BC1: Introduction to Neuroscience


Lecture 1:
What does a neuroscientist do? Why do animals have nervous systems? What do nervous systems look like and how are they structured? What are neurons? How do they work and how do they talk to each other? Discussion 1: are nervous systems computers?

Lecture 2:
How do nervous systems sense the world, what is their input? How do vision, hearing, olfaction, taste, and mechanoception work? What about more exotic senses like magnetoception or echolocation? What can nervous systems do, what is their output? How do animals fly, swim, or walk?

Lecture 3:
How can neuroscientists measure the structure and processes of nervous system? How do electrophysiology and calcium imaging work? Can we use genetics to change nervous systems? What is optogenetics and how can we use it to control nervous systems?

Lecture 4:
What are important concepts in neuroscience? How can a nervous system learn and how does it know when there is something to learn? What is a central pattern generator? How do many neurons interact as ensembles or populations? How do nervous systems deal with noise and uncertainty? Discussion 2: are nervous systems computers?


This course is intended for listeners without a background in neuroscience. My goal is to give an overview of what it means to do neuroscience or be a neuroscientist in general. I will broadly cover several levels of description, i.e. the cellular level, the systems level, methods, and concepts, so that the audience will get a good idea of what the current state of neuroscience is, how we address open questions in the field, and which developments might be coming in the future.


There are plenty of textbooks for a thorough introduction to neuroscience in general and it is not possible to list all of them here. If I had to pick two, these books are more than comprehensive:
- Principles of Neural Science. Eds. Eric R. Kandel, James H. Schwartz, and Thomas M. Jessell. Vol. 5. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012.
- From Neuron to Brain. Eds. John G. Nicholls, A. Robert Martin, Paul A. Fuchs, David A. Brown, Mathew E. Diamond, and David A. Weisblat. Vol. 5. Sunderland: Sinauer Associates, 2012.

Course location


Course requirements


Instructor information.

Till Bockemühl


Till Bockemühl studied biology and philosophy at Bielefeld University. He did his diploma thesis as well as his doctoral thesis with Volker Dürr in the lab of Holk Cruse at Bielefeld University. Currently, he is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Ansgar Büschges at the University of Cologne. His main research interests comprise the motor control of locomotion, neuroethology, and computational neurobiology. To address these questions he uses the fruit fly Drosophila and the ever expanding toolkit of methodological possibilities this model organism has to offer.