conflict that would prevent you from attending an exam, such as a school-sanctioned event, or you have missed an exam due to an extraordinary personal situation or illness, please email Dr. Davis as soon as possible.

Exam grades will be posted on Blackboard and an announcement sent out when they are available. Final letter grades will be posted via the Registrar after the final exam date.

Only sufficient proof of illness or other extenuating circumstances will be considered for allowing you to complete course exams at a different time or to arrange a make-up. You will not be permitted to arrange a make-up on the basis of personal obligations, or because you have multiple exams on the same day. Please note the exam schedule before making travel arrangements. There will be no exceptions to this rule.

Where Do I Look for Course Information?

The course syllabus, lecture schedule, exam schedule, lecture slides and associated reading, as well as announcements and grade updates are available on Blackboard.

How Do I Get Help with the Course?


In addition to Dr. Davis’ office hours, Teaching Assistants (TAs) will run four recitations per week, and one review session before each unit exam. Attendance is optional, but will help ensure success in the course. During these meetings, TAs will review concepts from the lectures and answer questions from students. It is up to you to come prepared with questions and utilize this resource. TA’s will not simply re-teach the lecture slides. Recitations will begin the first week of class (August 30th), and available days/times and locations will be posted on Blackboard.

To contact the TAs for questions, or to arrange individual meetings:

Abigail Alpers:
Natasha Vacca:
Catalina Guzman:
Ruining Zhou:

Additional Resources: If you are experiencing difficulties with the course material and would like extra help, there are several opportunities for additional assistance, such as Tutoring, Study Groups, and Disability Support:
The Learning Center
College Center for Advising Services
Office of Disability Resources

Are There Required Readings for the Course?

The textbook for the course is: Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain
Bear, Connors and Paradiso 4th edition

The aim of this course is to introduce students to topics that may be supplemented with other resources, including the textbook. You will not be tested specifically on material in the textbook that is not covered in lectures. However, the textbook covers in more detail many topics presented in the lectures, thus providing you with a greater understanding of the material. It may be helpful to review the relevant textbook chapters before lectures – readings are listed in the lecture schedule.


As a student, you should expect that your instructors provide a respectful learning environment and provide appropriate feedback and guidance. Similarly, we expect you to show this same respect to your instructors, and fellow students by attending, and participating in, lectures and recitations. It is also expected that you will adhere to the policies regarding academic honesty. Violations of academic integrity, such as cheating and plagiarism, are taken seriously, and will be dealt with accordingly.

I look forward to working with you this term, and hope you enjoy this introduction to Basic Neurobiology!