Science at the heart of medicine

8010 Genetics Basis of Psychiatric Disorders

COURSE DESCRIPTION: The role of molecules and neurons in behavior is studied by inhibiting or enhancing their functions in experimental preparations. Similarly, alterations in molecules and neurons occur in disease states, which provide a glimpse as to how the brain functions. Such neuronal altera-tions often occur as a result of gene alterations, whether inherited, spontaneous, or environmentally driven. These neuronal alterations powerfully shape our behavior. Brain functions can be ascertained when they deviate from a normal state-- without such deviations, observations remain simply correlative.

Students will see patients with schizophrenia or autism at the beginning of the course. Recent advances in our understanding of the genetic and epigenetic aspects of neuropsychiatric disorders will be discussed. A secondary focus of this course will be placed on translational research. Students will learn how to ascertain the genetic and molecular mechanisms of behavior in both humans and model systems.

The course will be given in a 13-week period. Eleven lectures will cover neuropsychiatry-related topics in both humans and model organisms. Students will present topics of their interests in two sessions.

REQUIRED MATERIALS: 1) Neurobiology of Mental Illness, Charney, D.S., Nestler, E.J., Bunney, B.S. (eds.) 2004 ISBN 0-19-514962-9 Oxford Press; 2) Genetics in Medicine, Nussbaum, R.L., McInnes, R.R., Willard, H.F. (eds.) 2001, 1991 ISBN-10: 0721602444 W B Saunders Co; 3) Supplemental recommended readings will be given for each lecture.


STUDENT PREPARATION: Some background in neurobiology is desirable.

SUITABLE FOR 1ST YEAR STUDENTS: Yes, if it is approved by the course leader. Please contact the course leader before registering.

UNIQUE TRAINING OFFERED IN THIS COURSE: All the existing Neuroscience courses focus on the "normal" fucntions of neurons and the brain. This will be the only course that teaches the genetic and eipgenetic mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disorders. There is no overalp with any course.

STUDENT ASSESSMENTS: Sessions will be informal, with active student participation and student presentations of articles. Critical evaluation of existing dogma or commonly held views is encouraged. Grading will be based on a final essay (50%), presentation (25%) and participation in discussion (25%). Specific instructions about the final essay and presentations will be given at the first class. This course will be given if 4 or more students registered; if not, it will be given in the following year.