BCSC 246: Syllabus

Spring 2024

Tuesday & Thursday 9:40AM-10:55 AM
Room: Goergen 101


Renee Miller

Meliora 303F
Office Hours: by appointment

Exam Review Sessions (1-2 days before each in-class exam): TBD

Please note that emails containing questions or concerns about course material will be answered as promptly as possible, however, do not expect to receive a reply if you ask a question within 24 hours of an exam as this may not always be possible.

Course Intent

The objective of this course is to present current understanding of biologic mechanisms involved in the etiology and pathology of various brain disorders, including both those disorders generally classified as "mental disorders" and disorders generally classified as “neurologic disorders.” Basic concepts of neurobiology will be presented along with discussion of the clinical presentation and management of the various disorders. The material to be presented is broad. In addition to the required book, we will select readings from a variety of other sources.

Course Structure

The first five lectures introduce the student to general neurobiological systems whose dysfunction is thought to mediate diseases and general principles of how treatments are developed to mitigate this dysfunction. The remainder of the course is devoted to describing the clinical phenomenology of a wide range of disorders and current evidence regarding underlying neurobiological mechanisms and specific approaches to treatment of them one at a time.

Book (required)

Linden, David. 2018. The Biology of Psychological Disorders. 2nd Edition. Palgrave-McMillan Press. The text is on reserve at Carlson Library.

Other (will be made available)

All other readings will be placed on electronic reserve on Blackboard. These readings are REQUIRED unless otherwise noted. In particular I have assigned Nature Reviews: Disease Primers as a complement to your textbook for each disease covered in the class. In my experience, the most successful students routinely do the reading prior to the lecture. The reading is meant to provide a broad overview of each topic, while lecture material highlights and expands that baseline. Thus if you come to lecture without the basic reading done, you may feel confused and find it harder to catch up. Put another way, the lectures will not simply be a recap of the readings.

Course Evaluation

One at-home problem set, two exams, and one short paper account for 100% of the final grade. The breakdown will be 25% for each assessment. The at-home problem set will be posted after class on Feb 1 and is due by the beginning of class on Feb. 6. Any exam received after the beginning of class on February 6 will be assessed a 5-point penalty for each 24-hour period that it is late.

The second and third exams will be taken in class, on blackboard. An exam may be re-scheduled only in the event of documented illness, personal or family emergency, other extraordinary circumstances, or a conflict with religious or scheduled University commitment that prevents the student from being able to complete the exam in the allotted window. Schedule conflicts must be discussed with the instructor or TA at least one week prior to the scheduled exam. Course letter grades will be assigned based on the average of the scores of the problem set, the two in-class exams and the final paper.

The final average is rounded up to the nearest whole number. Grades represent a threshold of performance which is either exceeded, or it is not. Cut-offs for letter grades and sub-levels are as follows: A ≥ 90, A- 88-89, B+ 87, B 80-86, B- 78-79, C+ 77, C 70-76...

Upward adjustment (from one grade sub-level to the next - B+ to A-, B to B+, etc.) may be made at the discretion of the instructors for students who participate actively and constructively in class and/or office hours and/or show evidence of steady improvement over the semester (i.e., improvement from one full letter grade to another). Due to the size of the class, there will be no term paper or “extra credit” projects.

Academic Honesty

It is my intent that you do your own work in this class. I will challenge you to develop problem solving skills in the context of understanding disease mechanisms and diagnoses—the only way to do so is to practice. We will be particularly sensitive to instances of shared work on the at home problem set. To avoid the consequences spelled out by the University, please be sure to do your own work. These regulations apply to work, including exams, done online as well. In most cases, you will run out of time (or be locked out of the exam) if you are trying to look up answers to exam questions, but the policy remains that you may not use outside resources on in-class exams.

If you use an AI like ChatGPT for the purpose of “cleaning up” or “professionalizing” your written work, I require that you hand in the before and after versions of the assignment. There will be no penalty for using ChatGPT or similar for this purpose as long as it is declared but this is the only allowable use of the technology. The unsanctioned use of such technologies or failure to cite them will be considered a violation of the policy for this course.