Course Identification

Introduction to Neuroscience: Molecular Neuroscience - Genes to Behavior

Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

Prof. Ofer Yizhar, Dr. Ivo Spiegel, Prof. Yaniv Ziv, Dr. Meital Oren-Suissa

Course Schedule and Location

Second Semester
Thursday, 09:15 - 11:00, Wolfson Auditorium

Field of Study, Course Type and Credit Points

Life Sciences: Lecture; Elective; Core; 2.50 points
Life Sciences (Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience Track): Lecture; Elective; Core; 2.50 points
Life Sciences (Brain Sciences: Systems, Computational and Cognitive Neuroscience Track): Lecture; Elective; Core; 2.50 points
Life Sciences (Computational and Systems Biology Track): Lecture; Elective; Core; 2.50 points


*Obligatory for Neuroscience MSc students.
*One of the 4 core courses in Brain Sciences


Basic knowledge in molecular biology



Language of Instruction


Attendance and participation

Expected and Recommended

Grade Type

Numerical (out of 100)

Grade Breakdown (in %)


Evaluation Type


Scheduled date 1


Scheduled date 2


Estimated Weekly Independent Workload (in hours)



Establishing a causal relationship between an animal’s genetic make-up and its behavior is one of the foremost challenges in neuroscience: while it seems clear that certain normal and pathological behavioral traits have a genetic basis, bridging the gaps between genes, neurons, circuits and behavior encompasses nearly all disciplines of neuroscience and is far from trivial. In this course, we will present basic concepts on multiple levels of nervous system organization and function. We will discuss the unique properties of brain cells, the diversity of cell types and how cells of different types assemble into functional circuits, how the brain is altered by experience, and provide some examples of how genetic mutations can lead to altered cellular, circuit and behavioral functions associated with neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disease. Throughout the course, we will cover modern methods in neuroscience that have provided novel insights into the organization and function of brain circuits, including electrophysiology, functional imaging, and next-generation sequencing.

  • Lecture 1: Introduction and overview. Innate versus adaptive behavior and the role of experience (nature vs. nurture).
  • Lecture 2: Neurogenetics: the hereditary basis of behavioral traits
  • Lecture 3: Cell biology of neurons I: basic shared features
  • Lecture 4: Cell biology of neurons II: cellular diversity
  • Lecture 5: Cell biology of non-neuronal cells: glial cells (Guest lecture by Inbal Goshen, HUJI)
  • Lecture 6: Signal transduction and gene expression in neurons: definition of, and changes in neuronal properties by genes
  • Lecture 7: Communication between neurons - neurotransmitter systems, synaptic mechanisms and short-term synaptic dynamics
  • Lecture 8: Neural circuits I: assembly of neural circuits
  • Lecture 9: Neural circuits II: structure and function of microcircuits
  • Lecture 10: Neural circuits III: structure and function of meso-scale circuits
  • Lecture 11: Experience-dependent plasticity I: different forms of plasticity (development vs adult, local vs cell-wide, time-scales) underlying molecular mechanisms
  • Lecture 12: Experience-dependent plasticity II: Adult plasticity - learning & memory
  • Lecture 13: Neuropathology I: Disassmebly of neural circuits, mechanisms of neurodegeneration.
  • Lecture 14: Student seminars on pre-assigned papers.
  • Lecture 15: Student seminars on pre-assigned papers.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate proficiency in the unique properties of brain cells, their diversity and their different roles within brain circuits.
  2. Understand the basic processes governing the assembly and function of neural circuits.
  3. Understand the processes of neural plasticity at the synaptic, cellular and circuit levels.
  4. Become familiar with modern concepts and techniques in cellular and circuit neuroscience and be able to read and understand current literature.

Reading List

  1. Introductory material: Kandel and Schwarz, Principles of Neural Science, Chapters 1-3.
  2. Additional material will be provided throughout the course.