Neuroscience: cellular and circuit mechanisms


Lecturer(s) :

Crochet Sylvain
Petersen Carl




This lecture course focuses on the cellular mechanisms of mammalian brain function. We will describe how neurons communicate through synaptic transmission in order to process sensory information ultimately leading to motor behavior.


The brain processes information through the concerted activity of many neurons, which communicate with each other through synapses organised in highly dynamic networks. The first goal of this course is to gain a detailed understanding of the structure and function of the fundamental building blocks of the brain, its synapses and neurons. In considering this goal, we will also examine some basic methods including cellular electrophysiology and optical imaging. This will enable the student to critically evaluate how neurons are studied. The second goal is to learn how synaptic input is integrated and processed in single neurons based on the active and passive properties of axons and dendrites. Students will assemble their knowledge of synapses and neurons into a coherent picture of neuronal network function, with specific emphasis on the interactions of excitatory glutamatergic and inhibitory GABAergic neurons, plasticity and neuromodulation. The third goal, will be to place neuronal networks in the context of how they contribute to associative learning and sensory processing ultimately leading to behavioural decisions and motor output.

In the second part of the semester, students will carry out a miniproject analysing a neurophysiological dataset. Each student must submit their miniproject report by the last Friday of the semester.

We will cover the following specific topics: Passive neuronal membrane properties; Excitability; Synaptic transmission; Glutamatergic synapses; GABAergic synapses; Dendritic integration; Synaptic plasticity; In vivo recordings; Sensorimotor integration; Sensory perception; Learning


Neurons, synapses, neuronal networks, learning, sensory processing, motor control

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

Transversal skills

Teaching methods

3 h of lectures per week

2 h of exercises per week

The lectures for the first half of the course will be online video-lectures from the BrainX MOOC "Cellular mechanisms of brain function" hosted at edX. These videos will be accompanied by 2 hours of exercises per week.

The miniproject in the second part of the semester will involve analysing a database of neurophysiological recordings to answer specific questions determined by the teacher, as well as addressing a new question developed individually by the student.


Expected student activities

Students are expected to attend the lecture and exercise sessions.

Assessment methods

Miniproject submitted by the last Friday of the semester (25% of final grade)

Written exam in the official exam period (75% of final grade)

In the programs

Reference week

Under construction
      Exercise, TP
      Project, other


  • Autumn semester
  • Winter sessions
  • Spring semester
  • Summer sessions
  • Lecture in French
  • Lecture in English
  • Lecture in German