Intro. to Neuroscience: Behavioral Neuroscience (2021-2022)

Lecturers: Prof. Nachum Ulanovsky, Prof. Tali Kimchi, Prof. Rony Paz.

Time: The 2'nd semester of 2021-2022.  Meetings take place on Thursdays, from 9:15 - 12:00, at FGS Room A (unless indicated otherwise).

This course will introduce students to Behavioral Neuroscience. We will start by providing an in-depth introduction to behavior, and will then elaborate on two different approaches that are common in the field: One approach ("neuropsychological") is to study animals in artificial well-controlled tasks, while the other approach ("neuroethological") focuses on the animal's natural behaviors.  We will introduce general aspects, and will contrast and compare these two approaches by focusing on several well-studied, classic example systems.

Part A:  Introduction to Brain and Behavior  (Kimchi)
1. Introduction to Behavior.   (31/3/2022)   [NOTE: this lecture  will be via ZOOM]    [PDF - Intro to course]   [PDF - Kimchi Lecture]
2. Neurobiology of social behaviors.   (Guest lecture by Dr. Saikat Ray, Weizmann Institute)   (7/4/2022)    [PDF]
3. Neuronal and hormonal mechanisms underlying sexual dimorphism in social and reproductive behaviors.    (14/4/2022)   [NOTE: this lecture  will be via ZOOM]     [PDF]
Part B:  Neural mechanisms of Behavior – the Neuroethological approach  (Ulanovsky)
4. Sensory ecology: evolutionary adaptations of animal sensory systems to their environment.   (26/4/2022)      [NOTE: special date.  Tuesday 14:15-17:00.  Location: Wolfson auditorium]      [PDF]     [Movies]
5. Example system #1: Echolocation in bats: Sensory ecology, echolocation behavior, principles of biosonar signal design, neural processing.   (12/5/2022)      [PDF]     [Movies]
6. Example system #2: Multisensory integration in the brain of the barn owl.  (Guest lecture by Prof. Yoram Gutfreund, Technion)    (19/5/2022)      [PDF]
7. Example system #3: The bird song system I: behavior, neuroanatomy, physiology, models.  (Guest lecture by Dr. Liora Las, Weizmann Institute)   (26/5/2022)      [PDF]
8. Example system #3: The bird song system II: complex songs, syntax, neurogenesis.  (Guest lecture by Dr. Yarden Cohen, Weizmann Institute)   (31/5/2022)   [NOTE: special date.  Tuesday 14:15-17:00.  Location: Wolfson auditorium]      [PDF]     [Movies]
9. Example system #4: Neurobiology of spatial cognition I.  Introduction to spatial memory and navigation: (i) Navigational strategies in different animals. (ii) Sensory mechanisms of navigation: vision, magnetic navigation, etc.   (2/6/2022)      [PDF]     [Movies]
10. Example system #4: Neurobiology of spatial cognition II.  Navigation circuits in the mammalian brain: Place cells, grid cells, head-direction cells, etc.   (7/6/2022)   [NOTE: special date.  Tuesday 14:15-17:00.  Location: Wolfson auditorium]      [PDF]
11. Summary of the neuroethological approach.  Choosing the right behavior and the right animal model.  Natural Neuroscience.  Comparative Neuroscience.   (9/6/2022)      [PDF]
Part C:  Neural mechanisms of Behavior – the Neuropsychological approach  (Paz)
12. Introduction: Basic concepts, standard behavioral tasks.  Example system #5: Fear learning and its neural circuits.    (16/6/2022)      [PDF]
13. Example system #6: Decision-making in the brain.   (23/6/2022)      [PDF]
14. Example system #7: Reinforcement learning and its neural basis.   (Guest lecture by Dr. Genela Morris)    (30/6/2022)      [PDF]
15. Visual psychophysics, visual perception.  (Guest lecture by Prof. Dubi Sagi, Weizmann Institute)    (7/7/2022)

Course requirements: Final exam.


We will use three main textbooks in this course:

  • Behavioral Neurobiology, An integrative approach, 3'rd ed., Zupanc G. (Oxford, 2018)
  • Behavioral Neurobiology, Carew J. (Sinauer, 2000)
  • Learning and Behavior, Bouton M. (Sinauer, 2007)

Additional material for some of the lectures is covered in the following books:

  • Sensory Ecology, Dusenbery D. (Freeman, 1992)
  • An Introduction to Behavioral Endocrinology, 4'th ed., Nelson R. (Sinauer, 2011) 
  • Neuroeconomics: Decision making and the Brain, 2nd ed., Glimcher P. and Fehr E. (Academic Press, 2013)
  • Neural nets in Electric Fish, Heiligenberg W. (MIT Press, 1991).