BBB109 is an introductory course that provides a general overview of how the brain contributes to different aspects of neural processing like sensory perception, movement control, and cognition. The course is divided into 3 separate blocks:
The Language of Neurons
In the first block, students learn about the language of neurons. The goal is to understand the basic mechanisms underlying action potential generation and synaptic communication. Some of the topics that will be covered include membrane potential, leak and voltage-gated channels, metabotropic receptors and neurotransmitters.
Sensory and Motor Systems
In the second block, students learn about sensory and motor systems. The goal is to understand how groups of neurons in different parts of the brain communicate with each other, using the language studied in the first block, to do really cool things, like hit a tennis ball, taste food, hear sounds, or see the world! Some of the fundamental concepts that will be covered include population coding, sensory maps, and receptive fields.
Higher-level Cognitive Function
In the third block, students learn about how the brain contributes to higher-level cognitive function. Rather than try to cover too many functions superficially, the goal is to understand the neural basis of just a few of them, but at a deeper (and more satisfying) level. Some of the most popular topics include: sleep, learning & memory, sexual behavior and language.
BBB109 can be taken by non-majors who are curious about the brain works, but it is also the best way to prepare students for more advanced neuroscience courses at Penn. In many ways, it is the gateway course, the foundation on which to start building a more detailed and deeper understanding about how the brain makes us who we are.