Synaptic Plasticity and Cognition

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Module code


Semester 2

Is synaptic plasticity how the brain learns and remembers? Where in the brain are our memories stored?

This module will take you through the history of how cognitive brain functions were discovered and localised, from early philosophy to modern day neuroscience. You will become familiar with experimental techniques from historical to state of the art that have been used to find out about how organisms learn and remember, including the neuroanatomical, neurochemical and neurophysiological techniques that have been used to study synaptic plasticity.

You will learn about the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie various forms of synaptic plasticity and how these could support systems level behaviour of whole organisms. You will be encouraged to critically appraise the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to linking cellular and circuit phenomena to cognition. You will be supported to discuss at a theoretical level how changes in synaptic plasticity may underpin changes at behavioural levels of analysis.

Throughout you will be facilitated in critical thinking to consider the validity of the synaptic plasticity and memory hypothesis as the molecular basis of learned behaviour, and to consider whether the hippocampus acts as a cognitive map. This important topic in current neuroscience is still hotly debated today and the question of how our brains learn and remember is still not fully understood, so come and join the discussion!