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Unit information: Synaptic Cell Biology in 2017/18

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Synaptic Cell Biology
Unit code PHPH30022
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Molnar
Open unit status Not open

PHPH20011: Principles of Pharmacology 2A

PHPH20009: Neurophysiology



School/department School of Physiology, Pharmacology & Neuroscience
Faculty Faculty of Life Sciences


This Unit will concentrate on molecular and cell biological research approaches to neuroscience, and how this has contributed to important advances in the field. The topics covered will focus on cell signalling mechanisms in the central nervous system (CNS). These processes will be studied in the contexts of synaptic plasticity and neurological disorders. The unit aims to develop an understanding of molecular and cellular events involved in dynamic regulation of information transfer in the CNS:
• classification, structure, function and regulation of neurotransmitter receptors
• glutamate receptor trafficking, with a focus on receptor subunit assembly, phosphorylation/de-phosphorylation and interacting regulatory proteins
• structural plasticity of synapses
• genetic aspects of synaptic function.

Intended learning outcomes

  • An in-depth knowledge and critical understanding of selected aspects of neuronal molecular cell biology, with an ability to keep up-to-date with recent developments in the field.
  • The ability to gather information from the primary scientific literature and to critically evaluate the material and appraise competing theories.
  • An understanding of the experimental tools used to study synaptic plasticity at the molecular cell biology level.

Teaching details


Assessment Details

The unit will be assessed through one 3-hour summative examination in May/June, which consists of two sections. In section A (50%), students will be expected to answer one essay question from a choice of 3, which will assess their knowledge and critical understanding of the field, and their ability to gather information from the primary scientific literature. In section B (50%), students will be expected to answer one multi-part compulsory question requiring data handling/data interpretation and experimental design.

Reading and References

Reviews and key references from the current scientific literature