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Journal of Undergraduate Neuroscience Education


We have developed and recently taught a 200 level undergraduate course entitled, 'Experimental Methods in Neuroscience'. This is a required course in an increasingly popular Neuroscience major at Smith College. Students are introduced initially to issues of animal ethics and experimentation, and are familiarized with our Animal Care Facility. Using an open field and rotarod apparatus, and the elevated plus and Barnes mazes, they conduct behavioral testing of two strains of mice, C57/BL/6J and 129S1/SvImJ, known to exhibit distinct behavioral traits. The group then employs histological techniques to prepare brain sections for observing neuroanatomical variation between strains (for example, 129S1/SvImJ mice are occasionally acallosal). In the final laboratory exercise, they assay the acetylcholinesterase activity in fore- and hindbrains from each strain. The experiments enable the students to gain confidence in collecting data, compiling large data sets, handling spreadsheets and graphing, applying appropriate statistics, and writing accurate and concise scientific reports in journal article format. The course concludes with pairs of students conducting self-designed independent projects using the acquired behavioral, histological or neurochemical techniques. Experimental Methods in Neuroscience is proving particularly successful as it is relatively straightforward for students to design interesting experiments, gain experience in neuroscience experimentation without excessive use of animals, gather substantial data sets, and develop skills in scientific report writing and presentation at an early stage in their neuroscience curricula. Furthermore, the course has emerged as a centralizing focus for our neuroscience program and is suitable for transfer to and adaptation by other institutions.


Behavioral neuroscience, Data acquisition and analysis, Experimental methods, Histology, Independent projects, Laboratory course, Neurochemistry








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